There is no doubt the topic of infrastructure is on the minds of many Americans. Seventy-four percent of respondents to a June 2021 Pew Research poll identified infrastructure in the U.S. as a “big problem.”
But infrastructure is much more than the highway paving projects and municipal utility overhauls we usually think about. In fact, the most critical infrastructure for successful communities today and in the 21st century is access to broadband internet delivered by high-capacity fiber-optic lines.
“Reliable, high-speed internet is no longer a convenience or a want,” explains Ben Moncrief, senior vice president of strategic relations at C Spire. “Communities need dependable internet access, and fiber is the key ingredient to future-proofing consumers and businesses.”
Fiber internet enables symmetrical Gigabit speeds, meaning information is downloaded and uploaded at the same rates, with low latency and high bandwidth that enables entire households and businesses to operate on a single fiber connection without experiencing lag time. In addition, fiber increases home values by an average 3.1 percent, while multi-tenant dwellings see an almost 8 percent hike in rental value.
The need for fiber is so great that cities like Greenwood, Mississippi, are creating grassroots campaigns to attract and accelerate construction of fiber infrastructure. After securing interest in fiber internet from residents, C Spire and the city of Greenwood initiated a public-private partnership to bring fiber to the Mississippi Delta.
“We went to C Spire because I had a tremendous number of businesses and residents that wanted faster internet speeds,” says Greenwood mayor Carolyn McAdams. “I asked C Spire to please look at Greenwood every chance I got. I wanted that for my city.”
McAdams says the city posted a notice on its websites and in The Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper encouraging residents to contact C Spire and request fiber internet service. Then, businesspeople and residents shared online. The company took notice and engaged with McAdams and city leaders on the fiber construction process and answered questions from the city council. Now, C Spire expects to bring its first Greenwood customers online with fiber in early 2022.
Clinton, Mississippi, a city of 26,000 people located 90 miles south of Greenwood, participated in one of C Spire’s first public-private fiber partnerships through a crowd-sourced fiber-to-the-home initiative in 2015. The project coincided with the Clinton Public School District’s rollout of its 1:1 technology initiative, a tech-integration program in which every student and teacher is assigned a personal computer they can use on campus and at home.
“Computers in the hands of over 5,000 students meant the need for expanded bandwidth across the city, and the C Spire fiber-to-the-home initiative was right on time,” says Phil Fisher, mayor of Clinton. Fisher says fiber was also key to retaining students at Mississippi College as residents. When some apartment complexes began to lose students to neighboring cities, fiber internet upgrades to several complexes helped them keep and attract new student tenants.
Educating the next generation is only part of fiber’s success story, though. Economic developer Glenn McCullough Jr., who served as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority when Continental Tire opened its $1.4 billion plant in Clinton in 2019, stresses the importance of fiber as a recruiting tool for companies as well as prospective employees.
“Amazon is now coming online with its third fulfillment center in Mississippi,” says McCullough. “Companies like Relativity Space, which uses 3D technology to build rockets and space propulsion systems at Stennis Space Center, as well as Raytheon and ABB (of Switzerland), all depend on communications infrastructure that is world class. That's why fiber is a very critical part of our infrastructure.”
Beth Stevens, executive director of the 400-plus-member Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce, anticipates an increase in interest from companies once C Spire fiber is in the ground and live.
“We’re excited about the growth in technology infrastructure that is coming to Greenwood and the Mississippi Delta and the boost it will give our local economy, business expansion and job creation,” says Stevens. “This type of technology infrastructure is what this community needs to grow and prosper. We appreciate the response from residents, and C Spire making the investment and having the vision to move Greenwood, the Delta and our state forward.”
As C Spire expands its nearly 12,000 miles of managed fiber into Greenwood, Moncrief says C Spire is always looking to work with communities whose citizens and leaders are engaged in creating a positive shared future.
“We’re constantly asked about public-private partnerships to bring fiber to new communities, and the truth is we’re open to all options,” says Moncrief. “We go to the places where our services are demanded, whether by leadership, the citizens or both.”
Adds McCullough, “If you don't have high speed fiber, you're proverbially in the dark. You can't win. Fiber is required to succeed.”
To learn more about C Spire’s ultra-fast broadband fiber or how to start their own neighborhood or community crowd-sourcing campaign, interested residents should visit www.cspire.com/fiber or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ashley Phillips is general manager of C Spire Home Services, a division of C Spire, a privately owned, Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services company.