HAMPTON ROADS (WAVY) – The organizers of the Regional Connectivity Ring, a 119-mile loop of fiber optic cable that will put five local cities in the fast lane of broadband data transport, say the project is getting ready to move forward.
The loop will connect with transatlantic undersea cables that come ashore at Virginia Beach, and will draw that city together with Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Chesapeake. Each city is contributing five million dollars to make it happen.
“This is some of the fastest broadband available on the East Coast,” said Bob Crum, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, and it will make local service the fastest between New Jersey and Jacksonville.
The loop of fiber cable will create a water main for individual, commercial and institutional users to tap into. It will be installed in much the same method as other utilities. Installers won’t need to go underwater, instead using bridges and other existing facilities.
On the residential level, the project aims to attract more internet service providers and create more options for users.
Faster internet on the residential level will mean more opportunities for working and learning at home.
Steven DeBerry runs the Southside Network Authority, recently created to oversee the construction of the fiber loop. He has nearly four decades’ experience with the Navy and defense logistics and served as Chief Information Officer for the city of Norfolk.
He points to a map that shows how the loop will connect the five Southside cities.
“Let’s pick a neighborhood and perhaps there’s not as much fiber in that neighborhood or competition that you want. An ISP could leverage the construction,” he said.
More broadly, Crum sees several applications for business, research, defense and education.
“Modeling companies, simulation companies, healthcare institutions, colleges and universities and financial trading on global markets,” where moving data in milliseconds is crucial, Crum said.
Connected cities will be able to set up a sensor network for tidal flooding and stormwater management and create better connectivity for first responders.
The five Southside cities are phase one: future phases will connect Suffolk, Southampton, Isle of Wight, and eventually the Peninsula.
Crum looks through the lens of the silver screen to focus on just how fast we’re talking.
“You could take every movie ever published in the world, publish them in every language that exists in the world and send them over the Atlantic Ocean in less than 50 seconds. Those are the type of speeds.”
Right now, the project is getting permits within the five cities and construction on the fiber loop could begin within two months. It’s expected to take about 24 months to complete with the network expected to be fully operational within three years.