Importance of owning our broadband | Guest Column

Local control of fiber-optic network demonstrated by Internet outage  - Contributed photo
Local control of fiber-optic network demonstrated by Internet outage
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Mark Anderson

Special to the Journal

I was asked during a panel discussion last week (Nov. 13) to name the strengths and weaknesses of the San Juan County economy.

The strengths were obvious: our islands’ isolation and beauty. Our weakness was even more obvious: in a word, CenturyLink.

Every rural county in America is facing a similar challenge today: how to provide increasing Internet bandwidth to its citizens. And every CEO of every monopoly telephone and cable company sees this question from the opposite (Wall St.) perspective: how to minimize investment, and maximize return on assets.

For San Juan County residents, there are really only two choices: go with our own cooperative, OPALCO, or trust our communications destiny to the monopoly. We’ve now seen what happens in the latter case. If one understands the importance of broadband, and experiences the result when this utility is driven by monopoly behavior, there really is only a single choice.Mark Anderson

Why does broadband matter? It is the enabler of essentially all business and communications. It will be the connection that allows seniors to live longer at home, it will be how we buy and sell, it will allow us lifelong learning, it will let us work at home, or have island businesses with off-island customers.

If you consider that essentially all money made in the county originally comes from outside of the county, and that broadband is the primary path, then it becomes obvious that the economic health of the county depends upon it. From vacation rentals to real estate sales to construction to tourism – and, most important, to the creation of new local businesses – bandwidth is the great enabler.

Residents of San Juan County have likely realized by now that they do not have the luxury of putting their health and well-being into the hands of a remote monopoly player. But they do have the terrific opportunity of owning their own destiny, by supporting the OPALCO cooperative as it works to find a way to provide us with the utility services of the 21st century.

— Editor’s note: San Juan Island’s Mark Anderson is found and CEO of Strategic News Service, offering daily updates online about global business and technology leaders and their achievements.


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