It may not be apparent now, but the Loop Data Rail (and any fiber Internet initiative for that matter) could have a lasting impact on net neutrality, the idea that fast Internet should be affordable and accessible for all.
Officials with the Loop Data Rail, the ultra-fast Internet project on The Delmar Loop that was featured in this week’s edition of the St. Louis Business Journal, hope to connect more than 50 buildings with fiber-speed Internet connections in an attempt to spur economic growth in the area.
In May, the Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of proposals that could provide faster Internet delivery for companies that can afford to pay for it. The decision has some worried that, if those rules are enacted, a bidding war could erupt, pitting deep-pocketed corporations against companies with fewer financial resources.
The Loop Data Rail could help calm those fears, said Michael Orlowski, an associate at Polsinelli and attorney for the Loop Data Rail and for Google Fiber in Kansas City.
Right now, a majority of the fiber laid in St. Louis is owned by Charter and AT&T, said Michael Murphy, president and CEO of New England Fiber, a company that specializes in fiber assets in New England.
Orlowski said the more carriers — big and small — the better.
“When you have (Internet) service provided by a huge carrier, they are going to provide that service on their own terms,” he said. “We see the Internet as the last free bastion of free creativity and speech. If we put restrictions on who gets what speeds, we are changing the natural free market and we risk that we get a service that is not truly net neutral.”
The Loop Data Rail is using the construction of the $43 million Loop Trolley project, which will create a 2.2-mile trolley track connecting The Loop entertainment district to Forest Park with a stop at the Missouri History Museum, to offset most of the project’s costs. The data rail would run the full length of the trolley line and bring fiber connections to more than 50 buildings. The network is expected to cost $400,000 to build out, a fraction of the $4 million estimated cost without the trolley construction.
St. Louis Business Journal ©July 2014