Economic development

Why fiber? One business experience tells the whole story....

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/02/2014 - 12:29

If you are an elected official or an economic developer, everything you wanted to know about why high performance, affordable fiber networks are important is contained in this one story:


Brandon Schatz, CEO of SportsPhotos.com Inc., said he moved his business from Springfield, Missouri, to Kansas City, Kansas, in February 2013 to take advantage of Google Fiber.
“It was a very easy decision,” he said. “We’re trying to grow to hundreds and thousands of events. You can’t scale if your whole city isn’t fast enough.”
The service also is cheaper. In Springfield, he was paying $400 a month for 100-megabyte download speeds. Now, he pays $70 a month for Google Fiber’s 1-gigabit speeds, which are 100 times faster. He added the service is more reliable.

Here is the whole article.

Fiber and Economic Development: Yes, there are positive impacts

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:39

WideOpen Networks has a nice piece out about the impact of fiber on community economic development.

How fiber supercharges economic development: Lafayette, Louisiana's success story

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 13:43

Broadband Communities magazine has a story that should be required reading for every community wondering if there is linkage between Gigabit fiber and economic development. Lafayette's municipal Gigabit fiber network has brought Hollywood special effects jobs to the community, more than a hundred, because the high performance Gigabit network lets Pixel Magic move the computer files back and forth between Lafayette and California quickly.

Pixel Magic brought jobs to Lafayette because the local economic developers created a 3D visualization facility (Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, or LITE) that was designed specifically as an economic hub. LITE has been a huge success that has attracted several new companies to Lafayette. You don't think of Gulf Coast Louisiana as a high tech destination, but the combination of Gig fiber and a broad economic development vision has been successful.

Lafayette's success also demonstrates that you can't rely on the Field of Dreams model: "If we build it, businesses will come." Lafayette has been successful because they linked their fiber network to a carefully thought out economic development strategy. Be sure to read the whole article. It's an eye-opener for those arguing that communities should not be investing in fiber.

Fiber makes neighborhoods business districts

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 11/11/2013 - 11:01

I've been talking about this for fifteen years. New data, from an article at Forbes, suggests that demand for office space may have peaked in the U.S, and that what may be the trend in the future is work from home and business from home activities. According to the article, the number of people working from home as self-employed has risen 14% in the past decade.

Neighborhoods are business districts, and need to be treated as such by economic developers.

This means that you want to be able to deliver business class high performance affordable broadband into your neighborhoods, and that generally means you want fiber, with business class symmetric service available. Places like FastRoads in rural New Hampshire are already doing this (a Design Nine project), and not surprisingly, a lot of homes (er, business locations) are signing up for 50 meg service--well beyond what cable and DSL is able to offer in most places.

It's not that communities should stop paying attention to downtowns and business parks....just the opposite. But if your community's economic development strategy does not have goals and objectives focused on supporting neighborhoods as business districts, you are missing some business attraction and job creation opportunities.

Who needs a Gig at home? Half of U.S. businesses

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 10/25/2013 - 07:47

This is 2007 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported that half of U.S. businesses are located in the home. Half, as in 50%. Which validates what I began saying ten years ago: Neighborhoods are business districts.

Communities that ignore this data and continue to hope that marginal DSL, asymmetric cable, and too-expensive cellular data services are "good enough" are closing off their own economic future.

The incumbents have cleverly turned broadband into an entirely pointless and futile debate about speed, when speed really has very little to do with it. Here's why:

The incumbents have been hugely successful with these two strategies of diverting the discussion to stuff that does not really matter. Instead of talking about the real issue, everyone ends up confused and frustrated with the misinformation.

I am reminded of a household study done in a rural county in the northeast about seven years ago. This was a very large, relatively isolated area, and it was the first time economic developers had ever polled households to see if there was any business activity in the home. They were shocked to discover more than 400 businesses that had never appeared on their radar. And I continue to see that today, with a continued over-emphasis on industrial parks, retail, and other traditional lines of business. It's not that those should be neglected, but with small and start-up businesses adding most new jobs.....neighborhoods and rural roads are business districts that need time, attention, and support from economic developers and community leaders.

