Not long ago, FairlawnGig in Ohio began serving businesses with symmetrical connectivity, offering speeds up to 1 Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) per second. The incremental build is progressing and now the city is offering Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to residents in Fairlawn.
They Want It
According to a recent Akron Beacon Journal article, demand for residential services is already strong with more than 1,400 subscribers in line for installation; one-third of the installation is now complete. If 4,100 households and businesses in Fairlawn sign up, the city estimates it will break even. In the neighborhood where the first series of installations are taking place, 80 percent of households have signed up.
Fairlawn's goal is not to make profits from its investment; city leaders consider the network an essential piece of infrastructure like roads or sewers. They’ve chosen to fund the investment with municipal bonds, an atypical funding mechanism for Internet infrastructure. Their decision, however, underscores their commitment and belief that better connectivity is an essential service that will keep the community competitive.
“It’s going to make [Fairlawn] much more attractive,” [said local business development manager Mike Perkins]. “Fairlawn is at the forefront and everyone else is going to be playing catch-up.”
Nuts And Bolts Of FairlawnGig
When we interviewed Deputy Director of Public Service Ernie Staten about the project last spring, he described the city’s partnership with Extra Mile Fiber, an Ohio company that collaborates with Fairlawn to provide Internet access services. The city and Extra Mile will share revenue from the service, FairlawnGig.
The first business subscribers connected to the network last summer. Two local hotels anticipated heavy Internet access needs due to the Republican National Convention in August, so the city made a special effort to get them on the network. The RNC was in Cleveland, but attendees were also staying in Fairlawn, about 30 minutes away. Engineers used these two subscribers as "beta customers" to prepare for the official roll out, which began last December.
When Fairlawn began connecting local businesses, they liked the higher capacity but reliability was often the issue that was first on their list of improvements. A local architectural firm commented:
"Prior to FairlawnGig, reliability was a serious issue and it took several minutes to save, transmit, and open a 50-MB file. Plus, our team couldn't work simultaneously in an AutoCAD [a design application used by many architect firms] file while it was auto saving or the file would freeze. Now it takes less than 10 seconds to open or save a file."
Now that deployment is moving into residential properties, Fairlawn citizens will have the chance to experience what local businesses have been raving about. Installation is free if subscribers sign up during the construction period but if they wait there is a $150 fee. There are three tiers for monthly residential Internet access service and all speeds are symmetrical, enabling working from home and sharing large data files:
- $75 for 1 Gbps
- $55 for Premium 100 Mbps
- $30 for Basic 30 Mbps
Residential telephone service is also available for $25 per month per line. Rates can only increase if approved by the City Council.
So far, subscribers are pleased. And why not? Mike Perkins’ family used to pay $80 per month for 30 Mbps from the incumbent provider with much slower upload speeds. He and his wife have three kids and complaints about buffering were part of the daily ritual. Now that they’ve made the switch, however, their ritual has changed:
“Everybody is happy,” Perkins said. “I haven’t heard my son once say, ‘Dad the internet is slow,’ and I used to hear that all the time.”
Image of Croghan Park in Fairlawn courtesy of Northwest Ohio Family Fun.