Technology Incubator, the Hive Enjoy Comporium’s Super Fast Internet Speed
ROCK HILL, S.C. – (May 22, 2015) – NANCY PIERCE
The Rock Hill marketing company Revenflo director of multimedia Micah Troublefield is at left. Onscreen is company founder and president Jason Broadwater. Zoom effect is to illustrate gigabit service provided by Comporium, Zipstream. It's helpful for Revenflo's transfer of large files. a marketing company.
Laura Williams-Tracy, Contributing Writer
In Rock Hill’s revitalizing downtown, graphic designers at marketing firm Revenflo used to wait as long as a full workday for large video and photography files to download. The waiting crimped production schedules when a programmer needed the files to meet a deadline.
A year ago, Jason Broadwater’s marketing firm became one of the first small businesses in the region to connect to gigabit service, a blistering-fast Internet connection that can download those same files in a fraction of the time.
“The feedback I get from our designers is ‘Man this is awesome and it has made my life easier,’” Broadwater says. “It really is a workflow-production benefit.”
Revenflo gets its fast connection through Comporium Communications’ 1Gbps service called Zipstream. It launched last year as an economic-development tool that put Rock Hill on the map of a small but rapidly growing list of cities with high-speed service.
In 2010, Chattanooga, Tenn., became the first city in the nation to offer gigabit speed with a fiber-optic backbone built by power company EPB. Other towns saw the economic-development potential and followed suit, including municipal-owned networks in Salisbury, with its Fibrant network, and in Wilson, which offers Greenlight community broadband.
Soon Charlotte will join the game, albeit through the private sector.
In January, Google Fiber selected Charlotte as one of four metro areas, along with Raleigh, Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn., to receive its super-fast service, which the company earlier rolled out in a few other cities. AT&T’s U-verse with GigaPower started in the Triangle and Winston-Salem in December and is being installed in Charlotte. Local launch dates have not been announced by either company.
In Raleigh, AT&T’s GigaPower costs $120 per month for 1Gbps Internet speed. In Kansas City, Mo., where Google Fiber is operational, 1Gbps is $100 per month. Zipstream in Rock Hill is $99 per month for homes and $299 for businesses. Time Warner Cable has not yet announced 1Gbps speeds anywhere in the country, but by fall it will increase speeds by three to six times at no additional cost in a service called TWCMax. Customers of TWC’s Business Class service can receive up to 10 gigabit Internet speed.
Users say there’s enormous potential for all sorts of businesses when bandwidth constraints are eased. Developers and entrepreneurs are thinking about what new applications will thrive when many have a gigabit speed download capability, says Alan Fitzpatrick, chief operating officer of DC74 Data Centers.
In early May, DC74 hosted GigHacks, a five-city event including Charlotte, Chattanooga, Kansas City, Burlington, Vt., and San Francisco. It featured 300 developers and entrepreneurs who developed simultaneously 39 projects over the weekend using 1Gbps service.
“We wanted to let people get experience with gigabit before it comes to the masses since it’s going to be another year before Google and AT&T are here,” Fitzpatrick says.
At the event in Charlotte, four teams were judged on their projects’ use of the technology. The winning project allowed office workers in separate locations to communicate through real-time video streaming.
In another display, a videographer who sometimes waits three hours for a 5.6GB video file to upload, accomplished the task in less than six seconds while connected to DC74’s gigabit technology.
Fitzpatrick says as the service becomes more affordable, he envisions a multitude of companies joining in, from coffee houses offering Wi-Fi to any company that needs to transfer large files.
EPB, Chattanooga’s power and telecommunications company, owns and operates the nation’s first gigabit network. Danna Bailey, EPB spokeswoman, says the high-speed option isn’t the most popular choice for businesses in the eight-county region EPB serves. But it makes a difference for select customers.
“We have a customer who is a radiologist who connected his office and his home with gigabit service,” Bailey says. “He’s able to reduce the time it takes to download and read images and diagnose problems by almost a day.”
About 5,000 of EPB’s 72,000 Internet customers in Chattanooga are businesses. Gigabit customers pay $500 per month.
Other customers include those in the technology field, including software developers and data centers, and a large insurance company with agents who more easily work from home with faster connections. Even EPB find the speeds helpful when storms knock out power and employees work from home to resolve issues.
“We see Internet today as being critical infrastructure like electric power was in the 20th century,” Bailey says. “Communities won’t be able to compete if they don’t have access to it.”
Comporium executives visited Chattanooga and Kansas City to get a read on the market before launching Zipstream in 2014.
“We came away absolutely convinced that while we could debate whether anyone was using a full gig for their job, it was indisputable that people and businesses were moving there for those reasons,” says Matt Dosch, executive vice president at Comporium.
Since launching in Rock Hill’s downtown Knowledge Park, Comporium has expanded the network to suburban business parks. By the end of summer, the service is slated to be available to 225 neighborhoods comprising 15,000 homes.
“The hope is that the existence of gigabit will attract coders, photographers and other businesses that upload and download a lot of files,” Dosch says. “We’re very pleased and continuing to accelerate our deployment based on the reception we’ve gotten.”
The coming of Google Fiber and AT&T GigaPower boosts the perception that Charlotte is a progressive place to grow a tech business, says Dan Roselli, owner of Packard Place, Charlotte’s tech accelerator. Its high-speed fiber connection was installed more than a year ago.
“I think right now a gigabit connection is important to 0.05% of Charlotte’s population,” Roselli says. “That core small group has already found a way to get it.”
So what happens when the service is available to the entire city?
“What types of things could you develop if we took the bandwidth constraints off?” Roselli asks. “Those ideas are just in the formation stage, and I think that reality will come – like with cellphones – and we will wonder how we lived without it.”Laura Williams-Tracy is a Charlotte-based freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.