Sunday, November 09, 2008

Broadband's potential to drive small town economic boom

"If you don't have broadband, it's as bad as not having electricity, running water or sewer utilities in your town." So says Jack Schultz, author of Boomtown USA: The 7 ½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns.

Schultz has got that right. Broadband enabled telecommunications services make location and distance irrelevant and allow entrepreneurial activity to occur where it might not otherwise, which Schulz says is increasingly important to the economy at a time when the number of big companies that are expanding is decreasing.

Access to broadband could also fuel a population shift along the lines predicted by author Jack Lessinger in his prescient 1991 book Penturbia: Where Real Estate will Boom After the Crash of Suburbia. (Perhaps aided by the current real estate bust that began in 2006?)

A big roadblock however is America's spotty and incomplete last mile telecommunications infrastructure that leaves far too many home-based entrepreneurs struggling with dial up or substandard satellite Internet connections. Schulz correctly notes they cannot wait for the telco/cable duopoly to provide them the broadband they need to grow their businesses. "People must try to research and find alternate ways to get broadband in their communities," he says.

Schulz's position here coincides with my view that the last mile telecommunications infrastructure will become increasingly locally owned and operated as we are seeing with the proliferation of small mom and pop fixed terrestrial wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and in initiatives by local governments and cooperatives to install fiber optic connections to homes and neighborhoods.

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