The Broadband Economy: We’re Not Even on the Map

The Intelligent Community Forum will be announcing its Most Intelligent Community of the Year award in May. The Intelligent Community list isn’t based on Ph.D’s per capita; if it were, Northfield would have a shot at it. No, the communities on the list have been evaluated and ranked based on their deployment of broadband, their development of a knowledge-based workforce, and fostering of innovation, among other things.

Significantly, there are no American cities among the finalists. In the last five years only three American cities have even been nominated, and we’ve never gotten top honors. Rightfully so; we’re way behind the curve in the New Global Economy despite having pretty much invented it.

What’s going on here?

According to the ICF, in the broadband economy, “adaptability outweighs legacy, skills rather than resources are the keys to the future, and innovation, not location, creates a competitive advantage.” Sounds good: Creative Class plus tech infrastructure equals economic strength.

I wish Northfield had a good technological infrastructure. We’re working on it, but there’s a lot of catching up to do. I’m preparing a broadband/tech primer which I’ll probably present to the EDA in February, and when I have that together, I’ll post it here as well, to provide some definitions and an overview of the issue.

This year’s Intelligent Community finalists are:

  • Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Gangnam District, Seoul, South Korea
  • Issy-les-Moulineaux, France
  • Ottawa-Gatineau, OntarioQuebec, Canada
  • Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Some of the notable accomplishments of the nominated cities:

  • 100% broadband coverage through the private sector, supplemented by wireless pilot projects, with 33% penetration as of 2005, and local schools enjoying data rates up to 15 Mbps (Dundee).
  • Wi-Fi covers all public buildings and the entire business district, and according to a recent survey, 89% of the population uses the Internet daily (Issy).
  • By 2005, about 29% of transactions between government and citizens or businesses were taking place via the portal, and tax payments worth US$3 billion were collected online (Seoul).

Read more about the nominations, the ICF, and the broadband economy here.


  1. Nick Benson said:

    Where’s the data to back the claim of Northfield having a remarkably high per capita rate of Ph.D’s? To copy/paste a comment I left on an earlier post challenging the same statement…

    Los Alamos, NM has the most Ph.D’s/capita of any US (perhaps world) city. While I couldn’t quickly locate information on Ph.D’s specifically, census data indicate Northfield’s rate of graduate or professional degree holders is 19.1%, that number is 37.3% for Los Alamos.

    I’m not trying to be hostile or anything, I just need to satisfy the left side of my brain.

    January 31, 2007
  2. Tracy Davis said:

    Nick, since I haven’t bothered to do the fact-checking, please note that I didn’t repeat my possible error which irritated your left brain last time – I just said we’d have a shot at the list.

    January 31, 2007
  3. Nick Benson said:

    I think I was getting at the fact that the number of Ph.D’s in Northfield might be “normal” when compared to other college towns, which after looking up some more information looks to be the case.

    Ph.D specific data isn’t available for all areas, so I’m using statistics for graduate or professional degrees from the US Census Bureau. I am assuming that the percentage of Ph.D’s in that demographic group would be fairly uniform. I also found that Los Alamos isn’t the highest 🙁

    College/University/Research Towns – Population % w/ Graduate/Profressional Degree

    Stanford, CA – 64.9%
    Ann Arbor, MI – 39.4%
    Cambridge, MA – 38.5%
    Los Alamos, NM – 37.3%
    Madison, WI – 20.9%
    Northfield, MN – 19.1%
    Norman, OK – 16.6%
    Rochester, MN – 15.5%

    I guess I would conclude that, yes, Northfield is “smarter” than average (US: 8.9%, MN 8.3%), but I wouldn’t boast about the Ph.D / capita rate, as it doesn’t appear to be significant. Of course, it can be rubbed in the face of Dundas (6.7%), Dennison (2%), Faribault (4.4%), and Farmington (4.2%) 🙂

    Of course I can still be proven wrong if anyone get get hard Ph.D numbers…

    February 1, 2007
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    A quick infusion of FTTP and we’ll be on that list in less than 5 years. We might even win. Go Tracy!

    February 3, 2007
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Strib:

    Finish the on-ramp to a fiber-optic Net

    Building codes in Loma Linda, Calif., require fiber connectivity to every home and business. Officials there have figured out that true broadband, which is available only through a fiber-based backbone, will attract companies that work in areas like telemedicine, finance and data-intensive organizations.

    Windom, Minn., population 5,000, has invested $12.5 million to provide fiber-based broadband to every home and building that’s willing to pay a modest monthly fee. This community has bet the farm that being among the first rural communities to offer a world-class information infrastructure will not only persuade residents and businesses to stay, it will attract new residents and businesses.

    February 5, 2007
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    And in yesterday’s NY Times:

    Wireless Internet for All, Without the Towers

    Peter Bell, a research analyst at TeleGeography Research in Washington, said fixed WiMax would not be able to compete against cable and DSL service: “It makes more economic sense in semirural areas that have no broadband coverage.”

    An intriguingly inexpensive alternative has appeared: a Wi-Fi network that is not top-down but rather ground-level, peer-to-peer. It relies not on $3,500 radio transmitters perched on street lamps by professional installers but instead on $50 boxes that serve, depending upon population density, more than one household and can be installed by anyone with the ease of plugging in a toaster.

    Meraki Networks, a 15-employee start-up in Mountain View, Calif., has been field-testing Wi-Fi boxes that offer the prospect of providing an extremely inexpensive solution to the “last 10 yards” problem. It does so with a radical inversion: rather than starting from outside the house and trying to send signals in, Meraki starts from the inside and sends signals out, to the neighbors.

    February 5, 2007

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