- An internet service provider (ISP) owned and operated by the city of Longmont, CO was named the fastest in the nation in an annual survey by PCMag. NextLight registered a PCMag Speed Index (PSI) of 278.4, topping larger providers including Google Fiber, Verizon Fios and RCN.
- Longmont established NextLight in 2014 as a pure fiber optic network, rather than relying partially on cable. That has helped it maintain consistently high speeds, Longmont Power and Communications general manager Tom Roiniotis told Government Technology. The gigabit service runs 1,000 megabits per second.
- Among the other small providers on PC Mag’s survey were the Bay Area’s Sonic, which placed third with a PSI of 206.8, and EPB Fiber Optics, the local utility for Chattanooga, TN that placed fourth with a 149.7 PSI. EPB Fiber Optics had placed second last year. Although the publication offers kudos to Google Fiber, which placed second for its “astronomical” scores, the major providers are not the ones driving high speeds, but rather it is the local companies.
Cities are increasingly looking at operating their own high-speed networks, offering them to residents as a utility akin to power or water. In Colorado alone, communities including Glenwood Springs and Rio Blanco County have set up municipal broadband, and Fort Collins, the state’s fourth largest city, is exploring its own fiber-optic network. While there can be infrastructure challenges in setting up a municipal network, the service can keep subscriptions lower for residents and allows for more control over where and how service is offered.
Several other cities are also working with private companies to offer better service, like a partnership between Lexington, KY, and Indiana’s MetroNet to build a fiber optic network. That was the rollout plan for Google Fiber, before it hit several snags and had to scale back its expansion to a slower rate, despite its consistently high speeds.
Becoming a gigabit city can not just offer better service for residents — so fast that a high definition movie can be downloaded in just 30 seconds — but also to attract tech jobs. Chattanooga, for example, has credited its status as the first gigabit city in the nation for attracting several startups. Mayor Andy Berke told Fortune that establishing the service in 2010 “allowed us to change our perception of ourselves.”