Gigabit internet expansion is here, and it is completely transforming how rural communities grow and thrive. People who once may have flocked to Silicon Valley or big cities are now more likely to consider more remote regions because of the advanced connectivity that would allow their business, entrepreneurial activities, entertainment and social lives to flourish. Small towns are beginning to compete with some of their more urban counterparts when it comes to telehealth, long distance learning, and economic vitality. ISPs have been working to close the digital divide for rural communities, and providing the infrastructure for a gigabit service is one of the keys to unlocking possibilities and potential for those who live in areas that tend to be overlooked by the rest of the country.
In Alaska, GCI's 1 GIG red has helped small businesses take off and attract new online customers in and out of state. While the rollout was work-intensive--the GCI team had to swap out modems from homes, equipment needed to be checked to ensure the hardware could support gigabit speeds, and customers needed education training-- the benefits made it all worthwhile.
Eagle Communications, which serves Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado, has also launched gigabit speeds in its region. And last year, it started to offer gigabit internet for residents in their homes in a small rural town in Kansas--a first for the ISP. As Eagle's director of marketing told NCTA, "This robust, reliable and fast internet will give [customers] the ability to stay connected with physicians from afar, to skype and video chat with family and grandchildren who have left town, and to just connect with the world in a way they aren’t able to do right now."
Then of course there is Mediacom, the first ISP to deliver gigabit speeds to an entire state. In 2017, Mediacom launched one gigabit internet service across its entire Iowa footprint, and has plans to bring the service to all of its three million homes and businesses over 22 states.
Midco, whose footprint spans small communities in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas, also offers gigabit speeds to 80 percent of its customers, and the ISP is continuing to upgrade more communities through 2018.
The road to gigabit internet is well on its way for rural America.