Tag: "economic development"

Posted August 23, 2012 by lgonzalez

Just on the heels of Time Warner Cable announcing 81 new jobs in Kansas City in response to the newly competitive environment created by Google's Gig, we learned that Comcast is adding more jobs to its workforce in Chattanooga.

In talking points, the lobbyists and spokespeople for these major carriers often claim that community networks will result in less investment from the existing providers, not more. This is theoretically absurd, as competition drives increased investment. And empirically, we almost always see existing providers invest more as a response to losing their monopoly, not less.

According to Ellis Smith of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, 150 new jobs will be added by the end of the year. Ellis spoke with Jim Weigert, vice president and general manager of Comcast Chattanooga:

"Chattanooga is often at the top, not only in our division but across the country in terms of performance,” Weigert said. “Our strength and record of success made it a contributing factor when they selected a location."

Comcast and others, including AT&T, have had to step up their game in Chattanooga to keep customers who suddenly had a real choice. 

Regardless of whether or not today's Chattanoogans connect to its publicly owned network, they benefit. Consumers get better service, affordable rates, and advanced technology simply because the network has created competition.

Posted August 16, 2012 by christopher

In Star Tribune coverage of Mediacom's war against real broadband in rural Minnesota, we learn that Mediacom will not sue Lake County to disrupt its plan to serve thousands of unserved residents and local businesses.

And for all its accusations, Larsen says Mediacom will not sue. Spending millions of dollars on a lawsuit in a place where the company serves so few homes, he said, "is not a great business decision."

We have previously covered the many false and disproved accusations Mediacom have leveled against Lake County. The Strib article reiterates that these charges have been found to have no merit.

The article also reiterates that the County has a real need that private companies have failed to meet:

The conflict that ensued is part of a national struggle. Public officials and some of their constituents argue that rural broadband is like rural electrification: It's a lifeline for small-town America that the free market will not extend.

"We've been ridiculously underserved in this area for years," said Andy Fisher, who owns a Lake County bed-and-breakfast and a rural cross-country skiing lodge. The cable companies "are working in the interest of their profits. But if they're not going to serve this area, what are we going to do?"

And yet, Mediacom sees itself as the underdog!

"Lake County wants to make this into a David and Goliath story, where Mediacom is Goliath and poor little Lake County is David," said Tom Larsen, Mediacom's group vice president of legal and public affairs. "The truth is we're David because we're fighting [the government]. It's just the same story repeated all over the country."

Fascinating. Mediacom has billions in revenues whereas the County deals with budgets in the millions. Sure Mediacom is between 100 and 1000 times bigger than Lake County, it still wants to stop a project serving thousands of unserved people (that it believes is doomed to fail) because it is too disadvantaged.

Mediacom logo

If Mediacom actually met the needs of its subscribers, it...

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Posted July 23, 2012 by lgonzalez

Bonners Ferry, with around 2,500 residents in Northern Idaho, realized three years ago that fiber would only find their community if they installed it themselves.

“We are a little isolated up here…We don’t have the density that would attract this kind of thing.”

Mike Sloan, Bonners Ferry Economic Development Council Director, went on to describe the situation in a recent Bonners Ferry Herald article. Even though some BTOP and BIP federal stimulus project awards came to Idaho, none of them made it to Bonners Ferry. Nevertheless, Sloan and other community leaders knew the infrastructure would be crucial to the economic well-being of the region. The project has been in the works for the past three years. Sloan went on to tell reporter Cori Flowers:

Sloan said fiber optic isn’t just a means for easier internet surfing, it’s absolutely essential to economic progress. “Any area that doesn’t have this is at a distinct disadvantage,” Sloan said. “If we ever want to attract businesses to our area, we need this.”

In order to fund the build-out, Bonners Ferry plans to create a revenue bond, with anticipated revenue from the network designated to repay the bond. With the participation of several other area regional communities, leaders are optimistic. The network will travel along electrical lines and will end at the Canadian border.

The project, still in its planning phase, will be reviewed by the Panhandle Area Council, the City of Bonners Ferry, and municipal legal counsel before moving forward.

Posted July 13, 2012 by christopher

Fresno's loss will be Provo's gain. Why? Because Provo built its own network and can meet the modern telecommunications needs of businesses. A company is moving from Clovis, in Fresno County (California), to Provo, Utah. The Business Journal covered the story:

Clovis-based Secure Customer Relations, Inc., plans to move its entire operation to Provo, Utah this month, resulting in the loss of 98 jobs.

