NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– State officials pitched an idea for drastically increasing internet speeds in Connecticut to the members of COST – the Council of Small Towns – at a meeting in Cromwell Wednesday morning. Businesses always want to be near rail lines or big highways, but these days another kind of infrastructure is crucial for business. That’s why Connecticut is trying to build a high-speed on-ramp to the information superhighway called Gigabit.
“Gigabit is equal parts infrastructure and economic development,” said State Comptroller Kevin Lembo. “It’s not just talking about ports and planes and rails and roads…”
Instead it’s a faster way to get information. Sure, you can already watch cat videos just fine on your phone or computer, but many data-intensive businesses need more bandwidth.
“Certainly not about cat videos. I get that,” Lembo said. “This is really about people like me, people like the bioscience clusters, moving hundreds of millions of records every day.”
Already, 46 cities and towns have signed on to upgrade to one gigabit speed internet. And they just got ten bids from companies that want to build it. The towns have something to offer in return. State regulations have changed so that now every town owns a little piece of every utility pole in town. Towns can offer that space for the cables to make the internet much faster than it is now.
“We’re exceptionally slow, even when compared to the rest of America,” according to New Haven Transportation Director Doug Hausladen. “So right now, we need to be competing globally, New England needs to be competing globally.”
Imagine if I-95 were several lanes wider, how much easier life would be. That’s kind of what a faster information superhighway would do for business. One other part of the plan is to bring the internet to people who can’t afford it. The difference between people with internet and those who can’t afford it is called the digital divide.
“So what we’re doing is trying to close the digital divide – give access to people so they can learn to use the internet,” said New Haven Controller Daryl Jones. “If you don’t have that ability, you’re behind the times.”
As for who will pay for gigabit internet, the company that ends up building it will pay for it, and then make their money back as they charge people to use it. The best guess is that will cost around $70 a month.