The growing presence of gigabit-level broadband has been a welcome addition to several U.S. cities that recently installed it. After the launch of Google (News - Alert) Fiber in Kansas City and Austin, the program is expanding to other cities. A few cities that weren’t chosen by Google for the Fiber program have taken matters into their own hands. Cities like Chattanooga, Tenn. and Lafayette, La. have installed super high-speed broadband independent of vendors like Google. AT&T (News - Alert) has also entered the market with its GigaPower service.
The cities that offer super high-speed Internet are at a huge competitive advantage over cities that don’t. Businesses use video conferencing, unified communications and other bandwidth-intensive forms of communication more now than ever before. If a city does not have the fiber infrastructure to meet this demand, it is more likely to be excluded from consideration when a company is looking for a place to setup an office or move its headquarters.
Such is the situation that Burlington, N.C., currently finds itself in. With a population of 50,000 (and in a county with about 150,000 residents) it finds itself in a sort of technological donut hole where it is becoming too large for 10Mbps-level service to be acceptable for businesses, but not large enough to attract Google or AT&T’s interest as a site for providing gigabit-level service.
Statistics from Broadband Now show that Alamance County, where Burlington is located, is behind surrounding areas when it comes to broadband. The average of 15.3 Mbps is 12 percent slower than the state average and nearly one-third slower than the national average. About 9,500 residents in the county are defined as underserved in broadband service with either no service or only one vendor providing service.
According to the Burlington Times-News this is because providers won’t build the infrastructure needed to have 1000Mbps speeds in a given city if they think it’s too small to give them a high return on their investment. In the current economic climate, the only way that Google and AT&T would budge is if they changed their perception of Burlington to that of a small standalone community to being part of a larger metro area like Greensboro/High Point/Winston Salem or the Raleigh-Durham area.
If Burlington and Alamance County want to take their Internet infrastructure to the next level and attract more businesses, hoping that Google or AT&T changes its perception of their community is not going to work. The only likely remedy is to follow the examples of Chattanooga and Lafayette and build it themselves.
Edited by Adam Brandt