September 3, 2013 By Tod Newcombe
First there was dial up. Then came something called DSL. Followed by coaxial cable broadband. Now, it's all about fiber. A fiber-optic network can be 200 times faster than cable and has the potential to trigger a new generation of economic development. So, it should come as no surprise than that 69 percent of public officials cite economic factors as the top reason why cities need to have fiber.
This, according to a new survey conducted online in July by the Governing Exchange, the research arm of Governing. More than 125 senior managers in state and local government were polled, and about 70 percent said they believe fiber networks should be considered a public good that government regulates and sometimes runs, similar to water, sewer and other utility services.
Fiber networks are seen by many as one of the most important infrastructure developments of the 21st century. Hair-thin glass fibers can deliver voice, data and video in quantities and speeds that are considered transformative by experts. But how does this next generation Internet superhighway get built and who builds it?
It certainly won't be the major cable TV and telecom providers, critics say. They own most of today's broadband networks, which reach 89 percent of Americans. There's no incentive, critics say, for them to embrace fiber.
But demand for next generation fiber is rising and our survey found that 59 percent of public officials believe government should play an active role in the deployment of fiber networks. But that interest doesn't translate into action either. Only 24 percent of the respondents said they have either an active plan, proposal or are considering implementation of a publicly-owned fiber network in their community.