Newark pledges to keep its fiber optic network net neutral

BY Andrew Schmertz, Correspondent |

Like the speedy downloads that it promises to provide, the city of Newark was super quick to defend net neutrality. After the FCC voted 3 to 2 to end the Obama-era policy of requiring internet providers to treat all traffic and data equally, Newark promised to keep net neutrality going within the city’s borders.

Kris Pacunas is the CEO of GigXero, the company that manages the city-owned internet fiber.

“Every network that we’re going to operate will continue to operate under the guidelines of the former net neutrality rules,” Pacunas said. “The next level is really about delivering an open and protected internet. Something more than super fast, something more than less expensive and more secure, but open.”

Pacunus says higher costs for streaming video services and the slowing down of some websites will likely be the result of ending net neutrality. But he hopes not in Newark, where his company is also installing 10-gig internet speed that’s said to be the fastest available. The Gateway Center, home of the Agnes Varis NJTV Studio, is wired for the speed, as well as a growing list of buildings in Newark.

“All of the new and upcoming trending technologies all have very large data sets in the cloud, and this makes people be able to work way more efficiently and attracts businesses for that exact reason,” explained Pacunas.

The city believes its position in supporting net neutrality will ultimately be a competitive advantage to attracting companies and people to buildings in the city. Newark is unusual because the city owns so much unused fiber that it’s able to offer its own internet service.

“We believe that it gives our businesses a greater opportunity to have access to an unfettered, fast-speed internet that they would have without these new provisions. And that the residents of the city can have access to anything they want access to on the internet without fear of it being slowed down,” said Mayor Ras Baraka.

For Baraka, the plan is part of an overall strategy to acquire big name tech companies, the biggest name being Amazon, which is deciding what city to choose as its new East Coast headquarters.

“It’s a great opportunity for Amazon, I believe. And they get a chance to tell a story how they helped a burgeoning American city that was pushing on its own opportunity, to facilitate and expedite that,” Baraka said.

Newark native Marland Jenkins owns the company that helped build the high-speed infrastructure.

“It’s a pat on the back to the city of Newark to lead the charge for the nation to be able to say ‘Hey, look at what we’re doing locally here.’ And not just doing the technology but also hiring locally,” said Jenkins.

Newark’s bid for Amazon is considered a long shot. But those building Newark’s internet future are banking that if they don’t come, maybe a future Amazon competitor will instead.