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Broadband Infrastructure Helps Community Connect and Thrive

October 2019 Mayor David McCann as seen in Celebrate Hilton Head Magazine

For any community that is focused on securing a stable and prosperous future, broadband infrastructure is a top priority. Broadband connectivity is a table-stakes issue that impacts a community's ongoing competitiveness in attracting new businesses, growing real estate values and, in our case, retaining a robust hospitality industry. It's no different than the expectation of having quality water, sewer access, good roads and a secure power grid. On Hilton Head Island, those are essential assets we strive to have for our citizens.

Technology is infused in our everyday life and has changed the way we live, work, play and interact. More and more workers are mobile and working from home-and who wouldn't want to do that from our beautiful community? The same holds true for those looking to relocate or retire in the area. The number of connected devices within the home is growing exponentially. By 2020, it's projected the average household will have over 50 connected devices relying on internet connectivity.

Homes and businesses today need fast, reliable internet and wall-to-wall Wi-Fi coverage to support the growing demand for bandwidth required to support multiple devices simultaneously. Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) architecture is the gold standard for internet connections; it offers the largest capacity and fastest speeds available, enabling state-of-the-art internet, video and voice services. Today, you can obtain internet speeds of up to one gigabit in your home or business, which is comparable to major metros around the country—unheard of in a community of our size!

According to the FTTH Council of the Americas, homes with access to fiber connections are valued 3 percent higher than homes not connected to fiber. Additionally, rental properties with high-speed internet are 8 percent more valuable than properties without.

For the last few years, the Town of Hilton Head Island has been working closely with Hargray Communications, our local communications provider, to help ensure the town has the most robust broadband infrastructure that any town in America can boast, and I am pleased to report that we are well on our way to achieving that goal.

On Hilton Head Island alone, Hargray has invested approximately $30 million to connect homes and businesses with fiber and has installed approximately three million feet of fiber optic cable during that time. Thanks to these investments, there is now enough fiber on the island to stretch from Hilton Head Island to Washington D.C.

With these investments, over two-thirds of the island’s residents and an even higher percentage of businesses can now be served by fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure—something that is currently available to only 13 percent of homes nationwide.

Hargray has also increased the capacity of its network exponentially and has upgraded all of their systems and electronics to brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment. They have installed direct connections to the most popular destinations on the internet, so their customers get the best possible experience with programs and streaming services.

In 2020, Hargray will continue these investments to make Hilton Head Island one of a small number of communities nationwide with near-ubiquitous access to FTTP services. It is valuable to have a strong partner like Hargray that is willing to invest in the community it serves.