Editorial 7/18/2014

Deadline set for infrastructure of 21st Century

Batesville has until December 31 to meet pre-registration goals for C Spire’s offer to bring ultra-high-speed fiber optic internet to residential neighborhoods.

After that, “we go to the back of the line,” Mayor Jerry Autrey said Wednesday during a meeting with C Spire representatives Jared Bauman and Terrell Knight who come to announce the deadline.

The stakes for Batesville are huge.

C Spire is offering to build, at no cost to the city or the customer, fiber optic internet infrastructure that provides internet service 100 times faster — download and upload — than present internet speed.

No cost? What about the $10 pre-registration?

Yes, C Spire is asking for a $10 pre-registration, but it is refundable. If the fiber optic internet comes to your neighborhood and you subscribe to the service for your home, it is deducted from your first bill. If the fiber optic service does not become available to your home, C Spire refunds your money.

I don’t care about internet speed.

What about television? Do you watch TV? Do you have a home phone? Those services will be available with the fiber optic internet in any combination at competitive package prices ranging from $80 a month ($70 for C Spire wireless customers) for basic 1Gbps internet service only to $160 per month for 1 Gbps internet plus TV, plus home phone.

I’m happy with my cable service; I just don’t see a reason to pre-register with C Spire. 

You can still help yourself, your neighbors and your town. Your pre-registration will count toward meeting the signup goal in your fiberhood whether or not you choose to sign up for C Spire when it becomes available. 

Yea, but how does that help me?

The availability of C Spire high speed fiber optic internet service will increase competition among all media service providers, bringing more features and lower prices. 

Already the cable company is extending cable service east of I-55 where it has never been available. In Starkville, where three of five fiberhoods have gone green — met the required percentage of pre-registration for fiber optic construction to begin —  the cable company has lowered its price and increased broadband width for customers.

What’s a fiberhood anyway?

C Spire has divided each of the nine cities to first qualify for their Fiber to the Home initiative into different sections with signup goals for each section or “fiberhood.” Batesville is divided into five fiberhoods.

How is pre-registration going here?

Not great, really. In the Dogwood Hills Fiberhood, 11 percent of homes have signed up out of the 45 percent required.

The Westmoreland Heights/Perkins Lane Fiberhood follows closely with 10 of the 45 percent required pre-registered.

In the Sunrise Hills/Lakewood/Keating Grove Fiberhood 8 percent of the required 45 percent have pre-registered.

In the Broad/College Streets, Green Acres, Bates/Park Streets Fiberhood 4 percent of homes have signed up. That fiberhood requires 35 percent to sign up before construction will begin.

The Patton Lane, Van Voris, Tubbs Road Fiberhood has signed up only 2 percent of the required 35 percent.

Why is the city so involved? Isn’t this showing favoritism to a private business?

Yes, it is favoring a business that is offering to install the infrastructure of the future at no cost to the city. Until C Spire came up with its innovative proposal to make its fiber optic internet available to homes in small Mississippi cities, 1 Gbps internet service was only available in residential areas of a few metropolitan centers. Some cities have spent millions to make 1 Gbps internet available.

City leaders have emphasized repeatedly that they would offer the same favorable permitting policies and support for any media service provider who offers such a proposal.

I don’t even live in a fiberhood, why should I care when 1 Gbs internet won’t even be available where I live?

It won’t be immediately available, but once C Spire begins construction, it will bring the cable closer to the edges of fiberhood boundaries from where it can more easily be extended to other areas.

There is a synergy of saturation with fiber optic cable. The more that gets laid, the easier it will be to extend it to other areas.

If the fiber optic cable gets built in the Keating Grove subdivision, for instance, the businesses and industries located W. M. Harmon Industrial Complex are close by. 

What’s C Spire up to anyway? What’s in it for them?

Certainly C Spire plans to make a profit from all this in the long run, but to get there the company has come up with this innovative, very-much-outside-the-box plan by which small towns in Mississippi can gain formidable internet speed at no cost. All sides win. 

All this stuff is boring me; it’s too much to read anyway.

If you’ve read this far, you might as well finish.

Batesville has a good record for coming together. In the latter 20th Century, city and county leaders put aside whatever differences they had, came together to develop suitable industrial sites and then recruited outside industry to locate here and helped local industry expand. Their work helped to create the economic engine that Batesville has become.

Even before that, in the 1930s during the depths of the Great Depression when most homes outside the very small area within Batesville corporate limits were lit with kerosene lamps and cooking on wood-burning stoves, the leaders of this community were working together on a major infrastructure project to improve the lives of the people of this area. 

They came up with a plan that would allow Batesville to become the headquarters for a rural electrical cooperative that would provide inexpensive electricity from the then-newly-created Tennessee Valley Authority not only for Batesville but for the rural population of  portions of nine north Mississippi counties. It changed lives for the better. 

When we stop and think about it, we still admire and appreciate that those community leaders of the 20th Century had the foresight to put differences aside and get behind these projects that provide the benefits we still enjoy.

Now it’s this generation’s turn. High-speed fiber optic internet will become as vital to economic development in the 21st Century as inexpensive electricity was during the 20th (and remains in the 21st). 

As many advantages as 1 Gbps internet speed offers right now for entertainment and services in our homes, that’s only the beginning. 

Ultra-high-speed internet is our infrastructure challenge for the 21st Century. That’s why it’s vital that the opportunity C Spire offers Batesville not be allowed to slip away.

If you are in a fiberhood, sign up today, www.cspire.com.

If you are not in a fiberhood, encourage your friends who are to sign up now.

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