May 23, 2014 10:20:28 AM
Starkville and C Spire officials continued building upon a dynamic partnership Tuesday when aldermen approved a telecommunications contract for Internet services at the new city hall under construction at the end of Main Street.
The contract will take the place of a MetroCast deal and provide the city savings and increased Internet speed. Under the new deal, the city will spend $1,000 monthly from its communications budget line item for 100 megabyte Internet access. Starkville currently pays $100 more per month for a 10 megabyte connection.
Starkville will partition a portion of its access and dedicate it to improve public Wi-Fi connections. The city previously rolled out such public access and is expected to complete a similar project this year at the Starkville Sportsplex.
Aldermen unanimously approved the contract after board attorney Chris Latimer said provisions remove C Spire from numerous points of liability.
Tuesday's contract approval marks another C Spire in-road with the city.
In September, Starkville became one of the first Mississippi cities to enter the company's Fiber to the Home competition, an initiative that will deploy fiber optic, 1 gigabyte-per-second (1,000 megabytes) to households, along with TV and home phone services.
C Spire announced a month later it would construct a $23 million data-processing center at Mississippi State University's Thad Cochran Research Park, a move that marked the first significant Oktibbeha County investment landed by the Golden Triangle Development LINK.
The company ceremonially broke ground on the facility in November and toured business leaders and economic developers through the first phase of construction Monday.
When the facility opens, it will be one of only 52 in the U.S. with a Tier 3 or 4 rating and the only Tier 3-plus facility within 250 miles.
As for the Fiber to the Home, Starkville was named one of nine Mississippi cities to qualify for C Spire's roll-out competition. Company officials used geography and population density to divide towns into "fiberhoods" and use a pre-registration process, which carries a $10 fee, in order to advance specific partitions into engineering and construction efforts.
Two Starkville "fiberhoods" - South Montgomery and Timbercove/College Station/Polos - have qualified for the service, while the Cotton District/Downtown/Historic Central Starkville area is closing in on its mark. Currently, 40 percent of the neighborhood is registered for the service, while 45 percent is required to begin engineering and construction efforts.
City officials say they're optimistic the neighborhood will soon qualify for the fiber Internet program.
Oktibbeha Gardens/Old West Point Road, the next-closest "fiberhood" in terms of qualification, has 10 percent of its population registered; however, 45 percent is needed to push the neighborhood into the next phase.
"C Spire is a strong Mississippi company with a history of providing unique opportunities to Mississippians," Mayor Parker Wiseman said. "We are pleased that they have chosen to locate a state-of-the-art data center in Starkville, and we are excited about cutting-edge opportunities, such as high-speed Internet and public Wi-Fi, that they are making available to our citizens."
Construction on Starkville's new city hall, a once contentious political issue, continues on budget and on track for its grand opening in late fall 2015, Wiseman told aldermen Tuesday.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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