Housing real estate deals may not start with the question about broadband availability in the neighborhood, but it appears they may stop there if the answer from the realtor staring at their own toes is “uh, no.” Wonder if you saw an article by Ryan Knutson in the Wall Street Journal, which ran in the last week of June titled “How Fast Internet Affects Home Prices?” Nothing in there was a shock but Mr. Knutson’s well-written examples were striking.
The question is a no-brainer these days. Would you press control-alt-delete on a deal if the home you were considering was in an area with no Internet available or was shaky at best? More folks are. Or at the very least it appears to be a valuation factor. The Journal’s Mr. Knutson notes a study released in June by researchers at the University of Colorado and Carnegie Mellon University which found that the availability fiber-optic connections can add as much value to a $175,000 home as a fireplace or half a bathroom (though the study didn’t specify which half).
We often speak to groups in the towns within which commZoom™ will be upgrading Internet service, and prospective burghs where we might someday, about conversations we’re having with the fine folks tasked with economic development in their markets. A business considering relocation to their towns may not open with the question about Internet availability in a community. But you can put your money down on the fact that it’ll among the first three or four. If the answer to that question is something resembling a mumble, they’ll move on, full stop. Businesses know better. They just aren’t going to set up camp in a place where a $.49 stamp or text message is as good as it gets on the communication and research scale. We exaggerate but you get the point. There are places where you can cobble together some bandwidth. But as the number of devices, the people using them and the many uses proliferate in our scene today; you need a bigger hose coming into the homes and businesses to make the technology work. Cities that don’t get on board with the technology requirements and capacity will be left behind economically.
The Wall Street Journal’s Mr. Knutson mentions broadband as one of the features that is clearly starting to become more of a pivotal factor in the decision making process as to where to live and what to buy. Indeed urban areas have more access to high speed Internet than rural areas. To start with, the prospect pool looking to relocate businesses or looking for homes in smaller communities isn’t as deep. We obviously need to capture each and every opportunity that we can. We always say that broadband availability is just the entry fee now. It is the key that unlocks the door to education, healthcare, telecommuting, positive population growth, talent retention, research and all under the big umbrella of economic development.
There will have to come a day when the answer to the question about bandwidth availability in smaller towns and neighborhoods across the country is “duh”. There is still much work to be done.