A handful of Mississippi cities will find out next month whether they’ll be among the latest to enjoy the benefits of high-speed Internet connectivity with gigabit fiber networks.

As part of an initiative called Fiber to the Home, cellular provider C Spire Wireless will announce the Mississippi communities it has chosen as best suited for gigabit network rollouts on Nov. 4. Work on the networks would begin early next year, and the company is shooting for April 2014 for the debut of its first “fiberhood.”

Heather Gold, president of Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council North America, said not every community is going to wait around for Google or the government to build a fiber network. The FTTH Council promotes high-speed Internet connectivity around the world.

Gold explained that C Spire realized that there was a demand for fiber in Mississippi, and is pursuing a viable business model to help deploy fiber networks around the state. She added that as more projects happen, “gigabit envy” will spur further development.

“You no longer have to have bandwidth as a gating item,” Gold said. “It’s just like electricity or water. You never think of not having sufficient quality and quantity in order to do what you need to do every day. That’s where we think bandwidth has to go.”

Gold felt that the U.S. hasn’t been very deliberate about rolling out fiber and as a result, citizens are taking charge. A shift in the availability of Internet access in North America from scarce to abundant can only do good things for citizens, she added.

For example, in Bristol, Va., and Bristol, Tenn., a FTTH deployment brought huge employment and educational opportunities to the region, which operates one of the nation’s only tier 1 data centers.

Jared Baumann, brand product manager for C Spire, said the same effect was seen in Kansas City, just months after Google began deploying fiber there, and the same can happen in Mississippi.

He noted that housing prices began rising and the city’s image changed as people began viewing Kansas City as a center of technology. And while it would be hard to prove a connection between regional technology upgrades and success in sport, even the city’s National Football League franchise, the Chiefs, has started the season undefeated. Morale in Kansas City is high.

“One thing I think is kind of unique about our initiative is we’re not going to stop with one city,” Baumann said. “Our focus right now is on Mississippi and if you look at it from a growing technology infrastructure of the state perspective and growing the capability of the state to attract technology investment, it has the potential to be transformative.”

Fast Development

C Spire reported that its efforts in bringing fiber to Mississippi are progressing quickly. In a six-day span between first announcing their project and calling for city and regional representatives to attend a town-hall style meeting to learn more about their idea, 53 cities, counties and organizations organized and attended.

Of those original attendees, 28 have since filed formal applications to become a C Spire gigabit fiber city. The deadline for applications is Oct. 20. Cities will be selected using a similar model employed by Google to determine which cities are best suited for rollouts. A set of online tools will also be launched by C Spire that shows progress on what percentage of interest has been expressed by a city and how much more is needed before fiber can be deployed there.

Baumann explained that while Mississippi has traditionally been underserved, C Spire hopes to change that.

“We’ve invested a lot in this infrastructure already,” Baumann said. “We’ve spent the last decade investing $200 million in fiber infrastructure in the state and we have plans for another $100 million in the next 18 months to further expand.”

C Spire spokesperson Dave Miller added that the state has so far been supportive of the company’s efforts, evidenced by a statement released by Gov. Phil Bryant’s office in favor of the FTTH initiative launch. And with no technology in sight to replace fiber, it should remain the choice of telecommunications companies to connect their LTE towers and network hubs to the Internet.

“The nice thing about fiber is, even though it’s been around a while, it’s almost future-proof right now, still,” Miller said.

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.