EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Gov. Ned Lamont and other state officials gathered in East Hartford Monday afternoon to launch an initiative to connect Connecticut residents to better internet speeds.
More than 40 cities around the United States covering more than 1.5 million homes and businesses are now getting the fastest internet out there.
Internet service speeds of up to 1,000 megabytes per second will initially be offered, increasing to up to 10 gigabytes per second. And one Connecticut City will now be a part of that network.
Fifty-thousand residents in East Hartford will have the fastest internet in the nation after a machine lays fiber optic cables underground using micro-trenching.
Ben Bawtree-Jobson the CEO of SIFI Networks says, “It’s a city-wide network that is passing every single home and business without discrimination.”
Sifi Networks was chosen by the city as they try to move to a Smart City model with technology to grow their local economy.
Mayor Marcia Leclerc of East Hartford says there is no way the city could front all the money for a build-out of this magnitude. “Imagine putting out an RFP (request for proposal) that said, ‘The Town of East Hartford is interested in fiber, but we don’t want to pay anything for it.'”
The city is distressed 50 percent businesses and 50 percent residential and couldn’t afford this on its own.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) says this kind of infrastructure is important to the entire country. He’s pushing for more than the estimated $59-million currently in the bill Congress is debating.
“There is a digital divide, there is a homework gap that plagues parts of our nation,” Sen. Blumenthal said.
Sifi is investing $40-million to build an open-access fiber network. Wifi-provider “Flume” will lease space on the network bringing residents the gold standard of internet service for phones and computers.
Bob Knight, a spokesperson for the SiFi Networks, explains it like this: “I’d like you to think of an open-access network like an airport. The airport has the structure and multiple airlines come in and they lease gates from the airport.”
How much will service cost per month? That’s unclear. Build out is on SIFI Network’s dime.
Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Economic and Community Development Alexandra Daum says it’s not a taxpayer burden.
“It’s a public-private partnership with overwhelmingly private investment and most of the public side comes in time and effort as opposed to funds,” she explained.
Governor Ned Lamont is excited and calls it a milestone. “You are going to have the most consistent most blazingly fast high-speed data access anywhere in the world.”
Before politics, cable television was Lamont’s expertise.
“Back in my day, it was more video-oriented so I was delivering the Sci-Fi channel…as opposed to the Sifi product.”
Residents will have the option to use the product or keep what they have. This doesn’t include the traditional cable TV model. Instead, this model promotes what’s known as “cutting the cable cord.” A disruptive method.
Bob Knight is confident consumers will benefit: “It infuses competition into the marketplace.”
Sifi Network says they are talking to some other Connecticut towns about partnering on a similar build-out, but won’t reveal who they are.
East Hartford FiberCity is expected to begin construction in spring 2022 with full completion no later than 2024. Three thousand households in East Hartford will qualify for a discounted rate through Flume.
Officials say Chattanooga, Tennessee built a citywide fiber-optic network 10 years ago and it’s had an economic impact of more than $2.69-billion.