I was honored to present the final keynote presentation at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin TX last week. My session was part of the Rural Telecommunications Congress track. My presentation highlighted some of the great community and organizational projects developed with the support of the Blandin Foundation. Using the Intelligent Community elements as the framework, I highlighted about 20 projects out of the more than 200 projects funded over the past several years. As the final presentation at the end of a long conference I was a bit nervous about speaking to an empty room. I promised those who stayed a unique bonus at the end of my presentation!
For the last several years, the Rural Telecommunications Congress has co-located their annual event with the Summit.
The following are some fun facts and points of view that I thought were interesting.
Michael Render is a researcher who tracks the impact of fiber connectivity on real estate values and telecom provider revenues. He noted the following statistics:
- The average revenue per customer (ARPU) for broadband providers is $150 for those connected by fiber; copper-based customers pay less than $100 monthly with fewer and less premium services available.
- Home buyers were willing to pay $5,337 more for a house connected by fiber; for those whose existing house is connected by fiber, they are willing to pay even more ($6,500) to ensure that their next home is fiber connected.
- Apartment renters are willing to pay $150 per month more for fiber connectivity.
- Rural Counties with broadband have higher average incomes
- 85% of relocating businesses say that fiber is very imp or important in their location search. Connectivity ranked fifth in importance of many factors. Workforce occupied several of the higher-ranking factors (skills, availability, price).
- 11% of FTTH residents have home businesses; they say that FTTH enables $10,000 more in annual income
- There are 65 new jobs created per 1,000 passing FTTH
- Where FTTH previously brought “early adopter” community status, the community without is increasingly seen as a laggard.
Joanne Hovis of CTC Technology and Energy discussed the incremental approach to a community-wide FTTH approach. Joanne notes that any community with significant public sector facilities – schools, libraries, city and county government and/or health care providers can make a sound business case for fiber investment that will turn a scarce bandwidth scenario into one of abundance – moving organizations from 1.5 Mbps T1’s and 10 Mbps connections into 100 Mbps and Gbps connections.
The locally-owned network can then be incrementally extended to businesses in the downtown area or business park, before tackling the residential market.
Todd McDaniel of College Station, TX used this approach in a slightly different way. They extended the assets of the Texas A&M network to create an open access network over which private sector providers compete for the community’s public sector and business customers. He noted the importance of fiber connectivity for business site selections.
Throughout the conference, other speakers noted that the enhanced levels of broadband competition will bring price and service benefits to the community’s businesses whether they are customers of the community network or remain with the incumbent providers. They also noted that virtually all RFPs from site selectors now have questions regarding fiber and/or broadband connectivity.
Craig Settles put forth an interesting point about the importance of who leads community broadband initiatives. He argues that the local economic development organization should be at the forefront rather than IT people (too technical) or elected officials (too political). Economic development officials can argue on the basis of community need rather than a specific technology solution. He believes that a community commitment to connectivity can be successfully marketed as a commitment to the future. He recommends economic developers find a tech geek mentor to increase leadership understanding of tech choices.
This is a short summary of just some of the good speakers at this event.