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The gigabit revolution to bring ultra-fast Internet to Detroit

Apr 8, 2015

Dial-up. That’s how we used to get online. Today, however, that’s part of pre-history. Is it fathomable that our existing Internet access could soon be as outdated as those old dial-up modems?

The gigabit revolution is upon us, and it means internet that's 100 times faster.
Credit FLICKR USER WILLIAM HOOK / FLICKR

Marc Hudson and Edi Demaj, two of three co-founders of Rocket Fiber, think so. Rocket Fiber is a super high-speed Internet service coming to downtown Detroit and Midtown. It’s a venture being bankrolled by Dan Gilbert.

About two years ago, in January 2013, Hudson was ending his day at Quicken Loans by reading about Google Fiber, a version of high-speed Internet that had recently gone live in Kansas City. As a result, entrepreneurs and technology companies were darting towards that side of the country, hoping to make use of the “next generation internet speed.”

Hudson thought the same thing could happen in Detroit. So, he submitted his idea to The Cheese Factory, an idea portal at Quicken Loans. He then emailed the idea to the IT department, a department of around 1,200 workers.

“People just went nuts,” he said. “I mean, we could tell right away there was a lot of traction there, a lot of excitement around doing something similar to Google Fiber in Detroit.”

As a result, they started constructing another fiber optic internet network. They did so with several goals in mind. 

“Bridge the digital divide in Detroit” was the big one, Demaj said. “That’s our mission. You know there’s many things we want to do, but that’s definitely what pushes us.”

The team hopes to bring entrepreneurs to Detroit, to make Detroit a technology hub.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurship and technology endeavors going on downtown right now,” Hudson said. “We thought one way to throw gas on the fire would be to build this world-class infrastructure.”

They call it “world-class” because Internet speed in residential areas will become around 100 times faster than it is on average today. This 100-times faster speed is termed a “gigabit.” For the business community, Internet options will begin at a gigabit, but even faster options will be available.

But there’s a second piece to the team’s “bridging the digital divide” goal. As of now, 60% of Detroit’s residents are without a fixed-line broadband connection in their homes.

“Which is just a staggering number to think about in 2015,” Hudson said.

To combat this, the team is brainstorming ways to “hook up” many of these Detroit neighborhoods.

Another benefit of gigabit Internet? Television. Hudson says soon all television connections will be transferred by way of Internet connections. Traditional cable, too, is moving into the past.

“So we’re creating what we think is going to be a really unique cable TV service, so we’ll be able to go head to head with all the incumbent providers that exist when in the city,” he said.