46 Connecticut towns join push to be first US “gigabit state”

Dozens of Connecticut municipalities, representing half the state’s population, have signed on to a project that aims to dramatically increase broadband speeds to businesses and consumers through a series of public-private partnerships, officials announced on Thursday.

The project began in September when three Connecticut cities — Hartford, New Haven and Stamford — invited others to join a proposal that seeks to create a 1 GB network, in part by creating incentives for fiber network builders and internet service providers to improve internet infrastructure.

Now, a total of 46 towns are participating in what its boosters call an “effort for Connecticut to lead the nation as the first gigabit state.” The next phase is for private companies, including cable outfits and ISPs, to submit proposals of their own as to how to build out the network.

It’s too soon to say it if will work, but the goal of the project is to create a cluster of towns and institutions that will create an ultra-fast network, like the one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, across the middle part of Connecticut, which will in turn attract business and research.

According to Thursday’s announcement, the state and cities will not invest in the network fund directly, but will instead offer in-kind support through easy access to utility poles and other favorable regulatory policies.

The Connecticut project, which has received encouragement from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, comes as the role of states and cities in building out broadband is in the legal spotlight. Currently, towns in North Carolina and Tennessee have filed a petition asking the FCC to preempt state laws that restrict their ability build fiber networks.

The proponents of laws restricting state broadband projects claim their purpose is to protect taxpayers from boondoggles. Critics, however, point to evidence that such laws are passed at the behest of giants like AT&T, and serve to entrench corporate monopolies.