Four cities in Westchester County of New York are pursuing “gigabit Internet.” Yonkers, Mount Vernon, White Plains, and New Rochelle are all actively seeking proposals for the installation of the service to be implemented in the next three to five years. Google Fiber is one of the more well-known gigabit providers offering service in 23 cities. However, there are more options including telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, as well as municipally owned models. For those of you who may not be all that familiar with “gigabit Internet” and what this all means I have provided a quick run down of the details.
First, a gigabit is a unit of measurement equal to one billion bits. Therefore, gigabit Internet is one billion bits of information downloaded every second! The fastest internet download speeds available to most of the country is around 100 megabits per second—in other words, ten times slower than gigabit internet and the average speed for the country is 72 mbps, fourteen times slower.
The benefits of Internet that fast are realized more often in business rather than in residential communities. Unless you were a real hardcore gamer gigabit Internet may be considered unnecessary in the common household. However, the proposal in Westchester could allow over 160,000 households access. But the real value of gigabit Internet is its abilities to help economic development in cities.
Chattanooga, TN is a prime example of a municipally owned service with a large impact. With the installation of gigabit Internet by EPB, more and more technology-based companies have been vying to setup their industry in the Chattanooga. More companies moving into the city means more economic growth in other areas like restaurants, bars, and local businesses. Gigabit Internet is more than just faster Internet it causes a trickle down effect that impacts an entire communities’ growth and prosperity.
Now you might be asking, “Well, that sounds pretty great, why doesn’t everyone sign up for this?!” There a few factors to consider when looking at the prospect of installing it. First, these fast download speeds are dependent on the source you are downloading from– your download is only as fast the source’s server can handle. Furthermore, if you have an older laptop or computer it may not be able to handle 1 billion bits per second.
The second major factor to consider is cost. Officials in Westchester estimate that the installation could cost up to $750 million—more than double what it cost in Chattanooga ($330 million). The final decision requires an analysis of whether the costs outweigh the benefits. If you use Chattanooga as an example though, with the installation of gigabit Internet the city saw its unemployment rate go from 7.8 percent to 4.1 percent in six years. Those are pretty good numbers—numbers that mean fewer people out of work, more money cycling back into their economy, new industries entering the region and a general economic growth… just imagine the impact it could have on a place the size of Westchester County.