May 28, 2013 By Colin Wood
April was big for high-speed Internet news.
First Austin, Texas, announced it would join Kansas City to become the next local government to receive the Google Fiber treatment. Then Provo, Utah, joined the list, as Google plans to overhaul the city’s existing network. The Internet giant also is spreading its fiber buildout from Kansas City to the adjacent regions.
Many have questioned whether Google may eventually spread its networks across the entire nation, offering gigabit access for all. Though it seems feasible given the interest Google has shown in fiber, there are many reasons we won't ever see massive deployment, the most notable reasons being costs and regulations.
The Internet today is like an ’88 Michael Jordan: Everyone knew there was something great there, but they didn’t know he was going to win six championships and completely transform the game. Despite the difficulty in creating a nationwide gigabit network, such a thing has the potential to unlock applications and capability not yet dreamed of. Google Senior Communications Associate Jenna Wandres recently said that high-speed Internet really is the future and that governments have and will continue to play an important role in that development.
“If you look at innovation of Web services right now, we’re kind of hitting the ceiling imposed by today’s Web speeds,” she said. “Here at Google and [at] many other companies we’ve talked to, large and small, engineers have these great ideas for products that they want to deploy to customers, but Web speeds are just draining their ability to do that. We really believe that this is an investment in the future of the Web.”
Whether it’s for entertainment, education or health care, there are a host of concepts that are not possible because of limited Internet speeds and availability.
Having Internet connectivity doesn’t just change how a person conducts research or interacts with others, it transforms culture on a large scale. In regions where Internet availability is scarce, junior-high and high-school students bring their laptops to McDonalds to take advantage of the free Internet access -- but they shouldn’t have to, Wandres said.
“Can you imagine if a teacher could send home with every single one of her students an assignment to do research on the Internet and know that they all had access at home?” she said, adding that Internet access is something we should be able to take for granted – it’s fundamentally important.
And last year, the United Nations Human Rights council affirmed the importance of Internet access in a resolution, deeming it a basic human right.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.