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Southside Hampton Roads cities will be connected to ultrafast internet fiber ring

Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Suffolk will connect to a 119-mile fiber ring that could bring the "fastest internet speeds on the East Coast."

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — City leaders in Hampton Roads are tapping into the "fastest internet speeds on the East Coast."

The five cities of Southside Hampton Roads are all in on a new fiber ring that will connect residents to ultrafast internet.

On Wednesday, Southside Network Authority officials broke ground on the 119-mile ring that will connect Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Suffolk.

“If anyone thinks that regionalism isn’t alive and well in Hampton roads, they haven’t been paying attention," said Susan Vitale, Southside Network Authority chair and Chesapeake City Council member. “You have to have high-speed internet access. It’s no longer just nice to have, it is essential to be competitive in today’s marketplace.”

It works by connecting the fiber ring to transatlantic subsea fiber optic cables that have come ashore in Virginia Beach from Europe and Africa.

“You can’t take every movie ever made and send that in high definition across the Atlantic Ocean in 42 seconds. Let that sink in," said Andria McClellan, Southside Network Authority vice-chair and Norfolk City Council member.

Authority officials are hoping the fiber ring will create jobs by attracting more high-tech companies.

“Basically what this does is it makes Hampton Roads a digital gateway. We always talk about the port and moving products but what we’re doing is moving data," McClellan said. “This is transformational. We’re really going to focus on marketing to companies that need massive data at very high speeds.”

Officials say reliable and fast internet is vital to the success of modern companies, from small business start-ups to major corporations, and they could choose Hampton Roads for business to take advantage of the fastest internet speeds on the East Coast.

“It is important for our military as well, we are certainly working with the Navy and our other military groups in our area to ensure that they too can benefit from this high-speed internet," Vitale said.

Officials are hoping to get the ring set up within a year and a half.

“This is the beginning," Vitale said. "We’re going to actually extend it up to the Peninsula and we’re working already to start that process.”

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