12 Jul Green is the color of speed in ranking broadband infrastructure
How do we compete without a strong foundation? One foundation for leadership in the global economy is having a solid infrastructure. The definition of infrastructure has to be clearly defined as to what its real elements are.
Some look at the traditional infrastructure elements as roads, railways, airports, bridges, waterways, dams, docks, drinking water, and wastewater facilities.
While these are all important elements, power and network infrastructure should be included as well. All of these elements are essential in creating the new infrastructure that exemplifies the relevance of “location, location, and connectivity.”
On a page by the American Society of Civil Engineers, you can get a snapshot of the current state of the state’s infrastructure. For example:
Illinois needs to spend almost $9 billion a year for the next five years to [adequately maintain] and expand the state’s highway and mass-transit systems, according to a report on the state’s transportation infrastructure.
The report, [which was] paid for by business and labor groups going by the name Transportation for Illinois Coalition, is expected to be the foundation for a lobbying effort this spring for capital spending legislation for transportation.
The report projects the state’s transportation capital costs at $237.8 billion over the next 30 years.
Illinois versus Wisconsin
Every state has infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. To do a basic, state-to-state comparison, you can come up with some interesting statistics. Here’s a 2005 study about Illinois and Wisconsin:
1. 45 percent of major urban roads in Illinois are congested.
2. 25 percent of Wisconsin’s major urban roads are congested.
3. 39 percent of major roads in Illinois are in poor or mediocre condition.
4. 32 percent of Wisconsin’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. This is interesting as Illinois has several toll roads collecting huge amounts of money. Still, it’s in worse shape than Wisconsin where there are no toll roads.
5. Vehicle travel on Wisconsin’s highways increased 35 percent from 1990 to 2003. Wisconsin’s population grew 12 percent between 1990 and 2003. My observation is that the vehicle travel increase is partially due to tourism from other states like Illinois.
6. Driving on roads in need of repair costs Illinois motorists $2.2 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. That’s $271 per motorist.
7. Driving on roads in need of repair costs Wisconsin motorists $921 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. That’s $251 per motorist.
8. Congestion in the Chicago metropolitan area costs commuters $985 per person in excess fuel and lost time.
9. Congestion in the Milwaukee metropolitan area costs commuters $413 per person per year in excess fuel and lost time. As this is a 2005 study, the fuel costs are definitely higher than this.
10. Illinois has $11.89 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs.
11. Wisconsin has $3.33 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs.
There are many other categories you can compare and contrast for every state. It’s a good resource to begin to understand where money needs to be spent.
Network infrastructure comparisons
How come there are no coverage maps for network services? How can you tell where each state needs to have better coverage or network diversity?
This would be very critical in assessing how competitive a state is along with its ability to attract and maintain corporate facilities. It would also help to understand where help is needed in boosting speeds from megabits to gigabits.
What should a network infrastructure map include? The basic service offerings would be a start. Where is DSL not offered? This is a huge question for residential consumers. You would be surprised to know where DSL is still not available.
You would think a service that’s considered to be mature would be universally accessible. It isn’t. You would think an affluent area like Naperville, Ill. would be fully covered. It isn’t. Try 64 percent service coverage.
You can go to other areas and find that DSL is not offered at all. Parts of Evanston, Ill. are not fully covered. You would think it would be.
Location, Location, Connectivity
A statewide map would be a very effective tool to understand where the weaknesses are in terms of availability of network services. What would the reaction be if people saw how deficient areas were in terms of network service coverage and redundancy?
How far would real estate prices slide when potential buyers found out that high-speed connectivity wasn’t available with the house they were seeking? Would you buy a house that could only support 15-watt bulbs?
Why would you buy into a house that could only provide 1.5 Mbps connectivity when the house in the next neighborhood provided 50 Mbps today with 200 Mbps available within a year? How would real estate appraisals change? How desirable would your neighborhood be?
Many questions would be raised that aren’t being raised today because people don’t have a clear view of soft spots within the network. These types of questions about connectivity will be as common as the question of a house having city water.
The argument the phone companies historically use about withholding all network topography as proprietary could easily be avoided by doing a map of service offerings and speed maximums rather than actual network cabling routing.
For the average consumer, all they want to know is whether or not the service is available. It would be easier for real estate agents as well. With granting statewide franchises, maybe we need to demand an easy statewide ranking system for connectivity:
Red: Dial-up only
Blue: Wireless only
Gold: Wireless DSL (multiple access at 1.5 Mbps or better)
Green: Fiber to the premise (50 Mbps or more)
Fortified green zone
With all the expertise the network carriers proclaim to have on staff, you would think a simple map connecting the dots and coloring in the sections would be an easy task. Maybe they just don’t want you to know you live in a “red” section when you think you are in the “gold” section. We should all be in the “green” section if we want to compete today and tomorrow.
Carlinism: The intricate building blocks of long-term economic development need to be built upon a solid infrastructure.
Recent articles by James Carlini
• James Carlini: A disgusting video: U.S. companies sell out Americans
• James Carlini: No network infrastructure, no Olympics, no nothing
• James Carlini: Technology and mergers: Getting the strategic applications
• James Carlini: Bridging the digital divide is the wrong battle cry
• James Carlini: New Urbanism: Community planning Feng Shui
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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.
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