“I already have wi-fi in my office, cable internet at home, and 4G on my smartphone. Web pages load most of the time, and my weekend Netflix binges usually go off without a hitch! Why does our area need fiber internet?”
What is Fiber Internet?
Think of a fiber network as a system of highways in and around a city. Before highways were built, travelers could reach their destination using existing roads; in some cases, commutes to school and work were long. Many never experienced life outside their hometown and it certainly wasn’t feasible to get to a museum or festival a couple hundred miles away. Across the country, designing and building highways that connected to one another improved infrastructure. Eventually, routes were more direct, with higher speeds, and larger capacity. Bringing an expansive fiber “highway” to more cities in Michigan will offer similar improvements, with far-reaching benefits .
The most noticeable benefit of fiber internet is speed. An underground network of fiber cables, each consisting of small, flexible, glass threads surrounded by a protective coating, transfers data from one point to another using light. You can’t get much faster than the speed of light! According to Apple.com, downloading a 2-hour HD movie using an average broadband connection takes about 45 minutes. That same download with a fiber connection takes less than 30 seconds. You can test your current download and upload speeds using M-Lab, a Google partner. Imagine doing things online 100 times faster than you do now!
How will my Business Benefit from Fiber?
Business owners don’t want bogged down networks and distracted employees. However, they like increased productivity and tools that speed up processes. If each employee of a small business downloads multiple files every day, think of the time savings when those data transfers take 1/100 the time. 3 downloads per person, per day at 1 minute per download, times 20 people working 5 days per week results in 300 minutes spent downloading. Let’s assume those employees each get three weeks off work. 300 minutes x 49 weeks is 14,700 minutes or 245 hours per year. Gigabit fiber would make those downloads nearly instantaneous, thereby freeing up 6 weeks’ worth of productivity. What could your business do with that?
Faster and more reliable fiber internet connections allow companies to put critical business applications in the Cloud while not having to maintain servers in-house. Cloud storage saves organizations money by reducing the investment required for equipment, and increasing valuable real estate in your office! There’s also less chance of a connection outage due to a severe storm, or electromagnetic interference from equipment or machinery. In addition, transferring data between physical offices is easier, as increased bandwidth allows more data to be transmitted at once. Therefore, Ralph from your accounting department no longer has to drive a memory stick with large files to your office on the other side of town.
OK, but why should businesses care about Fiber to the Home (FTTH) initiatives like the one in Traverse City? For one thing, because people need to work from home! This is Michigan, and we get some crazy weather. Just in the past year we’ve had multiple instances where staff couldn’t get to the office due to snowstorms, floods, or power outages. Retaining talented employees often means giving them flexibility on those occasions they need to be at home. Fast, reliable internet makes it possible to use Voice Over IP or “soft phones” through a laptop at home, just as if an employee were sitting at their desk. Fiber internet also provides fast access to the software applications they need.
Bring Professionals Back to Michigan
A strong infrastructure, including fiber internet, will encourage highly educated and experienced professionals to choose Michigan as the base for their field jobs. Where feasible, remote employees for companies like IBM and Salesforce are already doing so, living on a lake in Brighton or Antrim county in the Northern Lower. They elevate the communities where they live, bringing business for retail, the trades, and professional services. Furthermore, as Michigan-based companies have hiring needs, these talented people become part of the potential candidate pool.
Growing tech centers throughout Michigan help many startups and second-stage companies make a mark in their industries. Higher-speed fiber internet will attract many of the resources necessary to continue to grow and innovate right here, in The Great Lakes State!