“If Mayors Ruled the World Today…They Would Launch Digital Cities Tomorrow.” So wrote legendary communications thinker Professor John Eger earlier this year, summing up the argument that creativity often happens locally first. Innovative ideas that benefit the community rise up from local communities and their leaders who are responding directly to the needs expressed by their citizens and businesses.
Take Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a ski resort but not an urban community. Here, the school district was paying $100 per megabit for Internet service, while a nearby urban district paid one tenth the price for the same megabit. So Steamboat Springs created the Northwest Colorado Broadband Cooperative, built a carrier-neutral location in an old boiler room, set up racks for equipment, and eliminated the bottleneck to the internet that had kept prices so high. When asked what sparked this idea, Tim Miles, Technology Director at Steamboat Springs and South Routt School Districts said:
“…the only reason we’re doing this is ’cause we were waiting for the incumbent to meet our needs and they weren’t doing it. ‘Cause, according to them, we weren’t big enough. We’re doing this not to [become an ISP] but to provide a good opportunity for anyone who’s in that business to connect the community, and just use our assets — at a reasonable, fair cost.”
Or take Champaign and Urbana, Illinois, who teamed up with the University of Illinois with the goal of getting every neighborhood fiber. The communities negotiated an innovative partnership with a local company, iTV-3 (Family Video). When ITV-3 Vice President and COO, Levi Dinkla, was asked why they took the leap into this new arena in these two communities, he said:
“…Well, it came down to the people. We could see a lot of passion. We knew that we had a strong partner, not just somebody looking for, you know, us to come in and do the heavy lifting. And we were almost ready when we met them. We were in the final stages of planning a roll-out in Bloomington, Illinois. And, you know, not just the network assets that were there, but especially the — you know, the people, and the passion that they had for this project led us to go, OK, let’s take a second look at Champaign-Urbana, and see if this is something that’s really going to be a good fit. And ultimately it was.”
And take Wilson, North Carolina, where a business internet reseller went from outspoken opponent of the Greenlight municipal fiber network to one of its most vocal proponents. Thanks to the affordable, gigabit bandwidth provided by Greenlight, Computer Central was able to leap into the 21st century to sell value-added services like data and software backups and disaster recovery. As a result, the small company is prospering, as Gigabit speeds have facilitated upwards of 100% revenue growth.
Local partnerships, local investment, and local creativity – three cheers for local internet choice.