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Benefits of Community Broadband

July 19th, 2012

At the end of June, Christopher Mitchell of Community Broadband Networks interviewed Todd Marriott, UTOPIA Executive Director, for a podcast, which is now available. Mitchell is Director, Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR), and oversees MuniNetworks.org as part of ILSR’s effort “to ensure broadband networks are directly accountable to the communities that depend upon them.”

The Line (a Twin Cities-focused blog) just ran a story on community broadband efforts, which are not always like UTOPIA’s. The article has some great insights on the challenges and benefits of such networks. It’s somewhat comforting to know that the three network examples cited in the article (Chattanooga, Tenn., Lafayette, La., and Bristol, Va.,) have faced many of the same challenges and misconceptions that UTOPIA has been battling.

Mitchell is a primary source for the article, and a sizable report he recently authored is also mentioned (we’ll share elements from that report soon; it has lots of good info). Some highlights of The Line’s article:

  • “If you’re thinking that the only benefit to ultra-high-speed broadband is that you’ll be able to download the newest blockbuster movie faster, you’re missing the bigger picture, Mitchell says. Broadband is increasingly becoming one of the infrastructure requirements that help attract and retain ‘creative-class’ talent to metropolitan areas. In the course of interviewing subjects for his study, Mitchell met people in Chattanooga who moved there instead of Silicon Valley, motivated by the high quality and low cost of the broadband connection.”
  • Chattanooga “officials report that in the three years since fiber launched, [the city] has added 4,800 jobs and $1.3 billion in capital investment from advanced manufacturing, telecommunications, and technology-oriented companies. ‘Businesses have moved from Knoxville, which is 100 miles away, because the cost for broadband is eight times lower in Chattanooga,’ Mitchell says.”

As reported before, FLSmidth, an international engineering company, selected Midvale as the location for its Global Minerals Technology Research Center specifically because of the fiber network. We’re working to collect similar success stories and the benefits gained from the network. And, many of our residential customers say a primary consideration in where to build or buy a home is based on the availability of UTOPIA.

  • Thanks to LUS Fiber, the network in Lafayette, “a 1Gbps tier in [the city] costs about $1,000 per month, which, prior to their entry in the marketplace, was a minimum of $20,000 per month.”

Among UTOPIA’s business customers is Digital Business Integration, an information technology provider. Devon Dorrity, president, says, “We cut our costs in half and doubled our bandwidth [by switching to UTOPIA]. It was the easiest decision our company ever made.”

  • The author of the article paraphrases Tom Garrison, communications director for Eagan, a Twin Cities suburb, who says “the U.S. pays more per megabit of speed than most industrialized countries. ‘We don’t have the option of standing pat on technology if we want to continue to compete in a global economy,’ Garrison says.”

Communities that wait to provide broadband infrastructure until the demand is overwhelming are already behind the curve. By moving now, UTOPIA is giving communities an edge in attracting citizens and businesses, making them ready for the surge in broadband demand.