How Is High Speed Internet Access the Key to Economic Growth?
Question to be Explored through Survey Results, Discussion April 15
March 20, 2003
By: Dave Rogers
Mike Demetriou of Control Room Technologies explains tri-county LinkMBS project
Access to telecommunications and high speed internet is an important issue now and for the near future.
That is the stated premise underlying a regional planning process underway by Bay, Saginaw and Midland counties.
A grant-funded project, LinkMBS, will be explained Tuesday, April 15, 7-8:30 p.m. in the Monitor Township Hall. The "townhall" meeting is sponsored by County Executive Thomas L. Hickner through the Bay County Department of Environmental Affairs and Community Development, headed by Laura Ogar. Results of a survey of high speed telecommunications service in this area will be released at that meeting.
How is high speed telecommunications access the key to economic growth in the tri-county area?
Mike Demetriou of Control Room Technologies, a Detroit area firm, spoke March 19 to about 30 attendees at a Bay Area Community Economic Development Forum at the Elks Club in Bay City.
"We have the Information Superhighway running up here, but it runs right past us," said Demetriou, noting that cable, fiber optics, high speed telephone and electric utility lines all run up the I-75 corridor. "The question is: How do we get these technologies to work together to spur job growth and economic development?"
The answer may be to use none of these, but switch to fixed wireless communication, Demetriou said.
Fixed wireless is digital traffic without wires that is transmitted by regional antennae. It has been used by the military for about 25 years and is an unregulated technology.
A problem for the tri-county area is limited demand. The big providers will make their investments first in populous areas like Oakland County. But even in the metropolitan areas the costs of providing wireless service may be prohibitive. In the Lansing area several companies are banding together to provide synchronous communications, which means the signals can be sent and received at the same rate.
"Any solution can be implemented as long as you're willing to write a big enough check," said Demetriou. "The question is: How can you justify the expenditure?"
The one advantage we have here is that the more rural areas like ours can get federal funding. "This kind of technology would make the tri-county area very competitive," he said.
The newest idea is to send high speed signals over electrical power lines, Demetriou said. This gets away from the problem of wireless, which has to be concerned about "line of sight" communications.In other words, trees, buildings and other objects will interfere with transmissions.He suggested that the tri-county area consider certification of groups which have high speed internet service. This would be a "stamp of approval" just the same as saying every business is close to the airport.
There is no perfect and best solution to high speed telecommunications access for this area, Demetriou said, concluding: "But the community that doesn't pay attention will be last on the list for job growth."