Fiber networks could revolutionize Alabama’s economy the way electricity once did (Opinion)

The Google Fiber “bunny” logo at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center.

By Rep. Mac McCutcheon and Rep. Laura Hall

Every modern politician — from mayors and members of city councils, to those who serve in the legislature — has an obligation to ensure that responsible policies are enacted in order to help their residents and businesses compete in a global economy. Part of this obligation is to provide the infrastructure that allows residents and private industry to succeed. The success of Thomas Edison’s light bulb was only fully realized after government helped create the conditions that made it possible for private industry to make electricity more readily accessible to all. Access to electricity spurred a decades long period of economic growth throughout the country. And now, the situation with broadband internet is no different. Communities across the country are beginning to see that access to abundant bandwidth is having a similarly transformative impact on the economy.

Today, for a community like Huntsville, broadband access is no longer a luxury. It is an imperative. Given the makeup of our economy, in-home broadband is critical to attracting and retaining companies and improving local government services and operations. It is also becoming an increasingly effective way for local utilities to manage the flow of information and resources delivered to their customers.

That is why Huntsville Utilities’ decision to build a fiber broadband network is such a welcome announcement. It will not only support a municipal smart energy grid, but will also allow any company in private industry to bring ultra-fast, high speed broadband to homes and small businesses. Huntsville Utilities has an over 75 year history of being responsible stewards of public funds, while delivering award winning services to all segments of the community within their coverage area. We’re ready now to be part of the wave of communities that benefit from ultrafast Internet access.

This investment is likely to have immediate effects on our community. For example, Google Fiber has already announced they will serve as the first tenant on the system, with plans to offer competitive gigabit fiber services to Huntsville residents and small businesses. Research has shown that communities with gigabit services have exhibited a per capita GDP approximately 1.1 percent higher than similarly situated communities without gigabit service. While investment in the physical infrastructure will create immediate jobs for our area, it will also provide a boost to our economy by strengthening small businesses, supporting entrepreneurs, and serving as a catalyst to help grow new businesses.

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About Mark Milliman

Mark Milliman is a Principal Consultant at Inphotonics Research driving the adoption and assisting local governments to plan, build, operate, and lease access open-access municipal broadband networks. Additionally, he works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase the value of their intellectual capital through the creation of strategic product plans and execution of innovative marketing strategies. With more than 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that began at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Mark has built fiber, cable, and wireless networks around the world to deliver voice, video, and data services. His thorough knowledge of all aspects of service delivery from content creation to the design, operation, and management of the network is utilized by carriers and equipment manufacturers. Mark conceived and developed one of the industry's first multi-service provisioning platform and is multiple patent holder. He is active in the IEEE as a senior member. Mark received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
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