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St. Louis Laying Tracks for Cutting-Edge Tech Infrastructure

Michael Calhoun (@michaelcalhoun, mrcalhoun@cbs.com)
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Photo: Missouri Historical Society

Photo: Missouri Historical Society

calhoun2 Michael Calhoun
A native St. Louisan, Michael Calhoun grew up listening to the Voice...
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UNIVERSITY CITY (KMOX) - The planned Loop Trolley isn’t just a throwback to St. Louis’ streetcar roots. It’s also a reach into the future, positioning St. Louis with what backers dub a “gigabit Main Street.”

It would put St. Louis in an elite sphere of cities offering Internet via fiber optic cable, averaging about a hundred times faster than the speeds we’re used to and, in some upload cases, a thousand times as fast.

David Sandel, president of Sandel & Associates, confirms that engineering has taken place to include a duct system for fiber optic cable underneath the Loop Trolley’s tracks. Installation will be included in the request for bids on the trolley’s construction.

KMOX News first reported on the “Loop Media Hub” almost one year ago, when it was just a mere concept.

In Bristol, Connecticut, the Wall Street Journal reports that the promise of gigabit Internet speeds directly resulted in hundreds of job commitments from the likes of Northrop Grumman and DirecTV.

Sandel said the St. Louis aim is to build more of a community of innovation, and the Loop coalition is currently talking with venture capital firms and investment groups. They’re interested — not just in the infrastructure — but in the creative atmosphere on what’s been dubbed one of the ten best streets in America.

Listen: Interview with David Sandel from 2/6/13:

Gigabit’s initial allure is with high-def video conferencing, Sandel explained. “But then, on the backside of this, we’re going to see other types of big data applications arrive that will be very exciting.”

While Kansas City is envied for winning last year’s national contest to have Google build-out a fiber network spanning hundreds of square miles, backers of the Loop effort say the St. Louis plan is more sensible and sustainable. Local construction costs will come in 80% cheaper than Kansas City’s, Sandel said, mostly because the street is going to be torn up anyways.

Instead of attempting to lay fiber cable to each and every home and business, as Kansas City is doing, he said the practical approach is to choose, say, five neighborhoods and take advantage of circumstances to get them wired up. For example, he points to downtown’s data center boom and proposal for a streetcar.

He said: “If we were to work with the downtown partnership and combine this model that we’ve developed in the Loop .. with the data center capability downtown and the multiple power grids, and then associate national and international partnerships in the development of this, we could really put St. Louis on the radar screen as a community that’s moving into this next generation.”

The planned price point for the service is $70 a month, the same as Google. The “Media Hub” group is still interviewing service providers and nailing down other logistical details, including, for example, how best to give Washington University access to the service.

Before spearheading the Loop group, Sandel worked with the Google effort across the state. He noted that the company eventually intends to expand beyond, and with the Loop plans coming to fruition, it sets up more than just a geographic argument for Google to come here.

KMOX © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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