Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2014

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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108 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 THE GIGABIT HIGHWAY Future-Proof Communities A next-generation network is a prerequisite for a fourishing community. By Heather Burnett Gold / FTTH Council Americas R ecently, in Chattanooga, Tenn., elected ofcials and local leaders from around the United States gathered to discuss a topic familiar to all of them: how to build a fourishing, sustainable community. Tis group is confronting the fact that the global economy has fundamentally changed in recent decades and the unit of production has shifted from atoms to bytes. So when they talked about the future of their communities, they focused on infrastructure – in particular, access to next-generation broadband networks. Chattanooga has begun to reorganize and thrive in part because of its gigabit-to-the-home fber network. Community leaders, investors and entrepreneurs have seized on the infrastructure and used it to support a thriving local startup scene and the relocation of businesses. For instance, IT service frm Claris Networks moved its data center operations from Knoxville to Chattanooga to take advantage of its fber network. City leaders nationally and internationally look to Chattanooga for guidance to build a Big Bandwidth community. Tough Chattanooga is one of a kind, the benefts of the deployment and use of its next-generation fber network are not. Te FTTH Council's recently released research found a 1.1 percent boost in GDP in communities where gigabit services were widely available. In dollar terms, the 14 communities where gigabit Internet services were available enjoyed approximately $1.4 billion in additional GDP more than other, similarly situated communities. Tat's about the same amount eBay paid to acquire PayPal in 2002. In 2013, the ratings agency Fitch upgraded the bond ratings for Kansas City, Mo., from "negative" to "stable," contending that the city's growing gigabit ofering was "already attracting a number of smaller Internet and data companies to the city and has the potential to make a signifcant economic impact." Next-generation networks can be crucial in rural areas. Communities can compete on a level playing feld to attract new businesses, schools can create distance-learning opportunities, medical professionals can provide cost-efcient remote diagnoses and care, and business owners can expand the market for their products beyond their neighborhoods to better compete in the global economy. However, building in rural areas can be cost prohibitive and may require pooling of resources and in-kind assets. Last summer, the FTTH Council made this case to the FCC, which agreed, launching its Rural Broadband Experiments program. Community and private interest has been high, as expected, and provisional awards were just announced. Broadband is not a panacea – even a gigabit, though it's pretty great. It should be part of the toolbox that communities have available to build livable, sustainable, attractive communities. However, in too many places, for many reasons, lack of bandwidth is a barrier to innovation. Te FTTH Council applauds the communities around the United States that are taking charge of their bandwidth destinies and fnding ways to attract private providers, establish new models and in some cases build their own next-generation fber networks. Over the past few years, it's become evident that there is no one-size-fts-all solution. Tere are as many models for bringing bandwidth home as there are U.S. communities. Te FTTH Council has long supported local choice – the ability of communities to take charge of their futures. Who knows better what they need to grow than the elected leaders, business interests and community members in a given place? Unfortunately, some states have outdated laws that prohibit certain models of building these networks and providing service. Tey don't let communities explore creative partnerships with private companies, make use of underutilized assets or take advantage of models that have been incredibly successful in such places as Chattanooga, Kansas City and Wilson, N.C. Te FCC is currently considering how, under existing laws, to foster eforts by municipal FTTH providers to bring the same benefts to surrounding communities. Te FTTH Council supports this FCC initiative. Te United States needs a critical mass of communities with world-leading bandwidth for economic development, job creation and global competitiveness in the 21st century. We at the FTTH Council want to assist the creation of empowered, FTTH communities in whatever way we can and look forward to more such communities sprouting up across the nation. Like Chattanooga, they will be communities with competent support systems that make life better for all. v Heather Burnett Gold is president of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, a nonproft association whose mission is to accelerate deployment of all-fber access networks. You can contact her at

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