South Mississippi Considers Building ‘Gulf Coast Fiber Ring’ Network

The goal is to link the region with fiber optic cable in a circle and provide access to each city, each of which would determine its own service and rates.

by Mary Perez, The Sun Herald / July 15, 2015

(TNS) -- The idea of ultra-fast broadband Internet service as an economic driver started with Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich and is rapidly spreading across South Mississippi.

Biloxi City Attorney Gerald Blessey said Tuesday that Coast mayors will meet soon to discuss the idea of creating a Mississippi Gulf Coast Fiber Ring that would provide Internet access to every home, business and public space at a super-fast 1 gigabit per second.

The idea is to link South Mississippi with fiber optic cable in a circle along Interstate 10 and U.S. 90 and then provide access to each city, which would determine its own service and rates.

Speaking at IP Casino Resort to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce Leadership Gulf Coast alumni, Blessey described how this network could create opportunities and jobs in education, health care, film and many other industries.

"Most of the mayors know what it is," Blessey said of the concept. "Mayor Gilich is taking the lead," he said, and already he has interest from Gulfport and Gautier. "Everybody needs to be involved," he said.

Biloxi officials talked to Gov. Phil Bryant, who Blessey said has indicated he would contribute $15 million from BP funds to support forming a 501(c)3 organization that would own the ring and set the minimum standards for the network,

South Mississippi needs something like this to draw business and keep up with Oxford, Starkville, Hattiesburg and Jackson, who he said are ahead of the Coast in gross domestic product, jobs and wages. Since Hurricane Katrina, the recession and oil spill, the three Coast counties are down 2,700 jobs compared to the pre-recession numbers of 2008, and down 5,600 jobs compared to pre-Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said.

Blessey said the ultra-fast Internet is "Something going on in the great cities of the world that are advancing on ahead of us." Officials in Chattanooga, Tenn., made a public utility out of the broadband that "put them on a new platform for the future."

The technology will draw talented new people and high-tech business to the Coast, he said. He sees the technology supporting research at colleges in South Mississippi and providing medical teleconference capabilities that would allow a patient on the Coast to confer with a specialist anywhere in the country. The circle would let movie, television and video game producers work from South Mississippi instead of going to other cities that have the technology, and he said it would help monitor pollution in the Gulf and the health of the fisheries and forestry.

"The infrastructure is just first step," he said.

©2015 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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