MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - More companies are joining in Montgomery's Internet Exchange as it continues to make big waves in the tech world.
It's the only one of its kind in Alabama, providing lightning-fast internet speeds and economic development.
The formation of the internet exchange hub was announced a year ago and it started with two companies. Now there are 13 signed up, with more on the way.
It's housed in the RSA Data Center on Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery, which provides state-of-the-art security and protection.
The project is a collaboration between Montgomery County, the City of Montgomery, research universities, Maxwell Gunter Air Force Base, and the new Cyber College of the Air Force.
The cyber connections will give Montgomery a leg up when tech businesses are looking at cities for startup or expansion.
It will link Alabama universities in research collaboration and support the new Air University Cyber College mission to strengthen national defense.
Officials say it could make Montgomery the "Silicon Valley of the South."
"It's really surpassed our wildest imagination and expectations," said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. "We have a couple of contracts that I've just signed this week that will be signing up. The more people that we get in there in this very secure RSA Data Center, the more gigabytes we're going to have going through there, the more people will hear about us.
The internet exchange is a point where internet service providers can exchange data and gather data from content providers.
It allows for faster internet connections and is paving the way for economic growth.
Instead of internet content being sent to another exchange site far away in another city, it can be sent to the RSA Data Center. That means you get things faster when you turn on your television to stream shows or go to the internet to look something up.
Members of the exchange include: Akamai Technologies, Wide Open West (WOW!), Troy Cablevision Inc., Hayneville Fiber Transport d/b/a Camellia Communications, Southern Light LLC, Packet Clearing House, Verisign, Hurricane Electric, the Montgomery County Commission, CenturyLink, State of Alabama, and the City of Montgomery.
"We've really got a lot going on and our volumes are starting to increase and when you do this kind of a project, the main thing is eyeballs. The more people that are looking at their televisions, using their computers, the more we have as far as traffic," said Lou Ialacci, Chief Information Technology Officer. "We've had a maximum of over 6 gbs at one point and we're averaging about 2 gbs now."
Ialacci says the closer internet users are to an internet exchange, the less latency they have in getting information. For example, when you get on Netflix and see the little wheel spinning, part of that is latency. Part of it is also local delivery and speed.
Officials also compared the internet exchange to the interchange of Interstate 65 and 85 in Montgomery. Where they connect, is where you make your decision as to where you are going. With the internet exchange, you'll come to a similar point and hopefully, in the future, everything will stay right in Montgomery and give the information right back, instead of bouncing content back and forth to Atlanta or Dallas.
"Our goal is to get all of those pieces here in Montgomery so that when you turn on your TV or you're going to the internet for something, instead of having to go from here to Birmingham to Atlanta or from here to Birmingham to Dallas or Jacksonville, it's going to be right here in Montgomery. We'll have our own exchange where that information will be housed," Ialacci said.
The mayor says Montgomery is now competing with cities like Miami and Jacksonville for volume.
"We'll continue to add capacity and bandwidth because that then makes it less expensive, quicker times and what success will look like in a couple of years from now is when we get the major companies providing data centers, like the Googles and the Microsofts. We're in conversations," he added.
The city is currently in talks with Korean and Swiss content providers. Officials are also speaking with local businesses and universities and other large internet service providers to join the exchange.
"We still have a long way to go but we have a lot of opportunities. there are a lot of people who are learning about us," Ialacci stated. "The sky is the limit. all these big companies have what's called content servers and they strategically place them and we have to convince them that Montgomery is one of those strategic places to have that stuff so that we can then offer faster, better service to the citizens, businesses, universities and attract new industry."
Montgomery would like to one day work with Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, and Google.
According to Mayor Strange, the next big move for the project would be creating an internet pipeline, connecting Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, and Auburn all together through fiber.
"Anytime you can be the only one in the state of Alabama, that's pretty significant so we're beginning to see people come in to Montgomery because of that," Strange said.
"We're growing and we're growing pretty fast. We have every opportunity to grow and to become as big as we want. it's just a matter of attracting the right people," Ialacci added. "It's all about trying to grow Montgomery and make it a cyber city and provide those benefits and those services to companies to attract them here."