Fiber OpticsAnother university community is seeking a gigabit network – and those spearheading the idea are aiming high. The Research Valley Technology Council (RVTC), an economic development organization for the Bryan and College Station, Tex. metro area issued a request for information (RFI) yesterday inviting network operators to build a gigabit residential network and to offer data rates as high as 100 Gbps to local businesses.

The metro area, home of Texas A&M University, has a population between 200,000 and 250,000, said James Benham, council member for the City of College Station, in an interview.

Benham expects to see significant interest from network operators. “We have had a handful reach out and have discussions with us,” he said. “They have been receptive.”

RVTC is a member of Gig U,  a group of universities that aim to bring ultra-high-speed networks to their communities. Gig U has identified a number of best practices for attracting network operators  such as streamlined permitting processes and micro-trenching.  RVTC also seems to have learned some lessons from Google, which has been successful in persuading local governments to ease permitting processes and taking other steps to minimize  gigabit network deployment costs.

“We’re offering a series of tools that [network operators] can pick from to help drive opex and capex down,” Benham said.

For example, he noted that the local electric company is municipally owned and will offer favorable terms for using its poles for fiber installation.

In addition, Benham said the community is considering enterprise zones and tax abatements.

Whatever network operator is chosen will “need to take the risk, float the debt, and would get the benefits and operate” the network, he said.

Benham said he anticipates that network operators will use Google’s “fiberhood” approach toward network deployment. That model calls for installing the network first in neighborhoods where a certain percentage of residents state in advance that they want to use the service.

Commercial developments also will be among the first to get service. Although the average company might use hundreds of megabits per second, RVTC is asking network operators to offer service to business customers at rates as high as 100 Gbps.

“I don’t consider a residential-only deployment a successful deployment,” said Benham.

The area is a “bio corridor,” he said and at times has been “penalized on competitive efforts” because local companies could have used higher-speed connectivity.

Responses to the RVTC RFI are due Friday, November 15. An informational session is scheduled for Wednesday, October 23.




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