Wyatt Emmerich: Mississippians should be proud of C Spire

October 19, 2013 10:31:17 PM



As some readers may have noticed, I have been a big fan of C Spire. This is not just because my brother-in-law Terrell Knight works there. Or that my father-in-law Bob Knight and the Creekmores were college buddies. Nor is it because they run big ads in newspapers. (Though none of that hurts!) 


It's not even because they have, by far, the best signal in the state -- especially on bass ponds and deer stands. Just last week Boy Scout troop 302 was canoeing down the beautiful Black Creek. Only C Spire phones had a signal. I was able to use my GPS and Google maps to find the perfect sandbar with my smartphone. 


The main reason I like C Spire is they are not a gargantuan national oligopoly. They are a Mississippi company that supports non-profits, cares about the state, has deep family ties to Mississippi and -- despite being smaller -- is on the cutting edge of the technology revolution. 


When Hu Meena and company pulled a coup and got the iPhone, C Spire was the first company of its size to do so. Time and time again, C Spire has proven itself to be a formidable competitor to the giants -- AT&T and Verizon -- which are threatening to take over cell phone industry in America. 


Why the U. S. Justice Department allows these "too big to fail" monopolies to dominant our economy is a mystery to me. Free markets and healthy competition are the key to prosperity. I don't much like government intervention, but keeping markets from monopolistic domination is a valid role of the government. 


Unfortunately, with the rise of political action committees and national fundraising, the political power of these mega companies has become immense. They are able to manipulate the federal government and protect their dominant market share. 


You recall, the government broke up the AT&T monopoly decades ago. This led to a boom in communications. Incredibly, we seem to be right back where we started. Both Verizon and AT&T are both made up of the spinoffs from the original dismantling of the AT&T monopoly. 


One of the worries I have had is that C Spire would get gobbled up by one of the giants. This would be Mississippi's loss. 


Instead, it looks like C Spire is continuing its amazing David versus Goliath story. They recently announced a program to bring direct fiber optic links into homes throughout Mississippi. Internet connections speeds would increase 100 times. 


It is hard to overplay the significance of this. This is cutting edge technology that only a handful of super-affluent cities are experimenting with. It is nothing short of astounding that rural Mississippi would be a staging ground for the deployment of this quantum leap in telecommunications capacity. 


Talk about infrastructure advancement. Fiber optic links to Mississippi homes and businesses would be a huge benefit, attracting all kinds of entrepreneurial startups. It would make Mississippi a rural high tech Mecca. 


I asked Hu Meena how C Spire is able to do this when Comcast, AT&T and Verizon can't. The answer: It's not so much they can't as they won't. 


These companies have billions of dollars already invested in the existing, slower technology. They want to get their money back rather than invest in a whole new generation. In other words, the big companies would rather milk the existing cash cow. 


Meanwhile, C Spire, because of its cellular phone business, has a huge fiber optic backbone throughout Mississippi. Their plan is to now link individual homes and businesses directly to that fiber optic backbone with direct to-the-home fiber optic cables. 


This is what we have been waiting for. Ever since I was a kid, I heard about fiber optics and its enormous speed and capacity. Indeed, fiber optic links are used throughout the country. Getting it directly to the home is the final piece of the puzzle -- the gold standard of telco speed. 


Once the fiber optic link is in place, it can be used to bring in voice, data and video. C Spire will eventually offer an entire package at a price competitive with existing cable and satellite services -- but at 100 times the speed. 


C Spire has also come up with a smart strategy for implementation. The cities that show the most interest, will get the service first. In other words, the cities that reduce red tape and facilitate the permitting process will get high speed access first. Already, several cities are chomping at the bit. No doubt mayors who make this happen will be rewarded at the ballot box. What this could do to economic development is the most exciting aspect of all. 


It's great to watch a home-grown Mississippi company out-compete and the out-of-state giants. 


Our state leaders pay hundreds of millions to lure big out-of-state companies to come to Mississippi. Meanwhile our home-grown companies are doing the heavy lifting and not asking for a dime. Go C Spire! 


Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]