Internet capability in the Fredericksburg, Va., area is about to go from good to even better as a new "dark fiber" cable network opens to users along the Interstate 95 corridor this fall.

SummitIG, a northern Virginia-based firm that augments and installs network infrastructure and provides connectivity, is currently laying dark fiber cables along the I-95 corridor, making high-speed Internet more accessible here from Stafford County south to Caroline County.

Dark fiber is optical fiber, which is expressly available for local Internet connections through providers such as Verizon, Cox and Comcast.

Where typical Internet providers sell bandwidth capacity, fiber providers can offer scalable bandwidth at fixed prices.

That means organizations that need a secure, high-speed connection, such as businesses, government contractors and universities, can get as large a connection as needed.

Locally, access to the dark fiber connection will be available in late September or early October.

To make that possible SummitIG worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation to get access along major highways from the Dulles International Airport area to Petersburg.

In some areas, SummitIG is able to take advantage of high-occupancy lane construction to lay cables.

SummitIG CEO Bill Cook said the Fredericksburg region has enormous potential as government contractors move south, particularly to the Quantico Corporate Center in North Stafford.

"This allows everyone to connect to existing infrastructure that we are building," Cook said.

In Fredericksburg, Bill Freehling, assistant economic development director, said the new fiber network could be a boon for the area surrounding State Route 3, Exit 130, near Central Park.

He said the Central Park Corporate Center and a long-talked-about subdivision on the eastern side of the exit could tap into the network, drawing people and businesses.

While areas not along the highway still experience Internet woes, namely rural areas of King George, Spotsylvania and Caroline counties, the new dark fiber network will allow residents in the latter two localities to experience a new speed of Internet.

The Thornburg and Ladysmith interchanges, in particular, will get a boost in Internet speed, Cook said.

Broadband connectivity has been one of the key pillars of a regional economic development plan that officials at the University of Mary Washington have worked toward.

Last year, UMW held the Transformation 20/20 Regional Economic Development Summit, during which it outlined the technology the region needs to thrive.

Coverage is best in the city of Fredericksburg, a study by the university found, but spottier in more rural areas.

The current cables being installed will offer access points nearly every 1,000 feet, greatly expanding that capability.

Broadband allows more people to telework and start home-based businesses. That can lessen the strain on the region's transportation network, a major concern addressed in UMW's plan as the area's population grows.

"There's not a product like it in the area," Cook said. "We've created value for our customers by seeking out this unique corridor."

Virginia already has some of the fastest Internet speeds in the nation.

The research, released earlier this month by the communications firm Broadview Networks, ranks average broadband speeds for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Virginia's average connection speed, of 13.7 megabits per second, tops the list.

(c) 2014 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)