26 Oct Broadband connections critical for regional viability and growth
Some rural communities are moving faster than larger suburbs in trying to plan and build new network infrastructure. It’s a matter of economic survival.
October was a month to attend both the national Rural Telecom Conference (RTC) in Springfield, Ill. and the Illinois Municipal League (IML) conference in Chicago to get some perspectives on the importance of broadband connectivity as it relates to regional sustainability. Both had panel discussions that addressed network infrastructures as a critical component for the future viability of municipalities as well as local economic regions.
Speakers at the RTC included Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and Rex Nelson (the co-chairman of the U.S. Delta Regional Authority). The messages conveyed were that all rural municipalities better look at upgrading their network infrastructure if they want to be viable in the future. Some likened it to the same sense of urgency the country had with rural electrification in the last century.
The RTC had about 290 attendees from across the country. Many of those attendees were looking for immediate answers to questions that were being asked as options to build out new networks were discussed.
Being politically accurate
If your municipality isn’t looking at creative ways to develop new strategies that include having a state-of-the-art network infrastructure to support economic growth and development, they will be stagnating your property value and quality of life in your area. This was the message I conveyed in a speech on intelligent business campuses at the RTC last week.
Simply put, the three most important words in real estate (“location, location, location”) have turned into “location, location, connectivity” in urban, suburban and rural America.
Corporate site selection committees have included broadband connectivity as one of the top three criteria they are looking for when researching locations for corporate facilities. If your community does not have a good platform for broadband connectivity, it will simply be passed over in favor for one that does.
As a keynote speaker, I also presented these concepts on Tuesday to an urban symposium at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee.
The critical message is the same whether it is for a 5,000-person village in Virginia, a 50,000-person county in downstate Illinois or a 500,000-person city in Wisconsin: “Economic development equals broadband connectivity and broadband connectivity equals jobs.” Without connectivity, there will be little economic development and little if any new jobs.
The table below represents the layers of critical infrastructure that must be taken into account when reviewing regional opportunities.
|POWER (ELECTRICITY, GAS)|
|DOCKS/ PORTS/ WATER|
Source: James Carlini
Don’t count on me
Who will provide your area with high-speed network services? The incumbent phone company (i.e. Verizon or AT&T), the cable companies (i.e. Comcast) or will it be the service from the municipal electric company?
These are some of the questions going through the minds of people who need to make choices about what they can use. Some attendees from Vermont told me they have more or less been abandoned by the incumbent phone companies as to any investments for upgrades for their current network. Their solution has to be created from some other source.
This is a new twist to the rural areas. With incumbent phone companies shying away from the “universal service” mentality when it comes to introducing new network services like U-verse (Project Lightspeed), how are rural communities going to have broadband capabilities? Who is going to upgrade their network infrastructure?
Don’t count on the incumbents unless they see a big profit margin in your local area. In order to make a more attractive package for network investment and development, some smaller towns and adjoining counties are joining together to have a larger footprint for networks and economic development districts.
Many smaller areas are realizing that pooling together improves their economies of scale and a geographical footprint can provide a more attractive market that results in a better solution to network infrastructure.
Network change must happen
This is not an easy task to address because some people are against any change.
Those people could be residents, businesses or even shortsighted politicians who sit on the board of the municipality. A strong municipality should have the ability to view things on a long-term basis and make strategic decisions. Many municipalities are still locked into the old horse-and-buggy days and really don’t care about long-term viability.
One Illinois community that’s not locked into a horse-and-buggy mentality is Rochelle, Ill., which is a city of 10,000 people that has committed to a multi-gigabit, fiber-optic network. It is part of a larger, multi-county network that supports counties including Rockford, Naperville and Rock Falls.
Their strategy, according to mayor Chet Olson, is to provide the latest broadband capabilities not only for existing businesses but for the two railroads they have coming into the city as well as a future business park that will attract new corporate facilities. He spoke at one of the IML seminars.
Another speaker on the same panel (John Muleta from M2Z Networks) discussed the ability to provide a new wireless network to rural communities. It could be another solution that uses a part of the broadcast spectrum the major carriers don’t use.
Village and city administrators need to be aware of new network options and the long-term issues they impact. They have to get beyond making sure day-to-day operations are met and look at long-term economic viability whether they are managing a large suburb or a rural town.
Carlinism: Rural networks could become more advanced than urban networks as some rural regions look to create and sustain economic viability.
Recent articles by James Carlini
• James Carlini: Intelligent office buildings would shore up vacancies
• James Carlini: For cities, WiMAX reality should replace W-Fi fantasy
• Think Wisconsin has Wi-Fi woes? Check out the Windy City
• Think Wisconsin has Wi-Fi woes? Check out the Windy City
• James Carlini: Bandwidth fairy tales: When will the “Three Little Pigs” get it right?
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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