BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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MAY/JUNE 2014 | www.broadbandcommunities.com | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 47 only 60 miles north of bustling Atlanta, but it is a world apart. Dawsonville is the kind of place that was in danger of being left behind in today's knowledge- based economy. Local jobs were drying up as traditional industries such as textile mills, auto-parts factories and construction trades contracted or disappeared, and civic leaders in the region were worried about how the region would remain competitive. Vice President Biden visited a company called Impulse Manufacturing, a metal fabrication shop that produces customized metal machine components for Fortune 500 companies. High-speed Internet access is essential for Impulse to be successful because it must be able to exchange massive data fles with customers located across the globe. Before it got a fber optic connection from NGN, Impulse was forced to make do with slow, spotty DSL service that sometimes could not even hold a connection. Ron Baysden, Impulse's president at the time, told us that the lack of reliable high-speed Internet became an impediment to doing business. His employees were spending too much time just dealing with network problems. Customers even resorted to delivering data fles on thumb drives. At the time the vice president visited, Impulse was desperate for better Internet service. In anticipation of my visit to Austin, I checked in with Bruce and the NGN team to fnd out how things are going four and a half years later. Bruce told me he still has the piece of paper where he jotted down my name and telephone number four and half years ago. And he proceeded to tell me about how the 12 counties comprising the new network are being transformed. Now that the 1,100-mile network is built and delivering high-speed Internet connections to more than 300 businesses, 42 schools, fve college campuses, six libraries and dozens of other community anchor institutions, the region is more economically vibrant and more globally competitive. Let me make three observations based on my conversation with Bruce. First, high-speed broadband is making local business, including manufacturers, more competitive. Impulse Manufacturing, for example, is thrilled with its broadband service. Now that it is connected to the NGN network, Baysden says, "[We just] press a button and it's here." Impulse Manufacturing landed a major contract to supply parts for a 1.4-million- square-foot manufacturing facility that Caterpillar is building in Athens, Ga. And Baysden says the new fber optic connection is one key reason Impulse can handle the contract. Te company is adding 150 employees to its employee base of 220 over the next few years. Impulse has even acquired smaller companies of late and is "tunneling" with them to share IT systems using the high-speed connections. Second, the NGN network is fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. A local WISP, Appalachian Broadband Technologies, is doubling in size by inflling where the North Georgia Network couldn't reach. A "Gig Village" is also coming online in Dawsonville, delivering [1 Gbps] service to each of 20 tenants in a local business park – attracting companies and encouraging innovation. NGN has also been entrepreneurial in attracting other public dollars, securing state money to extend its network to neighboring communities and bringing high-speed fber optic service to the Rabun Business Park. Tis business park is an innovative, adaptive reuse of a former Fruit of the Loom textile manufacturing plant. It is attracting data centers and call centers, and bringing high-paying jobs. Tird, NGN is transforming education and building workforce skills. In White County, Internet speeds delivered to the school district went from 45 Mbps shared across seven schools to a gigabit – allowing teachers to integrate online video and online testing into the curriculum. At the local middle school, every teacher now walks around class with a wireless iPad connected to a desktop computer and to a projector screen through an Apple TV box. Te NGN network also supports a new 10-gigabit education network that connects 24 school districts and 200 schools. Tis enables dual enrollment with the area's community college so that high school seniors can navigate college-level courses over the network to prepare for college and work. NGN is a microcosm of the transformation happening across the country in communities that have seized an opportunity to deploy high- capacity broadband and integrate it into economic development and education strategies. Growth and innovation happen when communities link technology investments with human- capital development as key pillars of regional economic growth. So with all the strategic planning and foresight of the leaders in North Georgia, Bruce made me smile when he said they are doing things with the network today that he could not have even contemplated or imagined four and a half years ago. INVESTING IN BROADBAND EQUALS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT For every North Georgia that has successfully deployed broadband, thousands of communities remain at risk of being left behind in the digital economy. Tough trend lines are moving in the right direction, 43 percent of the population in 2013 still The North Georgia Network, a BTOP project, is helping local businesses become more competitive as well as fostering innovation and building workforce skills. BBC_May14.indd 47 5/29/14 9:17 AM