...

Secure Customer Relations operates a call center that specializes in appointment setting, client prospecting and other functions on behalf of the insurance industry.

Overall, the cost of operations in Provo would be a savings over Clovis, Carter said, including labor costs. He added that Clovis does not have the same level of fiber optic infrastructure as Provo.

Interestingly, Clovis is slated to get better access to broadband as part of the stimulus-funded Central Valley Next-Generation Broadband Infrastructure Project. Unfortunately, that is one of them any middle mile projects that will connect community anchors but not offer any immediate benefits to local businesses and residents. It is a middle mile project, not a last-mile project that would build a fiber-optic access network like Provo has connecting everyone.

This is not to demean the middle-mile project, but such things are often misunderstood (sometimes due to deliberate obfuscations by those promoting them).

And speaking of obfuscation, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah apparently wants the Utah state government to take credit for this company moving to Provo.

"We move a lot of data and need high capacity," CEO Carter Beck told the Journal last week. His company specializes in appointment setting, client prospecting and other functions on behalf of the insurance industry.

The relocation of companies like Secure Customer Relations, Inc. to Utah reaffirms the conclusions of a Utah Broadband Advisory Council Report released last week by the Utah Broadband Project and the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) -- that...

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Posted July 3, 2012 by christopher

Writing for the American Express Open Forum, author Jack Shultz helped to compile a list of what he considers the best small towns for business in the U.S.

Ponca City made the list and was specifically singled out for the wireless network owned by the City:

This town has a very progressive economic development organization. They even have their own Youtube video promoting Ponca City as the place to locate your business. The city’s history has been shaped by the petroleum industry since Conoco Oil once had their headquarters here. Now, they highlight their fast-track permitting, workforce training, state and local incentive programs and a completely wireless community. [emphasis in original]

A local article in Ponca City News notes,

All residents in the city limits of Ponca City have access to free Wi-Fi adding to the ease of web-based business and small start-ups.

As we have noted many times, publicly owned broadband networks can play an important role in economic development strategies.

Posted June 14, 2012 by lgonzalez

Martinsville, located in south central Virginia within Henry County, is home to about 14,000 people, 10% fewer than in 2000. The town built a city-owned fiber optic network to connect local businesses and spur economic development in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative.

The backbone of the Martinsville Information Network (MINET), consists of 48 strands of fiber and it connects schools, municipal sites, and local businesses. Back in 2009, the City estimated it was saving between $130,000 to $150,000 each year by not having to lease telephone services.

“It’s one of the best investments the city has made,” [Mike] Scaffidi said in a February WorkItScoVA.com article by Tara Bozick.

Scaffidi, the City Telecommunications Director, has good reason for his praise. The 20 mile fiber optic network has been quietly growing for about 10 years and has been recognized as a key to economic development.

Recently, the network has attracted businesses like Faneuil, which relies heavily on data, voice, and video streaming, for their call center in Martinsville. Other companies that connect to MiNet include Mehler Technologies, American Distribution and Warehousing, and SPARTA Inc., a defense contractor. SPARTA, which was recently acquired by Parsons, credited the network for attracting them to the town.

MiNet connects with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative network (MBC), which connects to communties all over the county. The combined efforts of MiNet and MBC preceded the announcement that more jobs were coming to a local industrial park. From the article:

…[W]orking with MBC to get fiber to the area’s industrial parks is paying off to bring jobs, especially with the announcement last year that ICF International, a Fairfax-based professional and technology services firm, would create 539 jobs in Patriot Centre…

Currently, 30 Martinsville businesses subscribe to MiNet, which provides telephone and Internet service and generates about $130,000 per year for the general fund. While offering business services has been productive, the City is also exploring the possibility of...

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Posted May 22, 2012 by lgonzalez

Chattanooga is once again using their municipally owned network to improve the quality of life and save money at the same time. New LED street lamps have been installed all over the City and the anticipated energy savings are expected to be significant. In addition to the obvious, saving money with more efficient LED lights, the City anticipates cutting costs in other ways associated with the change. From a recent Mary Jane Credeur Bloomberg Businessweek article:

Almost a third of Chattanooga’s annual energy bill comes from old high-pressure sodium streetlamps. At any given time 5 percent of the bulbs are burned out, and they sometimes go on during the day, needlessly adding to electric bills. “You’ve got a certain amount of lights out but you have no idea where they are, so workers literally drive around in a truck looking for them, and it’s a real waste,” says David Crockett, director of the city’s office of sustainability.

