Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
What if you could hold a video conference from your home? What if your doctor could send your MRI electronically to another of your doctors who needs it? What if you could upload a video of your child's soccer game and send it to grandma in seconds?
These are questions that Lafayette, Louisiana, officials have pondered.
And soon, we may all be looking to Lafayette for the future of the Internet.
Lafayette has built a fast fiber-to-the-home Internet service. A municipal one. The project ran headlong into several lawsuits, but the dust has cleared on those. The network is built and sales to customers began early this year. Now, those who sign up for municipal Internet service will be able to communicate with others on the network at super-fast speeds
The cheapest plans offer a speed of 10 megabits per second. But users will be able to communicate 10 times faster with other Lafayette residents on the network because the speed will be "bursted" to 100 megabits per second within the city and county. For no extra cost.
To put it in perspective, that's 10 times faster than already very fast Internet. And more than 100 times faster than the Internet "starter" plan that, for example, Verizon is offering. Basically, Lafayette will have a city Intranet, the way universities and technology companies do. So residents will have a very fast connection within the city-parish "campus."
Critics wonder why residents need such speeds and why the city had to build its own network. An August story in Governing will get into detail about that.
Proponents of high-speed Internet say there are uses for fast Internet that we don't know about now that crop up when the speeds are available. And that many other countries are way ahead of us on broadband speed and applications.
But the U.S. may be starting to catch up. With Lafayette leading the way.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.