GeoTel and State Economic Development

In most states, the Internet landscape is a patchwork of services, ranging from slow dial-ups to high-speed fiber-optic connections. Gaps in Internet connectivity hamper economic progress, education, public safety and health care. With a statewide fiber-optic network, that void can be filled.

When Maryland launched a 1,000-mile fiber-optic network that linked 1,000 buildings, including public schools, community colleges, police and fire stations and libraries, economic development officials stated more businesses would open or expand thanks to the more robust Internet connections. [1]

Tackling the cost of installing a new fiber-optic network can seem daunting, especially in these tough economic times. What many states don’t know is that there are various funding methods available to lessen the burden. With federal grant money and other more inventive options available, like leasing fiber, the price tag for a fiber-optic network can be greatly reduced.

Using existing fiber virtually eliminates installation costs and time required to lay a new fiber network. GeoTel Communications can help states locate already installed fiber networks, providing a cost-effective solution where the state leases the existing fiber. We also assist states that are interested in designing their own scalable fiber optic network. Our data sets can help a state develop a strategic plan that targets specific areas with diminished Internet connectivity. This encourages efficient installation and deployment of the high-speed broadband network and promotes statewide economic growth.

Additionally, states need a reliable, scalable and cost-effective Internet solution that is nearly invulnerable against disasters. In a 200-page report released by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, it was proposed that governments develop a strategy to ensure that wireless phone and data networks and consumer communications devices can be maintained during disasters. [2] The panel, chaired by Housing and Urban Development secretary Shaun Donovan, stressed that cellular towers, data centers and other vital communications infrastructure are able to function regardless of the status of the electrical grid.  A fiber optic network helps states comply with this report and ensures that not only state services remain functional but that businesses also are operational throughout a disaster.

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Real Estate Companies Benefit From Fiber-lit Buildings

In real estate, attracting businesses is all about the amenities. According to a study conducted by Comcast Business Class, a good broadband connection is the most important selling point in the commercial real estate market, only behind price, parking and location.

A 2012 study conducted by Broadband Choices with the help of property expert Henry Pryor and backed by Rightmove found that one in ten prospective buyers have walked away from properties with bad Internet connections. [1] The study showed that customers are willing to pay more in rent or a higher purchasing price for fiber-lit properties.

It isn’t just big-name firms looking for fiber-lit buildings. Small and medium-sized enterprises, which represent more than half of the U.S. gross domestic product, generate two-thirds of new jobs. When a building has an established fiber optics network, it serves as a significant attraction to companies, both large and small. Additionally, fiber lit buildings cycle faster between tenants and occupancy rates go up.

Fiber doesn’t just serve as an amenity, it boosts value. In 2010, Google spent $1.9 billion to buy a 2.9-million square foot building adjacent to a fiber-optic line for its New York advertising and engineering operations. It was the largest single transaction in commercial real estate history. Of 7,000 commercial real estate transactions in New York City between 2007 and 2013, 40 were data centers and 385 were fiber-lit buildings. On average, the fiber-lit buildings sold for 31% more than comparable, traditional commercial real estate.

Both the benefit and the challenge with fiber optics are that they are buried. It is hard to know which buildings contain fiber and which ones do not. Additionally, ownership of lines is highly fragmented. When a relocating business requires access to a fiber-optic network, the challenge lies in locating it. GeoTel Communications has compiled a proprietary database with millions of miles of fiber routes, 290,000 cell towers and rooftop sites, and 750,000 fiber-lit buildings. Our fiber-lit buildings data set helps real estate companies determine if a building has a fiber presence or optical switches connected to a fiber loop inside the property.

Using GeoTel’s data sets isn’t limited to just locating fiber-lit buildings. Because most business real estate decisions are based solely on price, GeoTel has helped real estate companies locate dark fiber networks that may not be publicly marketed. Being able to use an existing fiber network allows real estate companies to open a new market with a manageable upfront investment. The major attraction of dark fiber is seen in the money you can save over constructing or maintaining your own fiber optic network or the maintenance costs.

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IBM Fiber Optic Search

A $1 Billion multi-year IBM outsourcing opportunity, hereafter called “Darcor”, for an enterprise required the use of mirrored data centers. These centers were about 15 miles apart. The Darcor enterprise already had a privately constructed optic fiber link between the two sites. However, for reasons of resiliency, another path which was physically separate from the first fiber link was required.

FiberOpticCompaniesAretheNewHotStock-300x226The separate path could be attained by either laying a separate private “trench” for a separate backup optic fiber path or finding existing dark fiber that could be purchased or leased between the two sites. The estimate for the private path was obtained. It was in the range of $9-10 million. This seemed prohibitively high and would probably cause the loss of the bid. The second alternative was to find either a private firm with dark optic fiber close to the sites or to find a public carrier that had dark optic fiber close to the sites. IBM realized that each of the Carriers have quick access and knowledge as to whether they have terminations points at the addresses of the sites. However, it is difficult to locate who those carriers are. Nonetheless, a few weeks were used up calling power companies, public and private carriers to no avail. They found no one that met the requirements of the separate path between sites. They were running out of time since the bid was due in a week.

At this point they called, IBM’s Global Services’ Dr. Joe Hawranek (retired), who called GeoTel Communications, LLC, gave them the two addresses and asked them to do a search. They did so and had the first results back within 24 hours. The net result was that a carrier was identified that had dark fiber at both sites and was chosen as the vendor to provide the alternate path between the two and further saved the enterprise approx. $6 million USD, due to GeoTel. As a result, GeoTel has a master agreement in place with IBM over the last 4 years and renewed again in October for another 2, to provide IBM’ers in the comms practice infrastructure data when doing research for their enterprise clients or in preparation for their RFP’s.

Hudson County, NJ Cyberdistrict Planning Study

The high-tech economy begins with local communities. The New Jersey Redevelopment Authority recognized this fact by issuing over $12 million in local planning grants for Cyberdistrict Feasibility studies in thirty communities throughout the state. The purpose of these grants was to identify existing and potential corridors within the state for future high-technology economic development.

data-wiresHudson County’s 12 municipalities banded together and received one of the largest Cyberdistrict planning grants to develop a county-wide planning strategy for the digital economy. Hudson County is the most urbanized county in New Jersey, and is unique in both its proximity to Manhattan’s central business districts and the diversity of its multi-ethnic population. Assessing Hudson County’s readiness for the digital economy proved to be a daunting task, as traditional sources of economic and infrastructure data simply did not reflect the digital reality lurking beneath the county’s streets and roads. To draw a more accurate picture of the county’s telecommunications infrastructure, planning consultants Wallace, Roberts, and Todd of Philadelphia obtained geospatial data on telecommunications infrastructure from GeoTel Communications, LLC ( of Orlando, Florida.

GeoTel is a telecommunications research and GIS mapping firm, which researches and provides data sets in the United States and telecommunications data worldwide. GeoTel’s body of expertise includes leading experts in economic geography, GIS and telecommunications.

GeoTel’s Director of Government and Public Affairs, worked closely with Scott Page and other planners from Wallace, Roberts, and Todd to produce the necessary results for the study. According to Page, “We have never had this comprehensive and accurate a picture of local telecommunications infrastructure. The data we obtained from GeoTel had an enormous impact and contributed greatly to our client’s improved understanding of its competitive infrastructure assets.”