Ranked #5: Availability of Telecommunications Services
The companies that rated AVAILABILITY OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS as very important in Area Development's 2006 Corporate Survey realize that those communities setting ICT trends are more attractive locations than those just reacting to these trends.
Dan Gatti, Innovative Capital Ventures, Inc.  (Jun/Jul 07)
In the latest Area Development Corporate Survey, availability of telecommunications services was rated at 88.3 percent. Telecom services have a much greater impact today on our lives and the places we choose to live and work. Let's discuss telecom services in its practical definition, which is Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

In the area of economic development, ICT can provide access to markets and jobs, and promote competition and efficiency. ICT eliminates the barriers of geography and can enable new jobs, wealth creation, and cost reduction through many applications not even defined yet. Ten years ago, who would have thought that eBay could create e-commerce business around the world selling all kinds of products and services - even used jeans from someone in Alabama to someone in Poland.

In the area of human development, ICT can help to improve quality of life for the individual by providing access to education, entertainment, and healthcare. ICT alone cannot make one literate, but it can enable life-long learning and education independent of the limitations of language, distance, age, and physical disabilities. It can permit access to any movie, TV show, music, newspaper, or book instantaneously, independent of location.

Evolution of ICT
Over the last decade ICT has evolved dramatically in response to the proliferation of the Internet, ubiquitous wireless and mobile networks, and the emergence of new data-intensive computing and communications applications. These applications include, among others, high-speed Internet web browsing; wireless networking; high-definition television and DVD players; VoIP-enabled products; sophisticated Gigabit Ethernet corporate networks; portable media players that are able to play both audio and video; cellular handsets that act as a camera or camcorder, handle e-mail and surf the Internet; and mobile TV and game platforms and other wireless-enabled consumer electronics and peripherals.

This evolution has also changed the ways in which we communicate. Consumers and businesses continue to seek faster, more cost-effective ways to receive and transmit voice, video, data, and multimedia to and throughout the home, the office, and the mobile environment. We can now access and communicate information via wired and wireless networks through a variety of electronic devices, including personal desktop and laptop computers, digital cable and satellite set-top boxes, high-definition televisions, handheld computing devices such as personal digital assistants, or PDAs, and cellular phones.

Worldwide spending on new telecom infrastructure is expected to rise to $240 billion in 2008, up 19 percent from 2005. The most recent phenomenon is video; a greater proportion of that spending is expected to be plowed into accommodating capacity-hogging Internet traffic like video. What are the new business applications utilizing video? I don't know, but I bet some 13-year-old somewhere is already dreaming up another Google business.

The impact of video on telecom adds another dimension to bandwidth. The new video files can be clunky and costly to handle. A typical Internet video file eats up 1,000 times as much bandwidth as an average e-mail message. And while sending 100,000 e-mails costs a telecom company around 20 cents, transmitting 100,000 low-resolution videos costs around $15, and sending 100,000 high-definition movies costs around $10,800, according to Infonetics Research.

Communities That Focus on Information Access
What does this mean to site selection and attracting economic growth? It means economic development agencies must become fully aware and creative to make their areas stand out as innovation centers of expertise. They must look at the strengths and weaknesses of their geography and how to promote public-private collaboration.

It is also time to redefine community libraries. One hundred years ago there were few public libraries. Until Andrew Carnegie made it a worldwide mission, a library as a "public good" was not widely acknowledged or acted upon. Today, it is estimated that global public spending on libraries is in excess of $40 billion and that the United States spends more than $12 billion annually in support of libraries. In the 21st century, since much information is likely to be digital and accessed via the Internet, it seems appropriate that some amount of annual library expenditures should be set aside from public funds to enable digital access to information and knowledge.

The emphasis and focus needs to be community collaboration - where local colleges, universities, business, and government help stimulate innovation from within. Why not fund some bright new graduates and provide incubation facilities in a municipal building to create a "start-up" alley in the local community? If a community already has incubator facilities, is it creating forums to bring in thought leaders who can stimulate creative thinking and innovation, and share best practices from other geographies in the area of ICT strategy development and planning?

Seldom will geographically dispersed communities share best practices with one another. Therefore, it is important to identify unbiased third-party entities that can advise on ICT strategies, companies a community might want to attract, seminars and symposiums it might want to run, and technology areas it might want to encourage incubation around. Proactive leadership such as this makes the difference between those locations reacting to ICT trends and those setting them.

Innovative Capital Ventures, Inc. (www.icventures.net) provides thought leadership in the area of helping communities develop a proactive ICT strategy that will create jobs and improve quality of life. Services range from keynote presentations to strategic development and planning.