Something fast is coming to Birmingham soon, and no, it’s not Superman. 7 reasons Gigabit internet matters.

Execs at an announcement about Gigabit internet coming to Birmingham and beyond
C Spire CEO Hu Meena and Alabama Power’s VP Birmingham Division Tony Smoke. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive . . . no wait, we’re not talking about Superman, we’re talking about ultra-fast broadband internet coming soon to a fiber optic network near you. 

Mississippi-based C Spire is spearheading a mega investment into bringing tech-savvy Birmingham—and other parts of Alabama—into the tech future. Read on to find out what this could mean for the rest of us.

1—C Spire and Alabama Power are teaming up to bring ultra-fast internet to the Magic City and beyond.

People from Alabama Power and C Spire at a Gigabit internet press conference
Both C Spire and Alabama Power had lots of employees in the Diamonds Direct ballroom at Regions field for the announcement. Here are a couple of my friends: Leigh Davis of Alabama Power and David Armistead of C Spire. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

If you live in certain parts of Birmingham, you may already have access to Gigabit internet. Or maybe, like me, you still sometimes see the buffering sign when you’re trying to watch Netflix.

But, according to Mayor Randall Woodfin, a full 23% of Birmingham’s households are not connected to the internet at all. This is a huge digital divide, and it puts some people at a huge disadvantage moving forward.

Gigabit internet could make all of Alabama more connected
I have to say, the view from the Diamonds Direct Ballroom on a day like today is pretty sweet. This picture is looking out over Railroad Park. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

At a Regions Field press conference today, C Spire and Alabama Power announced a new partnership that means change is coming. Over time, everyone’s level of connectivity should get better. C Spire plans to bring Gigabit internet to parts of Metro Birmingham, Shelby County and other parts of Alabama. 

Here’s what our Mayor—a big proponent of making the city not only a thriving hub for startup businesses, but a safe and livable place for all its residents—had to say: 

“This is a great investment in the future of Birmingham and our metro area.

In Birmingham, we’re committed to creating an inclusive economy that provides the best opportunities in education, workforce development and entrepreneurship for everyone.”

Mayor Randall Woodfin

2—Connectivity can make a big difference to everyday people in Birmingham and across our state.

Mayor Randall Woodin talking about why Gigabit internet matters to Birmingham
Mayor Woodfin bringing the vision down to the ground with a vivid portait of the difference today’s announcement can make to a Birmingham mom. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Mayor Woodfin talked about some of the ways a mom who’s at home with her kids when they’re young can be affected by having Internet access: she can keep working from home, take classes online, apply for jobs online, make health appointments for her family, and keep up on social media. 

I can completely relate, as I did every single one of those things after my kids were born, and know that not having access to that kind of connectivity keeps mamas isolated big time. 

3—C Spire has already boosted broadband connection speeds in Mississippi by 200% since 2014.

Fiber optic lamp
No Alabama’s fiber optic internet won’t look like this lamp, but doesn’t it look cool? “fiber optic lamp shot” by Groman 123. CC BY

Yep, you heard that right. Alabama’s being brought into the 21st century by a Mississippi-based company that’s already rocked the internet services world in more than 20 Mississippi markets. Ultra-fast Gigabit internet is already common in many places across our neighboring state, and we’re on deck to catch up. 

In fact, this announcement may help pull us farther ahead of the other contender for last place in the country for Internet connectivity—Arkansas.

Of course, for the tech-heads in the house, only time will tell who actually gets fast Internet into rural areas first or best—fiber or 5G …

4—This could mean more access and Gigabit speed internet for homes and businesses in Birmingham and across Alabama.

The paparazzi showed up in force on this sunny day. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Assuming you’re in a covered area, and assuming you decide to buy one of the options C Spire will offer for home and business users (and assuming, of course, that you don’t already have gig fiber internet), you may see a few changes in your interactions with the internet:

  • Faster gaming, movies and downloads.
  • No more waiting, waiting, waiting for the Internet while you’re trying to get on a videoconference or needing to publish something on a deadline.

If it all comes to pass, sweet.

5—Beginning in 2020, look for Gigabit speed broadband internet access and related services in Birmingham and beyond.

The crowd at Regions Field
One of the speakers commented that today’s announcement was like a parade, after all the hard work’s been done. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

All-fiber broadband services will be available to homes and businesses across Alabama next year, according to C Spire CEO Hu Meena.

Investing in fiber-optic infrastructure and customer-inspired services is what C Spire has done successfully in Mississippi, and now they’re poised to do the same here. 

Of course it won’t all happen at once, so be ready for some keeping-up-with-the-Joneses jealousy to crop up as some communities get lit quicker than others. Word on the street is that if you live in an area with newer infrastructure, it’s actually easier to install than in areas with older infrastructure. 

6—Crowdsourcing will help identify which communities are served first.

Where will Gigabit internet go first in Birmingham and Alabama?
Southeastern US. Map from ian.macky.net

C Spire will be working to figure out which places in Alabama are the most enthusiastic (read: ready to push through the red tape) about building broadband infrastructure and helping to turn themselves into hubs for the digital economy. 

Jasper was first on C Spire’s list, followed by Mobile, where they already have a presence. Then we can look for things to start happening in Shelby County and parts of the Greater Birmingham area. All in good time . . . 

7—Alabama Power’s investment in fiber optics bolsters the electric grid and economic growth. 

Alabama Power linesman at work
Linesman at work. Photo by Alabama Power

Alabama Power will be investing in fiber-optic infrastructure both to bolster the reliability and resiliency of the power grid and to provide economic growth opportunities. 

I chatted with a couple of guys in the elevator who work for Alabama Power and learned that fiber optics makes it possible for the power company to send out much more targeted resources when there are power outages. Boom. 

If you want to follow C Spire’s Alabama journey, go to www.cspire.com and click on the home services link or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.