Saturday, April 21, 2018
Business

Pasco County to have nation's first ultrafast Internet community built from ground up

DADE CITY — Using traditional broadband Internet access, downloading 100 pictures takes nearly five minutes. With gigabit fiber access that same 100-picture download can be completed in three seconds.

Such ultrafast Internet access is one of the centerpieces of a newly designated area of Pasco County that is the first in the country to be built from the ground up as a smart gigabit community. Dubbed the connected city corridor, the 7,800 acres in central and eastern Pasco County is bordered by Interstate 75, Curley and Overpass roads and State Road 52.

Tuesday morning, US Ignite, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, came to Dade City to honor the county for its efforts and to tout the benefits of the connected corridor.

"This level of investment drives jobs and economic development and quality of life,'' William Wallace, US Ignite's executive director, told commissioners.

Several major cities including Kansas City, Mo.; Cleveland and Chattanooga, Tenn., have retrofitted neighborhoods with gigabit technology, and Metro Development Group offers similarly speedy UltraFi service in its Union Park development in Wesley Chapel. But Pasco's connected city corridor will be the first to install the network at the outset of a large-scale planned community.

The cost of the privately financed Bright House network will be passed on to home buyers and business owners, similar to traditional water and sewer utility expenses, as the property develops.

"It easy to make a buck. It's a lot harder to make a difference. How can we use technology to make a difference?'' Kartik Goyani, Metro's vice president of operations, asked commissioners.

The applications include uses in education, health care, public safety, energy and transportation. For instance, students at a STEM school in Chattanooga learned from instructors at the University of Southern California in a real-time lesson that included microscopic tissue examinations by the students 1,800 miles from the microscope. The city also installed sensors to monitor pollen counts in individual neighborhoods to better forecast potential trouble for asthmatics.

In Pasco, the connected city corridor is a state-authorized pilot program for developments promoting job creation, alternative transportation, limits on sprawl and environmental protections. In exchange, developments within the area escape state planning reviews with Pasco County commissioners controlling future comprehensive plan amendments over the next 10 years.

Much of the land within the planning area is targeted for development, including two from Metro Development, the 2,000-home Epperson project and the former Cannon Ranch, now known as Mirada, which will contain 4,000 homes.

Though the state pilot program expires in a decade, the planning area is intended to have a 50-year build-out that will bring 96,000 people living in 37,000 residential units on what now is largely rural land.

The most visible sign of the pending development is the construction of the westward extension of Overpass Road from Curley Road. However, some of the details have been disclosed previously including Epperson's plans for the first-in-the-country 7-acre self-sustaining swimming pool known as a crystal lagoon. As an economic development lure, Epperson's town center plans include a business incubator and office building near the lagoon's edge.

Pasco's final consideration of the connected city corridor plan, being devised by Heidt Design in conjunction with county planners, is not expected until the spring.

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