Half of Connecticut's population could someday be wired for high-speed, fiber-optic Internet, thanks to a state effort to attract Internet providers.

Forty-six Connecticut towns said Thursday that they'd like to work with broadband companies so that residents can access gigabit speeds — that's roughly 100 times what the average American household gets today. The list includes some of Connecticut's biggest towns, such as Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. But it also includes smaller municipalities where getting next-gen services might prove more difficult, such as Simsbury and Waterford.

"I feel very confident there's no reason Connecticut shouldn't be number one" for fiber connectivity, said William Vallee, the state's head of broadband policy, in an interview. "We have tremendous fiber capacity."

Although the state has fiber-optic cables connecting all 169 towns, that infrastructure typically ends in nodes serving the local town hall or police and fire stations. The next step will be to connect individual homes to that network. As many as 1.8 million Connecticut residents would get access to fiber if the public-private partnership plans move forward.

That figure also represents a significant opportunity for Internet providers. ISPs would not only be able to tap into a lucrative subscriber base for fiber-optic services, said Vallee — they'd be able to do so at little cost to themselves, thanks to the infrastructure that's already been built and state incentives to streamline the building process.

Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler applauded the effort Thursday.