Bluffton boasts of new ‘gig

October 31st, 2015

News Coverage:
Bluffton boasts of new ‘gig'
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2015 11:00 pm | Updated: 9:15 pm, Sat Oct 31, 2015.

By Aimee Ambrose

BLUFFTON — Through a new partnership and with a belief in the necessity for faster communications, Bluffton opened access to supercharged Internet to everyone in the city.

The move could give the city more leverage in attracting high-tech companies.

Bluffton earned the title of Indiana’s first “Gigabit City” last month when the city teamed with service provider AdamsWells Internet Telecom TV to make Internet speeds of up to one gigabit per second universally available.

The service stands on equal ground with water and electricity as an essential for utility for businesses.

“Connection to the Web is just a must anymore. It’s not optional,” said Bluffton Mayor Ted Ellis. “High speed is something that businesses anymore just need.”

Breaking down the bit boost

One gigabit equals 1,000 megabits, making the speed close to 100 times faster than the national average connection speed of 11 megabits per second, or about 85 times faster than Indiana’s average speed of 12 Mbps, according to data on content delivery giant Akamai’s website.

To get a sense of the speed difference, that’s like cars going 70 miles per hour on Interstate 69 trying to keep up with the 7,000-mile-per-hour experimental scramjet NASA tested in 2005, or roughly like stacking the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s Helmholtz sculpture, at 26 feet tall, next to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building at more than 2,600 feet.

Many area households also have broadband speeds of about 25 Mbps. At that rate, the time to download an 8-gigabyte movie would take approximately 45 minutes. At a gigabit of speed, that 8-gigabyte movie would download in about a minute.

But 1 Gb of speed is more than most households currently need. The main purpose for offering it is to help Bluffton attract businesses and set a new standard in high technology, said Lee VonGunten, the general manager of AdamsWells Internet.

“Bluffton is a place that’s business-friendly and really reaching out in multiple ways to businesses,” he said.

The service would benefit companies and industries that rely on communicating data at near-instantaneous speeds, such as those that would download and/or upload large engineering files, require up-to-the-minute supply chain information or stream live video conferences or online training videos. Home-based businesses could also benefit.

Organizations like Wells County Economic Development can include the faster Internet speed as a marketing tool to attract high-tech businesses.

“Faster speed improves communication,” said Tim Ehlerding, Wells County’s outgoing economic development director. “You hope it’s that one item that gives you a competitive advantage.”

The untangled Web

Bluffton’s “Gigabit City” status was based on a push by Google to provide 1 Gb Internet in larger cities through the company’s Google Fiber service, according to Ellis.

The city worked with AdamsWells Telecom as the Craigville-based company, located near Bluffton, was in a process to upgrade its information infrastructure and install new fiber optic cable lines, capable of providing the higher-speed service.

To help make it universally available in Bluffton, the city contributed financially to the project by reaching a deal to give AdamsWells Telecom a reduced rate on a fee companies pay to string cables along utility poles, Ellis said.

The company now has what VonGunten described as a shared 10-Gb ring of bandwidth around the city. That means the network has a capacity to carry up to 10 Gb of services at one time, even though the city currently uses less than 2 Gb along the network.

The additional capacity is an investment in time.

“It’s really a future-proofing of your services,” said VonGunten.

Even though he thinks Internet speeds of about 25 Mbps are adequate for most users, he anticipates a need to eventually increase speed and bandwidth again as more and more consumers download or stream videos, which takes up a lot of bandwidth.

The 1 Gb speed on AdamsWells Telecom’s high-speed fiber optic service costs about $150 a month for residential users, according to a billing breakdown on the AdamsWells site.

The company is still developing commercial rates, he said. Prices will depend on the size of businesses and the amount of capacity each would need.