FCC Workshop Panelists: Public and Private Partnerships Vital to Fiber Initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. - March 27, 2013 - The Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge, along with similar initiatives, was cited as a key to keeping the United States competitive in the global economic market Wednesday during a workshop held by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C.

Several panelists at the event said partnerships between public and private entities are essential to growing the number of gigabit communities in the United States.

Mark Ansboury, President and Co-Founder of Gigabit Squared, knows first hand what such partnerships can bring to a community.

His company was awarded $2 million from the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge in October of last year to jumpstart a fiber-optic and wireless network throughout Chicago’s mid-south side. The project is in partnership with Cook County, the city of Chicago and the University of Chicago.

Ansboury said those partnerships can allow public entities the power to aggregate service appropriately while opening, “the door to shared assets, to shared use of services to create, to creative investment strategies and to new ways of working with the public and private sector.”

Ansboury said that 30 states are making way for public/private partnerships to develop fiber-optic infrastructures, helping to keep the service sustainable.

“As a new model, you’re going to have your bumps and valleys,” he said. “The trick is to blend it with more traditional business strategies so you can make it sustainable. I think if we really want to build the underserved areas, we’re going to have to get some help from governments. You’re going to need some facilitated help.”

Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative, said he strongly supports private and public partnerships because the driving force behind projects isn’t profit, but to simply fund the service for the betterment of local businesses and citizens. Less than 5 percent of cities that enter such initiatives fail to break even, he said.

During another workshop panel on how communities can benefit from gigabit service, David Sandel, President of economic planning firm Sandel & Associates, said ultra high-speed internet is nearly synonymous with growth.

“An investment in gigabit infrastructure results in a very high economic development impact to the surrounding community,” he said. “It creates high-value jobs, it approves real-estate values, it improves public-sector revenue and generates more private-sector opportunities. Putting all those things together, when it’s done and led in the right way, it puts any community on a global radar screen as part of the global economy.”

Speaking on the same panel, Dr. Kecia Ray, Executive Director of Learning Technology for the Nashville, Tenn. Public School District said high-speed service improves education immeasurably.

She said her district oversees internet access for 81,000 students – 50 percent of which do not have home access.

Curriculum for students there includes educational video, gaming and e-books, along with mobile devices for enrichment and personalized learning. Additionally, high quality web access is crucial for online testing mandates, Ray said.

FCC Director Julius Genachowski said it’s a fact, no longer a theory, that gigabit access improves lives where it’s available.

“We know that in the 21st Century economy, innovation leadership is economic leadership,” he said.  “We’re in a global bandwidth race. The U.S. needs a strategic bandwidth advantage.”

Genachowski called for rapid expansion of gigabit communities.

“We need to have the critical mass of one-gigabit market to spur ultra high-speed innovation here in the United States,” he said. “One-gigabit connectivity would give super computing power to internet users, would drive a new generation of applications that we couldn’t begin to imagine.”

Watch the entire webinar here.

Tags: economic development, economy, education, FCC, Gigabit Cities, Gigabit Communities Challenge

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