Lexington prepares for high-speed internet service throughout the city

The first phase of Lexington’s bid to become the nation’s largest gigabit city is nearing completion, as MetroNet is close to completing construction of the first quadrant of its city-wide fiber optic network and recruit customers to activate the gigabit service later this summer.

For most residential users, faster broadband technology means the ability to download HD video in minutes rather than hours, and without more tedious delays. For local tech-related businesses and entrepreneurs, however, the increased availability of the gigabit service could accelerate and expand their business capabilities, especially with video streaming and other data-intensive applications.

Neighborhoods east of downtown and north of Richmond Road, in the East New Circle Road area just beyond I-75, will be the first to be connected, said Keith Leonhardt, vice -President of Marketing for MetroNet. Underground construction in these communities, which began in January, is progressing smoothly, said Leonhardt, the company using horizontal underground drilling machines to minimize construction disruption and avoid having to dig up long trenches for the fiber installation.

The company is pleased with the progress made to date, added Leonhardt, and “poised to become an important part of Lexington’s technological future.”

For customers who choose to purchase it, the gigabit service will allow transmission of up to 1000 megabits of data per second. The Indiana-based company began pre-signing customers for service in the first two quadrants of the planned deployment, covering about half of Lexington. Within three years, with an estimated total investment of between $ 70 million and $ 100 million, MetroNet plans to expand the network to reach the entire city.

When completed, the network will mark a milestone for Lexington, as the city seeks to capitalize on its new identification as a college town and capitalize on the talent, innovation and investment opportunities of the new economy that accompany him.

“MetroNet is working hard to get through this construction phase and minimize disruption,” said Scott Shapiro, Lexington chief innovation officer. “But we keep our eyes on the price. From certain neighborhoods in late summer or early fall, Lexingtonians will have access to some of the fastest internet access in the world.

Achieve gigabit city status

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the only US city to currently offer such a city-wide gigabit service, with the city’s utility provider, Electrical Power Board (EPB), launching it in 2009. A similar project is currently under development in Huntsville, Alabama. Both cities are considerably smaller than Lexington, with an estimated population of less than 200,000.

Since the introduction of its gigabit service, Chattanooga has strived to leverage its fiber capabilities by building its Innovation District to attract new startup accelerators and venture capital fund investments to the city. The city has also seen a few startup successes such as Skuid, a tech company that develops user-friendly interfaces for business software and raised $ 25 million in new funding last year.

Lexington is ahead of most other cities of its size in establishing city-wide fiber optics, Shapiro said, in part because Mayor Jim Gray’s office gave it early priority and that community and business partners have just started to identify the potential of the asset.

“We need fiber,” Shapiro said. “It is the fuel of our knowledge economy.

The President and CEO of Commerce Lexington Inc., Bob Quick, sees the arrival of MetroNet in Lexington as an additional economic development tool, among the many already available to companies looking to locate or expand in the Bluegrass.

“To be known as the largest city in the United States with gigabit internet speeds, Lexington has become even more attractive to businesses that rely on a strong connection to do business. “—Bob Quick

“To be known as the largest city in the United States with gigabit internet speeds, Lexington has become even more attractive to businesses that rely on a strong connection to do business,” Quick said. “With several Internet connectivity options available locally, Lexington will be seen as a city that is not only on the move, but also wants to provide businesses with every opportunity to succeed here. “

A wider range of ISP options

While MetroNet’s new network extends the reach of gigabit service to the entire residential area of ​​the city, it is not the only provider in the city, Windstream and Spectrum providing high-speed Internet access throughout County of Fayette. Windstream first introduced 1 gigabit Internet service to residential customers in the Lexington market two years ago and currently serves approximately 6,700 local customers, said Phillip McAbee, president of Windstream operations. Windstream delivers even faster speeds to businesses that are willing to pay for dedicated services, McAbee said.

For most residential and small business customers, Windstream’s services have done the trick with premium speeds of up to 100 Mbps, which McAbee has identified as the company’s “sweet spot” in terms of delivering power. the best value to meet the needs of most customers. The company will invest in 98 new fiber-powered switches this year to expand its broadband service to reach an additional 30,000 homes across the city, of which about 75% will have 100 Mbps capacity, McAbee said. He expects this growth to continue.

“We are not new to the competition and we favor Resident Choice,” said McAbee. “We will continue to provide quality service that will reward us with their business. “

But for customers who need higher speeds, especially those who depend on streaming video for their business or who require simultaneous connections for a growing number of devices in the rapidly expanding IoT (Internet of Things) world. today, gigabit service is more reliable and efficient. , said Nick Such, co-founder of Awesome Inc.

The downtown tech incubator benefits from 3 gigabit service through a partnership with Windstream and is one of the company’s gigabit service demonstration sites.

“It used to take eight hours of video to take three to four hours to download. Now it takes us about five minutes.” – Nick Such, co-founder of Awesome Inc.

In addition to being a home base for tech start-up entrepreneurs, Awesome Inc hosts many events for tech-savvy crowds who find it easier to deal with water and heating disruptions than Wi-Fi access, Such said. The company also runs many courses throughout the year on computer coding and web development, and the ability to easily download pre-recorded instructional videos came in very handy.

“Previously, eight hours of video took three to four hours to download,” Such said. “Now it takes us about five minutes. I click a button, go for a coffee and come back, and it’s done.

Stimulate the local technology sector

Widespread access to faster internet service is also benefiting local tech companies like Cirrusmio, Inc., an IoT consulting company that helps customers increase productivity and efficiency by incorporating data collected from sensors and devices. ‘physical world devices in their business systems. Cirrusmio, which operates out of the Base 110 downtown business incubator, has performed consulting work for Bluegrass-based power plants such as Lexmark, Valvoline and Alltech.

“With the gigabit service, we can collect more information and respond faster than current connections,” said Dwayne Buckles, director of business development for Cirrusmio. “This will allow us to grow our business and provide an additional value proposition. “

With more and more devices today incorporating integrated sensors and Wi-Fi connectivity, opportunities for business applications are expanding rapidly, Buckles said. The technology has important applications in areas such as telehealth and agriculture, which are of particular importance to Lexington’s economy. Buckles said broadband also opens up new possibilities for ‘smart city’ technologies for Lexington, ranging from more efficient use of city services such as parking or street lighting to Wi-Fi enabled Blue Horse kiosks. Fi for visitor information.

“The possibilities are endless,” Buckles said. “Gigabit speeds will attract new businesses that need to transmit HD video and CAD [computer aided design] designs to their customers, and at the same time interact with them in real time and not have to worry about lag. It will also allow more telecommuting and home startups, as conference calls and video calls will be more content-rich and interactive without lag. “

Buckles sees greater access to high-speed internet services as one of the many factors that can help the city’s largely local tech community flourish. Gaining a critical mass of tech companies is important, Buckles said, because many crucial tech jobs can be highly skilled, and professionals are reluctant to relocate if local demand for their particular skills is limited to a few startups.

But Lexington has a lot to offer budding tech companies, Buckles added.

“Lexington is unique because we have a very large research university that works with the city, and they don’t disagree with each other. Having a medical research hospital is also a big advantage, ”Buckles said.

As pointed out, the real value of faster internet service does not come just from having it, but from how it is used and the extent to which gigabit service across the city. will inspire and attract growth in the local tech sector remains to be seen.

“[The internet] doesn’t really do anything if you let it sit there, “he said,” but it can help if you use it to connect with people. “

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