06 May Where does your city stand in the broadband race?
Broadband connectivity is one of the top three criteria for site selection committees looking to locate corporate facilities. Regional sustainability will be reliant on the ability to offer broadband connectivity to both commercial and residential subscribers. The definition of broadband connectivity is at least one gigabit, if not ten gigabit per second, of network speed coming into your facility. Infrastructure is the platform for economic development.
These were just some of the major points I made in my closing keynote address presented at the Broadband Properties SUMMIT ’08 Conference in Dallas, Texas last week. The conference had more than 700 attendees from around the world and if you did not go, you missed a diverse mix of presentations.
Who is concerned about this?
Representatives of the real estate industry, the service provider industry, and some people involved in various aspects of regional economic development all attended this conference. Special residential projects including triple-play amenities (phone, high-speed data, and video) and those involved in the legal and local government aspects of this area were also featured.
My keynote addressed both residential and commercial endeavors. We discussed the need to offer new amenities in order to attract tenants in both multi-unit residential projects as well as commercial buildings. The idea that the infrastructure is the platform to build economic development on was discussed.
Some members of the audience were from the Illinois Broadband Deployment Council who made the trip to Texas to hear what I had to say, and some were developers and service providers from the East Coast, the West Coast, Florida, Sweden, Great Britain, and a mixture of the rest of the country.
When we discussed the importance of speed, the whole idea of establishing one gigabit as a minimum seemed very fast to some that have been inundated with commercial messages from various network providers that tell you getting speeds of a couple of megabits is more than adequate.
A person from Sweden said that they were getting one gigabit today in their metropolitan areas. That surprised some of the people that were skeptical that gigabit speeds were really needed in the United States. Wake up. We are truly behind.
I have always been a proponent of installing as fast a network as possible because it can provide the platform for new applications that support regional economic development.
Another keynote speaker was a friend that I met in Fort Wayne, Ind., last year. Graham Richard is the former mayor of Fort Wayne, and he elaborated on what he established in Fort Wayne by getting the incumbent phone company, Verizon, to make an investment to provide fiber to the premise (FTTP) in the whole city. He pointed out:
“We initiated many new urban reinvestment incentives and programs. These included fighting crime, improving urban infrastructure, brownfield development, and new development marketing approaches. I set a goal to reach $1 billion of private investment in the urban core of the city within three years. We reached that goal in less than three years, which included counting part of the $100 million FIOS investment made in the urban townships. High-speed broadband was part of the marketing to companies to urge them to invest in urban Fort Wayne.
They have seen some great payback from their investment in their infrastructure.
Later, he and I discussed one of the issues I pointed out in an earlier column about Naperville, Ill., and their lack of having DSL in one-third of their community. He asked how it could be viewed as an affluent area when such a good portion does not even have DSL, let alone higher-speed network services? I told him that many municipalities have to understand where they are really at when it comes to being competitive to attract corporate facilities.
My municipality has 100 percent coverage on DSL. It is now starting to get AT&T’s U-verse network service, which will provide an even better level of connectivity. Am I satisfied? No, we need to have even more bandwidth to all users and gigabit at a minimum should be rolled out today. We are making sure that multi-gigabit connectivity is available to industrial and manufacturing zones. We are worried about regional sustainability. Are you?
Second and third-tier cities understand the sense-of-urgency of building new network infrastructure because it’s a matter of survivability to them, and they are more willing to listen than some of the larger cities. Economic development planners and directors think they can point to their municipality’s past and companies will automatically select their cities.
In reality, all cities large and small are being scrutinized before any site selection committee will commit large investments to build in their region. If the three most important words in today’s real estate are “Location, Location, Connectivity,” master planning must include network and power infrastructure planning.
One thing I walked away from the conference with is that there definitely is a sense of urgency needed, and those that pursue a better economic environment for their region are looking at network infrastructure as part of that solution.
Carlini-ism : There are no experts in this industry. The best you can be is a good student – always learning.
Recent articles by James Carlini
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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.