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Nov 302009
Mark Anthony Marques and Jahan Babadi

Mark Anthony Marques and Jahan Babadi at Joytel Wireless Communications in Downtown Jacksonville.

A Jacksonville Internet provider plans to bring cheaper and better connectivity to the city and 12 other markets between Atlanta and Miami.

Jacksonville businesses could have more than 150 high-speed, high-capacity bandwidth Internet providers to choose from instead of the existing seven if Joytel Wireless Communications Inc. gets $11.8 million in federal stimulus funding. About $7.2 billion is available through the federal stimulus package for projects that expand broadband Internet service to rural and underserved areas.

The White House’s push to modernize the nation’s system historically served by telephone wires will help businesses be more efficient and competitive. Countries such as South Korea and Denmark have better broadband systems than the U.S. because they have recently invested more, said Charles Nafalin, a Holland & Knight LLP partner specializing in telecommunications law.

“If companies want to move here, they have a great labor force, great quality of life and affordable office space,” said Mark Anthony Marques, Joytel president and CEO. “What we lack is a good enough connection to the Internet infrastructure.”

The company expects to know by mid-December whether it will receive funding for the project, which has the support of key players including Mayor John Peyton, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Ander Crenshaw.

About 400 gigabytes of high-speed Internet capacity will be available to providers by mid-2010 if funding is received. That is enough capacity to transfer the entire contents of the Library of Congress within five minutes.

If it receives the funding, Joytel plans to bring an existing Miami-Atlanta fiber optic corridor back online, giving Internet providers in those cities access to Jacksonville. Marques said many Jacksonville companies are paying too much or are priced out of Internet service able to handle the immense amount of data because the lines are dominated by several providers.

“We don’t need to lay out new infrastructure, said Terry Smith, University of North Florida director of research technology services. “Jacksonville has the tie-ins to an amazing network, but it doesn’t get out to the people who need it.”

Jacksonville lacks high-speed and high-capacity Internet connections largely in the Northwest and Northeast, said Jahan Babadi, president of Sun Tel USA. His telecommunications company, which partners with Joytel, will restore the Atlanta-Miami fiber optic connection.

Although Joytel is one of the six providers that serve the business community, it plans to bring in potential competitors because it will charge each new provider a fee to gain entry into the new markets.

Marques said Joytel is the most affordable Internet business provider in town, but even as a wholesale buyer of bandwidth from the major servers, it sometimes can’t compete with Atlanta and Miami Internet providers’ rates.

For instance, an undisclosed company interested in moving to Jacksonville found that its needed Internet connection would cost $40,000 per month in Jacksonville, compared with $16,000 per month in Atlanta, Marques said.

Of the 400 gigabytes Joytel plans to open up to the new markets, 10 gigabytes will be offered free to hospitals and medical facilities. Another 10 gigabytes will be available to education, government, nonprofit and public safety entities. About $15.7 million worth of Internet service has already been committed to such entities, Marques said.

By 2012, the connections will be expanded from 400 gigabytes to four terabytes of capacity due to technological advances. Lighting up, or bringing the Internet cables online, will take about 30 people.

More than 30 jobs will be created over the next two years, as the increased system will need to be monitored. Other than a proposed nonprofit’s $550,000 request for money, Joytel is the only Northeast Florida business trying to tap into stimulus funding for broadband improvement.

The majority of proposed projects aim to improve South Florida connections.

Northeast Florida businesses still have a chance to tap into funding since another round of applications will be accepted early next year, Nafalin said. The $7.2 billion in federal funding to improve the broadband infrastructure will be “a drop in the bucket” compared with the Federal Communications Commission’s expected national upgrade.

Read the full article from the Jacksonville Business Journal: www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2009/11/30/story1.html