Real estate market impacted by poor Internet access

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 10:18

Via Eldo Telecom, news that in England, people are moving from the country to larger towns because of bad Internet access. As Fred Pilot of Eldo points out (correctly, I believe), rural communities in the U.S. are also at risk. It's hard to imagine how anybody can manage with a dial up connection at home, which of course leads to people parking in the McDonald's parking lot so they can retrieve their email or so their kids can do their homework. Fred also points to a 2009 study showing that home buyers in the U.S. rank fiber broadband service as the number one amenity they look for in a property.

The myth of the twenty-something entrepreneur

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 09/27/2013 - 13:10

This article in readwrite confirms something I have suspected for a long time: that most successful entrepreneurs are not twenty-three and worth a billion dollars. In fact, according to the article, "...twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25. A whopping 75% have more than six years of industry experience and 50% have more than 10 years when they create their startup."

And get this datum: "...the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America has shifted to the 55–64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34. Indeed, Kauffman highlights that the 20-34 age bracket has the lowest rate of entrepreneurial activity."

What does this mean for broadband? I see a lot of communities trying to leverage broadband with an economic development strategy of trying to attract twenty-something entrepreneurs. And it turns out, according to the data above, that this is not likely to turn out well.

Uh oh...attracting entrepreneurs just got real

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/05/2013 - 16:13

If you think you are going to attract those young, business-hungry entrepreneurs types with some mediocre broadband, a couple of bike paths, and a Starbucks, think again. A start up company called Happy Hubs has just ratcheted the whole entrepreneurial attraction game up several notches. Happy Hubs is renting out luxury workspaces in Costa Rica, and is offering five star amenities like massage therapy, gourmet food service, maid service, and access to a beach. Oh, and of course, lots of broadband. And the whole package compares favorably to what someone might spend in the U.S. on a lackluster place to live, food, and Internet--without all the amenities.

Economic development is global. And broadband is enabling the portable business. If your community can't deliver affordable, high performance broadband services, nothing else really matters.

The young people are moving to the "Gig City"

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 08/09/2013 - 14:50

There is some moderately coarse language in this article, but it is worth reading if you are interested in economic and community development. What caught my eye is how successful Chattanooga has been in re-inventing itself as the "Gig City." Three years ago, it is hard to imagine that the creative class in places like New York and Los Angeles could even tell you what state Chattanooga was in, but today, it has become the place for the young and restless to move to. The low cost of living and cheap Gigabit fiber is drawing the Millenials to Tennessee, of all places, but it is really the fiber that has been the catalyst.

Why build a Gigabit City?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 08/08/2013 - 09:58

I see two things driving bandwidth demand in the business sector: VPNs and videoconferencing.

We talked to a large corporation that has a plan to move 20% of its workforce to the home--an option its wants to make to employees as work life quality issue (e.g. young children to take care of, time shifted work hours, etc.). They want a 50 meg, symmetric, low latency connection between every home based worker and the corporate network. Their math for that amount of bandwidth was simple. They intended to put an HD video camera and large screen monitor on every home-based worker's desk to support ubiquitous and convenient videoconferencing with supervisors and co-workers, and they wanted to support minimum of four people on a call simultaneously, meaning 8-10 Meg x four video streams, or as much as 40 meg just to stay connected.

I was in a branch office of a software firm with an interesting set up. They had two very high resolution HD cameras and two very large HD monitors with four large easy chairs facing the equipment. An identical set up was in the main office. They left all four cameras running 10-12 hours a day so that there was a full time HD video connection between both locations, and so it was very easy to have casual and spontaneous conversations with folks in either location. Both offices had affordable fiber connections, so they could "waste" the 40 to 50 meg of bandwidth that these four cameras used continuously for ten hours a day. But this becomes easy AND useful when you have an affordable Gigabit symmetric connection.

Communities that want to attract (or retain) companies using bandwidth this way need to be building a "Gigabit City," and doing it now.

What communities risk by putting off broadband investments

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 07/14/2013 - 10:35

Fred Pilot excerpts two key points from a speech by Milo Medin, the head of the Google fiber initiative.

Read Pilot's summary, and he also links to Medin's full speech.

