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Second Starkville area qualifies for 'fiberhood'

 

Carl Smith

 

Starkville's Timbercove/College Station/Polos "fiberhood" became the city's second area to qualify for C Spire's high-speed, fiber Internet service, the company announced Monday. 

 

The neighborhood hit the company-mandated 35 percent pre-registration mark for Fiber to the Home, a service that will deliver 1 gigabit Internet speeds for residential subscribers, Monday after falling four sign-ups short Friday.  

 

Now that the area is qualified, C Spire will move into construction and engineering efforts. Last month, South Montgomery, along with the entire town of Quitman and neighborhoods in Horn Lake and Ridgeland, qualified for the service. 

 

C Spire spokesperson Dave Miller said construction efforts should begin this summer. Company meetings with neighborhood residents and city officials are also expected to help coordinate the construction process. 

 

Eight Starkville "fiberhoods" remain short of pre-registration requirements. The next closest area, the Cotton District/Downtown/Historic Central Starkville neighborhood, is at 22 percent of its 45 percent pre-registration mark. The seven remaining areas have yet to crack the 10 percent mark for early sign-ups. 

 

Lagging sign-ups in the other Fiber to the Home competition cities is also apparent according to C Spire's Fiber to the Home website. 

 

In November, company officials announced that Batesville, Clinton, Corinth, Hattiesburg, Horn Lake, McComb Ridgeland and Starkville advanced to the 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 and was subsequently divided into 10 neighborhoods. 

 

The nine cities are divided into 81 combined "fiberhoods," which include five qualified neighborhoods. Of the remaining 76 areas, only three "fiberhoods" - one in Horn Lake and two Ridgeland neighborhoods - have eclipsed the halfway mark for pre-registration efforts. 

 

Sixty-eight of the combined 81 "fiberhoods" had early sign-up percentages at 9 percent or less as of 2 p.m. Monday, according to the C Spire Fiber to the Home website, including each competing area within Hattiesburg and McComb. 

 

"There are obvious differences in terms of the level of involvement with local leadership. We've always said from day one that the cities that have it together the most will get (fiber qualification) first, and you can see local efforts playing out," C Spire spokesperson Dave Miller said Monday. "Look at Starkville, Ridgeland and the other cities that have multiple areas that are either qualified or nearing qualification. They have the momentum, and that's a function of several factors, including leadership at the municipal level. We're optimistic that the other cities will continue to make progress. Some have been slower than others, but they're all making progress and ramping up their efforts." 

 

Locally, a team of volunteers went door to door in the South Montgomery neighborhood in January and February to help push the "fiberhood" past the pre-registration post. Led by entrepreneur Adrian Marcus, the team's effort helped make the area one of the first three "fiberhoods" to qualify  

 

for construction and engineering efforts. 

 

"The real impact of this effort really happens on a person-to-person basis, whether that is volunteer or neighborhood groups talking with residents or neighbors talking to neighbors," Miller said. "How individuals get active within a city, that's where the real impact is." 

 

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. 

 

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.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

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