Forget Google Fiber. For the bargain-basement price of $1,000 per mile, Sarasota County could build one of the fastest broadband systems in the nation.
During the next year, local government officials will construct an ambitious new fiber-optic network — with a capacity nearing that of the Internet backbone that moves data between major cities — to coordinate most of the traffic lights in Sarasota County.
Unless something changes, none of it will be used to attract businesses to the Gulf Coast.
This apparently mundane infrastructure project would have attracted little attention a year or two ago outside of traffic engineering circles.
But the combination of Google Inc. inviting communities to apply for an ultra-high-speed-connectivity, and the roll-out of the Federal Communication Commission’s first ever broadband agenda puts the county traffic project in a whole new light.
Other communities are taking their fiber future into their own hands or benefiting from entrepreneurs betting that broad connectivity will drive economic development for the next two decades.
The traffic project may be Sarasota County’s main chance to keep pace.
A local broadband task force is talking about using the extra fiber to address unmet needs, including service to low-income areas and providing businesses with speeds of 100 megabits per second — swift enough to download the Encyclopedia Britannica in 10 seconds — at more affordable prices than currently available.
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