March 7, 2014 11:13:08 AM
Today, Starkville's Timber Cove/College Station/Polos neighborhood could become the city's second area eligible for C Spire's upcoming high-speed, residential Internet service.
As of press time this morning, 34 percent of the neighborhood's homes were pre-registered for Fiber to the Home, a service that will provide 1 gigabit Internet speeds for residential subscribers. C Spire previously set a 35 percent pre-registration goal for the neighborhood in order to advance the area into engineering and construction efforts.
Last month, the South Montgomery "fiberhood" became the first Starkville area to qualify for the service. A Horn Lake neighborhood and the entire town of Quitman also qualified for Fiber to the Home construction efforts on Feb. 17. Soon after, a Ridgeland neighborhood qualified.
At that time, the Timber Cove area reported pre-registration at 13 percent.
Eight Starkville "fiberhoods" remain short of pre-registration requirements. The next closest area, the Cotton District/Downtown/Historic Central Starkville "fiberhood," is at 14 percent of its 45 percent pre-registration mark.
In November, C Spire officials announced that Batesville, Clinton, Corinth, Hattiesburg, Horn Lake, McComb, Ridgeland and Starkville advanced to a second round of the Fiber to the Home competition, in which the company uses pre-registration - a $10 fee - percentages in designated neighborhoods to measure interest in the service.
Company officials used geography and population density to divide towns into "fiberhoods." For example, the entire town of Quitman, with its 2010 census population of 2,323, qualified as a single "fiberhood," while Starkville had a population of 24,360 during the 2012 estimate.
Pre-registration efforts are lagging in Batesville, Hattiesburg and McComb. The neighborhoods leading in pre-registration numbers there have not broken the 10 percent mark for their respective contests.
Officials have lauded the service since its announcement, saying the high-speed, residential Internet connection will transform cities and provide a significant boon to economic and community development.
"Fiber to the Home is a transformative technology, serving as a platform for innovation and new Internet experiences that have yet to be imagined," said C Spire CEO Hu Meena in a release last month. "This initiative is a great example of what can be accomplished when cities, communities and business leaders work together to move Mississippi forward."
C Spire originally announced last fall it would pick a single Fiber to the Home launch city based upon applicants' progressive, business-minded leadership; cost-saving agreements with local governments; and measured demand shown in the pre-registration process. The number of potential roll-out cities increased during the initiative's first phase because of the strength, quality and comprehensive nature of applicants' submissions, the company announced in November.
Finalists were picked by a review panel that weighed a number of factors, including the municipalities' proximity to C Spire's fiber optic infrastructure, community mobilization capacities and cost-saving, construction-facilitating incentives.
Starkville aldermen approved a 45-year franchise agreement in December with Telepak Networks for fiber installation. The agreement yields access for right-of-way construction while securing monies for the city based upon a percentage of future television and phone service revenues.
State law caps franchise agreements at 25 years. However, the franchise agreement agreed upon by aldermen consists of a 25-year term and two automatic, 10-year rollovers.
In that meeting, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins launched an impassioned, 15-minute plea against the contract, saying it was a bad deal for Starkville and took the nature of the rushed vote to task.
Aldermen had two choices in that meeting: accept the agreement or miss out on the initiative since C Spire was set to begin the next phase of the competition the day after the board meeting.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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