Communities are finding that ultra high-speed networks are helping create jobs and contribute to the local tax base. On Tuesday, July 23, nonprofit organization Fiber to the Home Council Americas (FTTH Council) petitioned the FCC to develop a “Gigabit Communities Race to the Top” program to provide local governments and communities with matching grants of up to $10 million each to help them deploy a gigabit network.

According to the FTTH Council, the program is modeled after the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” education grants which allocate funding for states that create education innovation and reform.

Heather Gold, FTTH Council President, said during a press conference call that the council anticipates the FCC awarding 15 grants each year over the next five years, eventually leading to a “critical mass” of gigabit communities.

“Today the Fiber to the Home Council is asking the FCC to take the next step in making these ultra high-speed networks a reality by establishing a competitive Gigabit Communities Race to the Top program,” Gold said during the call. “This program will provide critical seed capital for gigabit network programs, which will be used to develop new models of infrastructure investment and jumpstart the development of ultra high-speed applications essential to economic and social development.”

Officials involved with the rollout of the Kansas City, Kan., Google fiber project talked about how their gigabit fiber network has influenced change in the community. Through a well-publicized Google contest, Kansas City (both Kansas and Missouri) were awarded the project in 2011 after being selected from more than 1,100 applicant cities.

“It’s evident from the [Google fiber] contest itself with over 1,100 cities applying, that more and more cities every day are realizing that fiber-to-the-home connectivity is a really essential kind of infrastructure for cities,” said former Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Joe Reardon. “Much like we think of with curbs and sidewalks and sewers -- the kind of backbone that cities install in order to create positive economic and community development.”

Since the Kansas City Google fiber deployment, Google has announced high-speed fiber projects in other cities, including Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah. Many other cities are pursuing gigabit networks on their own.

Tom Crawford, the chief financial officer of Ann Arbor, Mich., said a high-speed gigabit deployment  could help his city compete on an international level. Currently, that is challenging, he said, since many other countries including South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong have a significant number of high-speed Internet deployments.

Since Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, also has a significant workforce that has remote jobs or work from home, Crawford thinks the city could significantly benefit from a gigabit network.

 “We feel strongly we need to help by some way get this infrastructure built to enable the economy to move forward,” Crawford said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.