The change to LEDs is expected to cut energy use by 70%. City officials, however, have taken it one step farther and have installed a whole new system that will drive those savings up to 85%, or approximately $2.7 million. Global Green Lighting, a local company, developed a sophisticated lighting system using a wireless network that is fed by EPB Fiber. The system provides the ability to control each light's output 24/7 to tailor the level of light specifically to each lamp, the environment, the time of day, and even what might be happening on the ground. When a light is not working, it can self-diagnose and send a message to maintenance describing what is broken and what is required to fix it. There is no need for manual meter readers because energy usage reports back to the electric company via the network.

The community sees enhanced public safety from the new lighting. Prior to the install of the new system, Chattanooga had frequent criminal activity in several parks at night. Also from the Credeur article:

Global Green is working on a flash strobe mechanism so the lights can also serve as a warning system for tornadoes or security threats or help guide ambulances and fire trucks to a particular address. Cops can also control the brightness when they’re chasing a suspect in parks, alleys, or other areas with dimmed...

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Posted May 13, 2012 by christopher

On April 28, I gave a presentation as part of the Economic Development track of the Broadband Communities Conference in Dallas regarding the role of community networks. The full panel presentation is here (along with links to all the other presentations over 2 days of economic development).

My presentation is excerpted below:

Posted May 7, 2012 by lgonzalez

We told you how Chanute, Kansas, was using their community network to serve local businesses. Now we want to share a story about how the community network helped bring a new business to Chanute.

Chanute, who is named after Octave Chanute an aviation pioneer, adopts the motto "A Tadition of Innovation." Chanute has proven that they are serious about that mantra with the expansion of their community network. They boast free Wi-Fi in all green spaces and parks, schools that are connected with fiber and wireless, several fiber loops throughout the city, plans for a smart grid, and are even exploring FTTH capability.

Spirit AeroSystems, the world's largest supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components, just opened a new manufacturing facility in Chanute. The plant is expected to create up to 150 new jobs in the southeastern Kansas community and will include a health clinic on site for employees.

As Spirit was approaching different communities, it had a variety of requirements that included reliable electricity and reliable broadband. Nothing exorbitant -- they weren't asking for a gig or even 100Mbps. But they needed reliability. And Chanute was poised to deliver. Publicly owned networks do not exist in a vacuum; they are often one piece of a well-run community.

If Chanute only had a slow DSL and absentee-owned cable company offering broadband, maybe Spirit still would have chosen them and maybe that would have been the tipping point for a different community. We don't know for sure. 

What we do know is that Chanute is getting more jobs and that owning their own network helped.

Posted April 18, 2012 by lgonzalez

VisitMendocino.com sums up this northern California community as a peaceful and serene:

"Mendocino County, where rugged coastline, breathtaking beaches, picturesque villages, majestic redwood forests and America's Greenest Wine Region beckon you to escape to a slower pace."

While the people of Mendocino County love life in the slow lane, they would love a fast lane for the Internet. Mendocino County, known for its wineries, its redwoods, and its greenery is now becoming known for its efforts to develop their own community-owned broadband.

The Mendocino County Broadband Alliance (MCBA) was borne out of a need to fill gigantic gaps in broadband coverage created by the private sector. The geological and rural nature of the area presents an insurmountable challenge to the private cable and telco business models in this spacious county of just under 88,000 residents. While there is still archaic dial-up service, spotty and unreliable satellite access, and a few communities with DSL, the MCBA reports that over half of the population has NO access to broadband.

Community leaders in Mendocino County have contemplated the need for access in their area for some time. What really drove home the urgency of the situation was the 2011 death of Esplanade, Mendocino County's small, local, independent ISP. Carol Brodsky, of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, spoke with MCBA for the story:

When Esplanade, a small, privately owned south-coast Internet service provider closed its doors in 2011, around 400 customers were left in digital darkness, according to Greg Jirak, strategic planning chair for the Mendocino County Broadband Alliance. The resultant issues cascaded and greatly affected the lives of individuals, organizations and businesses.

Jirak goes on to describe other ways Mendocino County has suffered due to the loss of a large part of the scanty Internet coverage they had:

“When Esplanade folded, the Coast Community Library was no longer able to provide public Internet access,” Jirak explains.

Seniors were severely impacted because of Esplanade’s shutdown. “The South Coast Senior Center staff helped seniors use their Internet connection to deal with Social Security, Medicaid, insurance issues and medical...

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