Lack of fiber in Northfield’s economic diet

joel_cooper_krlx.jpgBack in April, we did a show on Northfield’s ultra high-speed broadband infrastructure with guest, Joel Cooper, Carleton’s Director of Information Technology Services. I think we should do another one, as municipal constipation may be setting in.

Earlier this week in the the Strib: College debuts Internet so fast, it almost gives you whiplash

Preparing for increased convergence of technology and media, Century College in White Bear Lake opened a new technology center featuring lightning-fast connections… He said the school developed the Kopp Center over the past five years with the idea that television will eventually be Internet-based and that as the Internet expands there will be more desktop video, more Internet TV, more bi-directional education, and so on.

There was also a Strib article in July that included info on fiber/ultra high speed: Should cities play role in providing Internet?

sBurnsville wants to make sure inadequate, high-cost Internet doesn’t slow growth, said Council Member Dan Gustafson. “We’re very focused on the medical technologies in Burnsville, and fiber is going to be very important for that industry.”

fiber.gifApple announced its TV/movie distribution service this week (BW article) following a similar Amazon announcement recently.

So what does all this mean? I think it means that the City of Northfield should examine more closely how ultra high-speed broadband infrastructure can help it achieve two of the three main strategies that are laid out in the recently approved 2006 economic development plan:

  • 1) Diversifying Northfield’s economic base
    The targeted industries include medical: “Healthcare/medical. Industry activities that range here and from direct patient care to diagnostic services to medical research.” If Burnsville sees the need for fiber for its medical technology industry, shouldn’t Northfield?

  • 3) Attracting and retaining talent
    Isn’t it likely that the college students we want to retain and others we want to attract would be enticed in part by the benefits offered by our fiber infrastructure? In the Dallas suburb of Keller, in Tampa, and in Huntington Beach, California, Verizon is rolling out FTTP (fiber-to-the-premises) for local customers “… as it can make applications like video chat and conferencing, digital movie downloads, and interactive multi-player games a part of their daily lives.” See Verizon’s FIOS website for more.

It’s time Northfield got serious about these developments. (Blandin is having a conference in October: Next Generation Broadband. City officials should attend.) Nothing has happened with city-wide wi-fi since the NDDC held a forum on it many months ago and I fear nothing is going to happen with fiber. (Yes, I’d like to see fiber brought to Northfield Crossing since I’m going to be living there next spring. Plus, I think it would help them sell more condos in this current real estate downturn.)

I plan to visit an upcoming EDA meeting and make my sentiments known. In the meantime, make your sentiments about this issue known by attaching comments here.


  1. Ross Currier said:

    Hey Griff:

    I’ve attended a number of EDA meetings where the topic has been discussed. I think that there are really good intentions in the group.

    However, I think that a small group of motivated individuals, with a mix of the technologically sophisicated and the economically enlightened, needs to pursue a vision of this potential resource that values community access over private profit and advocate vigorously and repeatedly for the realization of this vision, NOW, if anything is going to happen before we get left behind by progress once again.

    Those articles in the Strib should have been about Carleton College, St. Olaf College and the City of Northfield.


    September 14, 2006
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    That’s good to hear, Ross.

    So maybe Northfield should follow the lead of Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Eagan, and St. Paul and set up a high tech task force to study the issue and make recommendations?

    September 14, 2006
  3. […] At this morning’s EDA meeting at City Hall, members had this item on their agenda (see page 6 of the packet pdf on the Sept. 28 meeting page): “The EDA will review the draft agenda and purpose of the fiber network task force meeting.” Carleton’s Joel Cooper was invited to the table to give an overview. And I was allowed to contribute a couple of comments. I reiterated the points I made in my Lack of fiber in Northfield’s economic diet blog post about this two weeks ago about “Attracting and retaining talent,” especially college students who’ve graduated; and the City of Burnsville’s push for fiber as a means of supporting/developing their medical technology industry. So I’m thrilled with this development and delighted that Locally Grown’s own Tracy Davis is leading the initial charge. You rock, Tracy! […]

    September 28, 2006
  4. Patrick Enders said:

    Any progress on the possibility of wiring the city with fiber optic cable? If we want to open opportunities for new businesses, this seems to be a good thing to do.

    September 9, 2008
  5. Who should pay for this? Unlike roads, which have a fuel tax to help cover costs, the internet culture is actively blocking efforts to collect taxes. Its as if we all had ATVs that we were driving everywhete without roads. Where would the wil to collect from these users to build roads come from?

    The old “build it and they will come” mantra just does not cut it when the “they” are used to free service and seem to be used to using “Other People’s Money” to pay for what they think is important. Down that path lies bankruptcy, and we have plenty of politicians promising that.

    September 9, 2008
  6. Patrick Enders said:

    Just offering up a possible way to encourage business. I don’t know which is best, and I do not know the costs and benefits.

    It seems that most businesses get a start these days by getting some kind of a perk, benefit, or ‘bribe’ to locate their business in one town instead of another. One option is to buck this trend, and see what comes our way through pure capitalist market forces. My guess is, not much, because other towns are more than willing to subsidize those businesses.

    If we are going to spend money recruiting busineses to our town, I’d like whatever we try to be the best darned bribe-for-our-buck we can get.

    My question would be, is this a good one, or are there better?

    September 9, 2008
  7. kiffi summa said:

    On the agenda for last nights council meeting was an item for council to approve a feasibility study for “fiber to the premises”… this means to the street addresses, business and residential … as a city utility. This is only a study/survey to see what the appetite is from the local residents.

    This had been postponed from the 8.18 meeting because Dixon Bond asked for more documentation on why the lowest bidder was not awarded the contract.

    It was pulled again last night by Jon Denison who asked that six items be pulled to shorten the agenda, as the chamber is a polling place and the staff had to set up for that and then be back by 6 AM, this morning. When asked about the advisability of altering the agenda that severely, Mr. Walinski said that all the items suggested for removal were time sensitive, and he would prefer to leave them and deal with them efficiently, and set an ending time. The council’s vote prevailed, the items were pulled, and when the set time of 9 PM came and went, Dixon Bond pulled two more. The meeting adjourned at 9:23.

    The fiber feasibility study will be on the agenda, for the third time on 9/15.

    September 9, 2008

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