Which Cities Will Get Fiber Networks in 2014?

Everyone wants faster Internet, but who can actually make it happen this year?

Not so long ago, Internet access was a luxury used by a just a handful of early adapters who actually understood its immense power. Fast-forward 20 years: According to Pew Internet, 70 percent of Americans have a high-speed broadband connection in their homes.

In 2014, however, many in both the private and public sectors will become fed up with broadband as more cities get access to gigabit Internet, like Google Fiber. In fact, superfast Internet, along with tax-friendly policies, is becoming central to cities’ efforts to lure businesses and job growth. Tech companies are already relocating to the first Google Fiber city, Kansas City. And with Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas, set to get Fiber in the new year, more cities will lobby for faster speeds.

A recent feature on The Verge outlined how mayors can help their cities get superfast Internet in 2014:

Thanks to Google’s rapid innovation, its competitors are being forced to offer affordable, fast options, too. ArsTechnica takes a look at some cities that are exploring their options:

In November we described how officials in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Bryan/College Station area in Texas are laying the groundwork for fiber networks to benefit residents and make the cities more attractive to businesses. Los Angeles has a similar plan (although it may not be an entirely realistic one).

Some communities are taking more direct control over their fates. In Leverett, Mass., planning that began in 2011 is expected to result in the deployment next year of a fiber-to-the-home network "that will be operated by a publicly controlled Municipal Light Plant entity," a case study by Harvard researchers said. "The MLP will operate independently of Leverett’s political infrastructure, but will be required by state law to charge subscribers no more than the cost of providing service."

This month, the city of Ellensburg, Washington, approved a contract to begin construction of a publicly owned fiber network. Officials in Chattanooga, Tennessee, previously showed how a government-run fiber network can rival or surpass a private one. Residents there can purchase 100Mbps connections for $57.99 a month and gigabit connections for $69.99 a month from the community-owned electric utility. It even helped residents who subscribe to traditional ISPs—after the network launched in 2011, incumbents Comcast and AT&T finally started upgrading their services, utility officials told Ars.

Another approach is for cities to create an open network that can be used by any provider to sell Internet. The Utopia network in Utah is perhaps the best example, but its mixed track record may be holding back the open access model.

The motivation to find ways to get faster Internet is present, and it will be interesting to see who is successful in the coming year. Based on average connection speeds, there is plenty of room for improvement. Check out ArsTechnica’s article How US Internet service might get better—and worse—in 2014 to learn more.

Guillermo Garcia-Mont/iStock/Thinkstock
Dec 30 2013