Here in Washington, D.C., there's no sense of short-lived relief now that midterms are over and election season draws to a fevered pitch. For months, we've been bombarded with invites to town halls, mailings, calls and commercials of candidates for everything from county commissioner to Senator and city councilor to governor telling us why they deserve our votes. It's a lot to absorb.
And as we head to the ballot box again in November, candidates from all over the country and across the political spectrum know fiber-based broadband is on our minds. Why? To crib and paraphrase another politician: It's the economy.
In Vermont, the winning Democratic gubernatorial candidate pledged deliver fiber optic connections to every home and business in the state. She went so far as to tout the benefits of various aerial deployment techniques on the campaign trail.
The mayor of Huntsville, Ala., successfully ran governor of the state as a Republican, pointing out that under his leadership, Huntsville leased its infrastructure to Google Fiber, which will provide gigabit-capable speeds across the city and eventually extend fiber to every city resident in the surrounding county.
Stumping for his campaign to local news he said, "Roads and infrastructure investment is vital to our growth and prosperity, but we must also be working on and investing in the infrastructure of tomorrow, like fiber Internet service."
In Michigan, a candidate for the Emmet County Board of Commissioners shared his view of how to economic growth in the region: "Past commissioners created a fantastic park system which draws visitors. It is now time to promote manufacturing and tech jobs," said Jonathan Scheel, who lost his seat. "Our partnership with private business to bring fiber connections to the entire county is a first step."
Residents of Sedona, Ark., want to see the city attract remote workers, entrepreneurs and high-growth businesses and asked city council candidates their plans to build Internet infrastructure to support these goals.
"Without Sedona being willing to invest in robust fiber optic, with 1 gig per house, how can we expect to attract world-class businesses and at the same time, world-class entrepreneurs?" one person asked. "This is 2018, not 1998 where it's a luxury to have. We should look at it as a utility. It's something that needs to grow to have a sustainable future, 20, 30 or 40 years in the future."
People vote to support the places they live, work and play. They want to improve the local and national economy, make a living and have communities that are clean, safe and comfortable. That's why governments, communities and businesses recognize the importance of fiber. There are many reasons communities around the country want fiber, but chief among them is because it makes their cities more livable and more resilient, helps build the tax base and brings the promise of new jobs.
These are not empty campaign promises. Our research shows that fiber -- the best, fastest, most reliable and most future-proof way to access quality broadband -- is a major factor in people's decisions about where to live and how much they are willing to pay for those homes. According to RVA LLC, high-speed Internet is a factor for 88% of people deciding where to buy a home, and for 91% of people deciding which community to live in. Similarly, surveys have found that high-speed Internet is the highest-rated home feature for renters -- beating out factors such as soundproof walls and in-unit washers and dryers. And fiber to the home increases home values, adding a 2% to 3% premium to home and condo values. Higher home values mean higher tax revenues for many jurisdictions.
It also turns out that increased fiber connectivity in a community correlates with higher gross metropolitan product (GMP) growth. RVA, LLC found that midsized American metropolitan areas with over 60% fiber to the home connectivity had 64% better GMP growth than that of midsized American metropolitan areas with less than a quarter of homes connected to fiber.
I am pleased to see fiber become a campaign issue across the country and wish all our communities the best of luck on Election Day.
— Heather Burnett Gold, Board Member and former President & CEO, Fiber Broadband Association. Follow her on Twitter @FiberMaven or @fiberbroadband.