Technology is not the single, silver bullet for these challenges, but it is definitely a big part of the answer. And high-speed broadband networks are the enabling links that allow communities to access technology. As we have seen several times across the country in the past few years, high-speed broadband access is now one of the single largest determinants of a community’s ability to leverage technology for economic and civic good.
We’re long past the days when dial-up access to the Internet was sufficient. In the 21st century economy, the pace of business and the increasing demands of society require fast, efficient, affordable broadband access. Think about the critical issues we deal with every day:
• To succeed in the digital economy, our children must have access to digital learning tools, video-rich learning exercises and online courses taught by the world’s best and brightest. For too many of our schools, access to the Internet is constrained by limited resources and slow speeds — and sometimes it’s not available at all.
• In an evolving economy such as ours, new jobs — whether they are in health care, retail or manufacturing — require access to information. New fiber networks offer more than just increased speed; they also offer greater bandwidth that enables more people to gain more information at the same time.
• As we seek to attract new businesses and look for ways to encourage local innovation and entrepreneurship, we must consider the services we offer. Ultra-high-speed broadband is critical: without it, entrepreneurs will look elsewhere; with it, we can become a magnet for innovators. After Kansas City became the first Google Fiber city, the area attracted so many new entrepreneurs and tech-focused jobs the metropolitan area is now regularly referred to as “Silicon Prairie.”
But solutions are just good ideas if we lack the means to employ them. It’s much easier to talk about a solution than it is to enact one. With the recent announcement Google Fiber is working with the city to explore whether it can build a new ultra-high-speed broadband network in Smyrna, we may soon have the means to deploy solutions to many of the challenges we face as a community. I welcome this opportunity to address one of the core infrastructure challenges that threatens our future growth.
We are proud that over the next few months, Smyrna will be busy working with the Google Fiber team to try and bring access to ultra-high speed Internet to our community. Google Fiber is up to 100 times faster than basic broadband — and in order to bring us these speeds, Google would need to build a new, high-tech network throughout our city. This would require hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of construction, so we’re working with them to plan out what that would look like.
For example, we are adapting our permitting process to manage a project of this size, and we will make sure we have accurate information and maps about where utilities are buried throughout Smyrna. We are making good progress on the checklist so far. In the meantime, Google is doing a detailed study of our city — surveying land, counting utility poles and even taking soil samples — to test whether they’d be able to build their network here.
Google says it hopes to let us know whether we get Google Fiber by the end of the year. We would be excited to be the first city in Cobb County to receive it. Fiber would be a crucial foundation for the future of economic development, education, health care and more here in Smyrna.
It’s up to all of us to ensure we take advantage of this opportunity and to start thinking about ways to join together and leverage technology — and all it brings — for the benefit of everyone in our community.
Teri Anulewicz is a city councilwoman in Smyrna.