Creating jobs, helping entrepreneurs: Space is a big deal

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/11/2013 - 15:51

Read this short but detailed discussion of the space problem for start-ups and entrepreneurs by Melissa Thompson. Finding the right office space at an affordable price is a huge issue for small, entrepreneurial businesses. Many of them start in the home, but if they grow beyond a couple of employees, they will usually be looking for office space, and in my experience, many local and regional economic development organizations are not well prepared to help with this. The traditional business incubator may does not have the right size offices or facilities for start ups (many do, but not all of them that I have visited), and location is everything: entrepreneurs want to be in town, where good coffee and business-oriented restaurants are used as adjunct meeting space and brainstorming locations. And of course, affordable high speed broadband is essential because I can guarantee any new start up is going to make heavy use of videoconferencing.

The Creative Class is flunking out

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/22/2013 - 12:46

Robert Bell of the Intelligent Community Foundation has a must read article on how the Creative Class (Richard Florida's brainchild) is not delivering the results many cities were expecting. To the extent that a city is able to recruit Creative Class residents and workers, those upscale residents tend to displace blue collar workers and raise the cost of living in the area, which cancels out some or all of the positive effects. Bell points out that technology can make cities more efficient, but that the real potential for technology to have transformational effects is in rural areas. I agree, and the digital divide in the U.S. has been and still is largely between urban/suburban areas with generally available moderate broadband speeds, and rural areas with no or grossly inadequate broadband.

What Good are Libraries?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/04/2013 - 12:38

An interesting article reporting on Lou Zacharilla's comments from his attendance at a conference on the future of libraries. Zacharilla is the co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Zacharilla noted that....

a 2012 survey of more than 7,000 libraries in the U.S. revealed that key library services now include computer training, electronic job search skills, how to access online databases and how to deal with e-government. In addition, in more than 60 percent of communities, libraries are the only source of free public access to computers, according to the survey.

Utopia network success story

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 09:52

Here is a short news item on how Utopia, the community-owned fiber network in Utah, helped one business cut costs.

Fiber brings a $600 million data center

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 01/02/2013 - 10:37

From the always excellent MuniNetworks, the story of how a tiny community out in the middle of nowhere attracted a $600 million data center. If you have never been to The Dalles, it really is an extremely isolated place. It's a beautiful town on the edge of the Columbia River. Fed up with lousy broadband, the community built its own fiber ring, and coupled with reliable electric power, that brought Google and its $600 million data center to the community.

Startup Blacksburg (#bva) to accelerate business growth

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 12/06/2012 - 10:40

Startup Blacksburg (#bva) met this morning to identify what the region needs to accelerate the creation of jobs and business opportunities in Blacksburg, Montgomery County, and the New River Valley. Using criteria established by Startup America, the area scores surprisingly well on most of the elements needed by startups and high growth potential companies. Montgomery County's Department of Economic Development provided coffee and bagels and has a sharp focus on helping startups and established businesses grow faster. The ED folks have some terrific new marketing materials that really do a great job of highlighting what a great place Montgomery County is to start or to grow a business. Startup Blacksburg is going to continue to meet to help startups and high growth businesses find the resources they need to create jobs and attract capital.

Still time to register for the Danville Broadband Conference

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 08:18

If you are interested in seeing firsthand what happens when a city invests in open fiber, there is still time to register for the Broadband Communities Community Fiber Networks conference in Danville, Virginia in early November. Danville's open access fiber network has been a key part of an enormously successful downtown revitalization effort that has brought hundreds of new jobs to the community and international firms have been re-locating to Danville in part because of the high performance, low cost open access fiber network.

Making telecom central

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 07:29

Susan Crawford, writing as a Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, argues eloquently for paying more attention to broadband capacity and affordability, especially in rural areas of the U.S. She argues that well-provisioned, modern broadband connectivity is essential to economic growth.

Chattanooga continues to be serious about economic growth

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:46

Chattanooga is providing financial assistance to people with technical backgrounds who agree to buy a house and move to the area. It's a brilliant idea, and coupled with their fiber network, Chattanooga continues to prove they are not just serving up the same old warmed over, forty year old economic development strategies.

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