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Fiber-optic infrastructure spurring city economic development

While some municipalities are fighting AT&T about Project Lightspeed and others are looking at Wi-Fi applications, others are looking at major fiber-optic investments. While these fiber investments have paid off in Utah as we mentioned in last week's column, there are others that we don't hear much about in the Midwest. As one CIO in Jacksonville, Fla. wrote back in 2003:
Only 5 percent of buildings and homes worldwide have a broadband connection to the outside. Some forecasters believe the opportunities that fixed broadband metropolitan-area networks (MAN) present will reach all of us [at some point] in the future. Regardless of that reality, for some of us the payback can be much sooner with returns potentially far exceeding the faddish rush to Wi-Fi.
There are even some significant studies out there that support upgrading a municipality's network infrastructure to fiber and broadband. One study, which was funded by Verizon, contends it would add $400 billion to the U.S. economy if every city deployed broadband services. By the way, let's be clear that broadband is defined as 1 gigabit and beyond. It's not 1.5 Mbps.

In Jacksonville, a 2002 report prepared by the Shpigler and Ashby Telecom Groups predicted that a broadband network would provide a potential economic gain of $500 million to that city across the deployment and adoption period. They decided to do something about it and set forth a real initiative.

JAXMAN: A Comprehensive Approach to Infrastructure

Jacksonville has realized the potential of providing a state-of-the-art network infrastructure that provides multiple carriers as well as access to the National LambdaRail (NLR), which is a very high-capacity fiber network. JAXMAN is the city's MAN and has become a vehicle for helping deliver economic growth. This translates into jobs.

Jacksonville is building a new infrastructure that includes road and infrastructure improvements, environmental preservation and targeted economic development including a new network infrastructure that seems to entice some companies to locate their regional and backup data centers there. This whole infrastructure initiative was approved by the residents with for $2.2 billion.
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This was part of a 2002 resolution to position the city as a progressive city that modernized its infrastructure to remain competitive into the future.

In a related area of network development, the development of the Florida LambdaRail (FLR) – a 1,540-mile compliment to the NLR – makes all of Florida's universities more connected at a multi-gigabit rate. This also provides another network infrastructure attraction for economic development in Jacksonville as well as within the state.

If you look at one of Jacksonville's Web sites, you can see the impact of its infrastructure attracting businesses to relocate there. This is significant for increasing the viability of the area. Look at the company relocations and job creations. It's hard to argue with the facts. Jacksonville is ranked second by Entrepreneur Magazine in its "Best Big Cities For Small Business" list. I wonder if this has to do with the city's network infrastructure.

Get Going or Get Lost

If you're a municipality and haven't really implemented anything at this point, you should be looking at 40 gigabit speeds for your network infrastructure backbone. As the industry is already talking about 40 gigabit as the new standard for backbones, only delivering 1.5 Mbps to the user seems very antiquated especially on networks that remain to be built.

While 1 gigabit to the doorstep sounds quite fast, it's just a starting point when you think of the applications. What about all the gamers out there? Though you might be too old to appreciate this, there are many people who play games on the Internet and the demand for bandwidth is growing with this segment.

This is not a small or specialized segment of consumers when you figure that games cost as much if not more to produce than a major motion picture. The gaming industry has actually surpassed the major motion picture industry in terms of as revenues. In 1999, the gaming industry had as much sales as the motion picture industry (or $7.4 billion).

I would think the network planners at the major carriers would understand this demand for bandwidth. Instead, they are looking at delivering megabit speeds into the next several years when more people are looking at California's initiative of 1 gigabit or bust by 2010 and saying that isn't a bad benchmark to adopt.

They definitely aren't understanding the market. In fact, they are probably putting this country in jeopardy from a global competitiveness standpoint. Put the bandwidth out there and people will use it.

Economic development and the ability to attract and maintain first-class companies will be the key ingredient to a municipality's ability to thrive and even survive in this 21st century global economy. Obsolete network infrastructures will help companies make a quick decision to pass over your community and you will get lost in the shuffle.

As I said in Business 2.0 back in Dec. 2004, the old real estate adage of "location, location, location" has to be updated to "location, location, connectivity". If you don't believe that, just check out Jacksonville.

Carlinism: Location, location, location has become location, location, connectivity.

On Sept. 18, 2006, the ninth-annual Global Technology Invitational will be held at South Hills Golf Course in Racine County, Wis. Details can be found here. Please call James Carlini for information and registration at 773-370-1888.

James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at james.carlini@sbcglobal.net or 773-370-1888. Check out his blog at http://www.carliniscomments.com.


The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

Comments

Susan Thackeray responded 7 years ago: #1

Check out www.UTOPIAnet.org - several communities in Utah coming together to provide high speed bandwidth.

Karen Hoskin responded 5 years ago: #2

I live in a mountain town of 500 in Colorado. We are a County seat, but have no University or Hospital here. Do we need Fiber Optics? How can they benefit us? I am the local Economic Development Director and I am getting some pressure to join an effort to convince Qwest to link up in. We have 83 T-1 lines but they are wireless and not Fiber. Interested in your perspective.

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