Scott Meacham: OKC would benefit from new fiber network
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Oklahoma entrepreneurs should be pinching themselves upon hearing the news this week that Google may bring high-speed fiber to Oklahoma City. Because, frankly, they need speed. They want to build their ideas right in their own homes, where innovation can occur without a 9-to-5 schedule. And, with lightning-fast Google Fiber, they can. Fiber networks that deliver fast, reliable and affordable broadband to homes and small businesses are a requirement for many of the innovative, entrepreneurial businesses that communities like ours want to attract and grow.
Google Fiber provides Internet access at gigabit speeds — that’s 1,000 megabits, up to 85 times faster than what most Americans have today. With gigabit-speed Internet, we will have the infrastructure to support and nurture idea generation.
Kansas City, Mo., was the first community to gain Google Fiber, after more than 1,100 communities applied to be the first site. Soon after, entrepreneurs flocked there and set up the Kansas City Startup Village, located in the area that first received Google Fiber access. According to several tech companies, the addition of Google Fiber validated Kansas City as a viable market and inspired them to move operations to the city. And Fitch, a major credit rating organization, upgraded Kansas City’s bond rating, citing this infrastructure improvement as one reason.
But it’s not just Kansas City — today, there’s a wave of new research, applications and examples showing the transformative impact of gigabit broadband speeds on local economies. A recent study found that 14 communities enjoyed approximately $1.4 billion in additional GDP when gigabit broadband became widely available. Looking at fiber networks generally, one study found increases between $5,300-$6,450 in local property values. And fiber networks have created jobs — for instance, in Lafayette, La., its network helped attract more than 1,300 tech jobs in 2014 alone.
Getting to a gigabit isn’t just for consumers. It creates the critical high-speed information “highway” small businesses require to grow and prosper today. Access to ultra-high-speed broadband increases efficiency and productivity exponentially and enables new capabilities not previously possible, or even imagined. And the potential for economic development as a result of this technological leap forward is enormous.
Some people equate high-speed broadband with ability to download multiple movies at a time or play video games online. Some may say we already have all the broadband speed we need. Of course that’s similar to what IBM’s Thomas Watson infamously said when he predicted at the dawn of the computer age that the world market needed five computers at most. And that’s the point, isn’t it? We can’t predict where innovation will eventually take us, nor should we let bandwidth be its primary constraint.
That’s why Google’s announcement is so potentially transformative to Oklahoma City startups. Whether it’s coming up with a better way to produce or use energy or developing new data and analytics tools, bandwidth is now the key input of our modern economy. It’s the type of thing that can help turn Oklahoma City into Innovation Central.