Traverse City Record Eagle Grand Traverse Business, Supplement of the Record Eagle February 7, 2018 By Casey Cowell
The litmus test for where to locate and grow your enterprise in the past focused on factors like highway access, water and power services, or rail and other transportation. It’s entirely different today. Top of the list for many enterprises now is access to true high-speed internet.
Communities with speed attract new enterprise. Those without are left behind.
As of this past summer, about 25 percent of the U.S. is wired for gigabit fiber. Gig fiber is internet connectivity from your home or office at the speed of one billion bits per second. (My company’s first modem products in 1976 provided 300 bps!) There are nearly four billion internet users globally — more than 50 percent of the world population. Fiber’s breadth, reliability and speed is affecting our society.
In communities like ours — small, somewhat remote and moving to transition their economies, gigabit fiber is a game changer.
Whether communicating with satellites, developing software to be deployed around the world, mining cryptocurrencies or any number of new and exciting ventures that can happen right here in Traverse City, a common thread is that they all require true high-speed internet. Traverse City Light and Power in the spring of 2017 committed to add to its capital plan gigabit fiber deployment across our city. The sooner deployment happens the better.
Consider the number of people now able to telecommute to jobs on the other side of the country or the other side of the world. Some are doing that right here in Traverse City. “Your New Boss: An Algorithm” in the December 10th Wall Street Journal spells this out.
Here’s a summary:
The last few years have seen dramatic advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning — a well-known example is IBM Watson. There are now Machine Learning applications that track and evaluate worker performance over thousands of workers. When new projects need to be staffed, the computers choose the employees … no matter where they’re located (say, Traverse City) because with gig-speed communications, teams and interactions can become location agnostic. Per Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London, “What managers do mostly is identify potential, build teams, assign tasks, measure performance and provide feedback. Generally speaking, humans aren’t very good at these tasks.” Increasingly, players will be chosen by an objective algorithm that will be location agnostic in its choices.
This is great for our residents and community–if we have the internet speed.
Our area’s first Blockchain Boomerang is Eric Bravick. He spent time in our area growing up and always wanted to live and work here. As an engineer and mathematician, he has worked on the design and development of over 50 commercial grade data centers throughout Asia, Europe and North America which have focused on massive data storage, artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency operations and trading. Eric on locating here:
“Returning to Traverse City to run an internet based company has been full of unnecessary difficulties. Given that much of the country is wired, managers of internet companies assume high-speed fiber is available, reliable and affordable, thus making competitive connection to the global business economy a non-issue. Moving to Traverse City, I quickly discovered I had reverted to Cable-Modem world, where speed is limited, reliability is poor and cost is high. It’s really far past time for Traverse City to embrace high-speed fiber throughout our area. The loss of productivity and opportunity is far greater than the entire cost of a fiber buildout for the city when you add up all the stories like mine and combine them.”
Gigabit fiber is not a futuristic luxury, but an absolute necessity for our community. Just like paved roads, water lines and reliable, plentiful power, it is a requirement to conduct business and a basic expectation throughout much of our country. True high-speed internet will not be the one solution that will springboard our economy and attract outstanding companies to grow here. But lack of it could continue to drag us down. Let’s Get It. Encourage and help TCLP to make this happen.