Why College Station needs better bandwidth

I’ve recently received a few questions about why we need internet bandwidth speeds 20 times faster than what we currently have available, so I thought I would try to break it down for everyone. The whole high-speed bandwidth argument has to do with five variables:

  1. The size of the data pipe (how much data can move through at once).
  2. The speed of the data pipe (how fast that data moves through the pipe).
  3. The quality of the data pipe (how much stuff gets lost between point A and point B).
  4. The cost of the data pipe (the price of moving stuff through the pipe and the price of constructing the pipe).
  5. The availability of the data pipe (where the pipe can be found and run).

You can relate it to water service at some level:  you have to have enough water, at a high enough pressure, going through pipes that don’t leak, offered at an affordable price per gallon, that’s available for homes and businesses that need it. Without those five variables, those homes and businesses are either underserved or not served at all. 

B/CS is underserved

With the exception of downtown Bryan (with Fibertown at its heart), Bryan/College Station is underserved in almost every category compared to what is needed by tech and bio-life-science companies in today’s market, let alone in tomorrow’s. The big data revolution is creating more uses and requirements for next generation bandwidth networks. For example, current providers have expensive plans for the larger pipes they offer to businesses, but our new neighborhoods and business parks are having trouble getting service in the first place — and getting quality and affordable service thereafter. In addition, the quality of data connection many of them have is not satisfactory for their type of work.

Internet BandwidthThe volume of area business owners and commercial developers that have come out of the woodwork on this issue is simply amazing. For some retail operators, their bandwidth needs relate to checking email, browsing the web and handling a light load of business. Compare that to a high-tech or bio-tech company, like a genetic research facility or a software company. They need several hundred times the size of a pipe you do simply because of the size of the data they push. Software companies require high-speed connections to collaborate with their development partners and with their customers. A company that does genetic sequencing needs about 800Mbps of connectivity or more, far more than is easily available or affordable in this area. While my company already has this type of connectivity in Downtown Bryan, this type of connection should be available for businesses in all areas of both cities.

A significant upgrade is needed 

The size of data sets necessitates a completely new level of infrastructure, and this doesn’t just apply to large companies that have extensive resources to pay the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to run and operate their own private fiber optic connections. This applies to startup companies that need readily available and affordable bandwidth.  Many businesses and our university also have workers who need high-speed, ultra-reliable connections at their homes to be able to work remotely. For a university professor to connect to A&M from home, his or her connection is actually bounced a couple of hundred miles away and then back to the university, instead of traversing a local fiber network. This causes unnecessary delays and slow downs in connectivity.

Providing large, ultra high-speed, high-quality, affordable and available bandwidth will enable new startups as well as existing companies to build and grow in our area without having to look at moving to major cities to get something as fundamental to them as running water or electricity. Our area needs a significant upgrade, and as we figure out how to get one, it should be a future-proof network with the best connectivity in the world as the price for the upgrade is almost all in the construction. There is no value in a small, incremental upgrade, but there are huge possibilities with a next-generation, ultra high-speed fiber network.

James Benham
James Benham | Place 6
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