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Benham preparing to participate, via Internet, in a meeting of the College Station City Council. College Station was among the first cities in Texas to secure the technology required for up to three council members to participate simultaneously from remote locations. Also pictured are Mayor Nancy Berry and Councilwoman Julie Schultz.

Benham preparing to participate, via Internet, in a meeting of the College Station City Council. College Station was among the first cities in Texas to secure the technology required for up to three council members to participate simultaneously from remote locations. Also pictured are Mayor Nancy Berry and Councilwoman Julie Schultz.

Benham preparing to participate, via Internet, in a meeting of the College Station City Council. College Station was among the first cities in Texas to secure the technology required for up to three council members to participate simultaneously from remote locations. Also pictured are Mayor Nancy Berry and Councilwoman Julie Schultz.

By Amanda Pullin

From gear to gadgets, most purchasing decisions on the Internet seem harder than they should because of endless options – sellers and deals abound. There is a notable exception: selecting an Internet provider so you can get on the Internet.

James Benham, College Station City Council Member Place 6, kicked off an effort in 2015 by sending out requests for interest to dozens of providers to gauge interest in providing more Internet options in the city. What he found were several companies ready to take steps to bring faster bandwidth to College Station.

In order to make it happen, the City of College Station was willing to lease out the dark fiber that loops around the town, explains Benham. A company called WireStar, Inc. now leases the previously unused fiber from the city to provide businesses with high speed Internet. A lease was signed in October that ties WireStar to the fiber for 10 years.

The fiber was originally laid for communication between fire and police stations leaving a great deal of fiber unused. Benham and his colleagues on the council saw an opportunity and introduced the idea of leasing out the city’s fiber to provide higher bandwidth. According to Benham, with the fiber already in place, there was no need to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and bury fiber. This allowed WireStar to immediately provide high-speed service to business customers.

Benham was recently interviewed in a podcast with City of College Station Communications Director Jay Socol to explain the in’s and out’s of the ultra high-speed Internet. To put it into perspective, Benham explains that a gigabit is equal to one billion bits per second. This translates to a full season of “House of Cards” downloading onto a device in about 10 minutes – an extremely rapid speed.

With this new bandwidth, businesses will be able to better help customers. This creates a base for more economic structure in the area, including better and more productive services. “A healthy city provides healthy businesses,” says Benham. “It’s the city’s responsibility to create an environment for infrastructure.”

Benham has been working to bring in an Internet competitor since he was first elected in 2012 and is excited that the call for more bandwidth has finally been answered.

Kyle Leissner, president of WireStar, says the company has had great response from large and small businesses for faster bandwidth, as well as heaps of positive feedback from the city and other businesses and vendors in the field.

“With this new option for current, and especially potential new large businesses to the College Station area, we feel that we will remove any inhibitions about growth in regards to communication infrastructure,” says Leissner. “Fiber optic cable can support almost unlimited speeds.”

The faster speeds don’t come with a steep increase in price; WireStar’s new service is cheaper than other options in the area. Benham says that per megabyte, the bandwidth is relatively inexpensive.

WireStar is currently serving apartment complexes and hotel management companies in the College Station area, and is in the process of building out to several business parks and newer developments in College Station. The timeframe for WireStar to begin providing residential areas with the fiber service is uncertain. On the company’s website, individuals can participate in a survey demand tool, which helps the company to gauge interest in broadband services.

Benham encourages residential customers to take the survey, explaining that if WireStar receives enough responses for a neighborhood, ultra high-speed Internet services will extend to that area.

According to Leissner, WireStar currently services more than 20,000 homes and businesses with their existing copper-based products, and says, “So far, we have had in excess of 500 respondents to our web survey, but need more to truly gauge the level of interest in many communities.”

To voice your opinion, visit www.wirestar.net and participate in the survey.

To hear the City of College Station podcast with Benham, visit blog.cstx.gov.