June 21, 2013 By Heather Burnett Gold
Earlier this month, 400 community and business leaders came together in Kansas City to see gigabit connectivity in action and learn how to get it for themselves. There, at the Fiber to the Home Council’s “From Gigabit Envy to Gigabit Deployed” Conference, participants heard success stories from the communities that have already deployed gigabit networks in cities big and small, from Seattle and Chicago to Lafayette, La., and Bristol, Va. While each deployment was unique and faced its own set of challenges, the common thread was clear – community empowerment and initiative can deliver big benefits to local economies.
Communities are not passive players in the quest for big broadband. Instead, they are the drivers. While upgrading our nation’s network has not been a priority of the federal government, that is no reason to wait around and watch other countries pass us by – it’s up to us to get it done. It is that collective drive that will move cities to connect to the future and allow us to soar past the current limitations created by our current capabilities.
The United States was not built on a history of handouts and complacency. We learn, we borrow resources, and we share; but when there is something we want, something we know will be good for our communities, it’s up to us to rekindle that initiative to build it, just as we have done in the past.
To that end, the Fiber to the Home Council has released a deployment essentials guide in its community toolkit titled “Becoming a Fiber-Friendly Community” that includes immediately actionable tasks that will help communities become more fiber-friendly and thus, encourage provider deployment. As Google Fiber head Milo Medin stated during his keynote address in Kanas City, "A city committed to being gigabit-friendly can make a difference." We wholeheartedly agree.
While the deployment essentials guide is not exhaustive, it gives direction to communities to set the stage for deployment of a new ultra high-speed infrastructure. Steps such as setting up an expeditious process for permitting and inspections or tips on using building codes and community development plans to drive future deployments are just some of the many points and best practices addressed in this guide.
In the past few years, the speed of gigabit broadband development in the U.S. has unfortunately slowed down while the deployment in other countries has increased, often blowing past us with blazing Internet speeds that only emphasize our falling behind. In an increasingly interconnected global environment, speed of information flow determines economic and social growth. As Medin noted at the conference, part of the reason we have fallen behind is “because many of us have not been intentional about broadband.”
But it is not all bad news. In Kansas City, we began to see just how many cities are intentional about broadband and are taking the initiative to get to gigabit. One need only look at the growing gigabit cities – Kansas City, Chattanooga, Tenn., Lafayette, La., Seattle, Chicago, Gainesville, Fla., Bristol, Va., and Burlington, Vt., – to see that perhaps a sea change is already under way, even though the list is small. These are communities that have decided not to wait, not to be held hostage by the snail’s pace of government, or the passive hopes of being the next Google city. It is our mission to arm them and the many to follow with the essential deployment how-to, a network of determined community leaders, and tangible evidence of the impact gigabit connectivity can have in our social and economic growth, our institutions and our communities, so that we can work together to bring America from Gigabit Envy to Gigabit Deployed.
Heather Burnett Gold has worked in the telecom industry for more than 27 years, and currently serves as President of Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council Americas.