Fiber Optic Connectivity in Skagit County Project Telecommunications Consortium of Skagit County
TMC Group was tasked with advising Skagit County on the most appropriate method to invest $750,000 in economic development funds earmarked for fiber optic networking within the County. Fiber optic networks are the backbone for telecommunications services that require broadband capacity. These advanced services include high capacity networks for businesses, high speed connections to the Internet, and alternative providers of cable television or telephone service. Broadband networks may include a variety of copper wiring or wireless services for connections to users, but fiber optics are the most economical, reliable, and stable technology for the backbone.
Skagit County is one of the prime examples of why government participation is needed to deliver the benefits of broadband networks. Although the U.S. has seen a proliferation of fiber optic based network providers, most of them have concentrated on either national (long haul) carrier networks or in the high density metropolitan areas. This is market-based economics at work – there are not enough potential customers in rural areas and too few large customers. While financial markets are not willing to pour money into networks that do not show the promise of an adequate return on the investment, local governments are able to justify the cost based upon measurements other than a direct rate of return. The availability of advance network services provides an opportunity to compete for business growth and attract more affluent citizens that otherwise locate in areas that provide such services. Economic development can also be traced through the secondary effects of broadband networks installed in the local schools, businesses, and governments as the general quality of life is improved.