Broadband Communities

OCT 2016

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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64 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | OCTOBER 2016 THE GIGABIT HIGHWAY Fiber Is Critical Infrastructure Building fiber networks – and using them to full advantage – is necessary to get the economy out of the rut it's in. By Heather B. Gold / Fiber to the Home Council Americas T hough the United States weathered the 2007 global financial meltdown relatively well, it is stuck in a pattern of slow growth in gross domestic product and employment. is pattern is particularly stark in the Midwest, where Creighton University economist Ernie Goss' latest Mid-America Business Conditions Index points to a continued economic slump as agriculture and energy markets remain stagnant. ere are many reasons for slow growth, but watchers have highlighted one key factor: the lack of investment in repairing and building new infrastructure. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers put a price on this stagnation in 2012: e lack of maintenance over decades costs every household $3,100 a year. In the 21st-century economy, broadband is critical infrastructure. It is the central platform for innovation, job creation and knowledge work. is has very real impacts for certain regions in North America; in an economy in which talent and capital can flow anywhere, they will flow to the areas with the best and strongest infrastructure for innovation. Without strong infrastructure, communities and regions risk watching jobs and investment move elsewhere. at's why the Broad B and Communities and the FTTH Council's Fiber for the New Economy conference in Minneapolis – focusing on broadband and economic development in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Montana, along with Ontario and Manitoba, Canada – comes at the right time. I look forward to learning from the assembled group and its members about the practical business of building the next generation of innovation infrastructure. (By the time you read this article, the conference will have taken place.) FTTH COUNCIL MEMBERS SHARE EXPERIENCES It's one thing to make the declaration "broadband is critical infrastructure," and it's quite another to deal with the challenges of making this infrastructure an integral part of communities and the region. An initial challenge for most, if not all, local broadband initiatives is getting the community involved. At the conference, local member Matt Huddleston of Lake Communications shares his experiences and offers best practices from the other side of a successfully launched, community-based broadband project. Even after announcements are made and communities are nominally on board, however, there comes another hurdle: getting everyone signed up for new products or services to ensure that the buildout can be adequately funded. e bottom line for any successful deployment is how many customers take the service. ose take rates, in turn, are driven by successful demonstrations of all-fiber networks' value – how new products and services are worthwhile for consumers. Local members Shane West of TDS Telecommunications and Jim Krieg of Cedar Falls Utilities speak about what resonates with consumers and the methods and mechanisms they use to reach customers. Other council members in the region – powerhouses with long histories in the industry – talk about why fiber matters. Regional fiber leaders at the conference include Dan Pecarina, CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications; Jim Hickle, president of Velocity Telephone (Gigabit Minnesota) and representatives of Minnesota's own Clearfield Inc. e availability and condition of broadband networks to, around, and away from America's factories, distribution centers, industrial parks, homes and office complexes has become a critical economic development issue for many states and localities and for the nation as a whole. Differences in broadband infrastructure will continue to grow in importance as North America's economy becomes increasingly dependent on the unconstrained movement of bits. Regions and communities that focus on investments to increase broadband infrastructure and support existing infrastructure will be in better shape for economic development. v Heather Burnett Gold is president and CEO of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, a nonprofit association whose mission is to accelerate deployment of all-fiber access networks. You can contact her at heather.b.gold@ftthcouncil.org.

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