Embracing Broadband: The Future of the Internet in San Antonio

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"The Future of Broadband Internet in San Antonio" took place Wednesday evening at Geekdom. Photo by Miriam Sitz.

Sitz-2014Last night, a panel discussion on the future of broadband internet in San Antonio took place at Geekdom, a collaborative coworking space. Matthew Manning served as moderator, beginning the night with the pithy but true reminder: "High tech industries will go where high tech industries are supported." Broadband internet is one of those required support systems.

Assistant City Attorney Gabriel Garcia set the scene, describing the background of the broadband internet issue in San Antonio. Thanks to foresighted construction by City-owned CPS Energy, San Antonio has an extensive network of fiber optic running throughout the city, but it's mostly "dark" or unused.

Host Michael Manning with panelists former councilwoman Leticia Ozuna, district 8 councilman Ron Nirenberg and Wayne Wedemeyer (left to right). Photo by Miriam Sitz.

Host Michael Manning with panelists former Councilwoman Leticia Ozuna, District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Wayne Wedemeyer (left to right). Photo by Miriam Sitz.

Government entities such as schools, libraries, hospitals and public housing facilities could dramatically increase their connectivity and data and information exchange by tapping into this network. In Austin, the Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network (GAATN) has helped over the last 20 years to usher in the type of significant telecommunications development that San Antonio, too, could experience.

As Randy Bear explained earlier this month on the Rivard Report:

(Former Councilwoman Leticia) Ozuna learned about the unused fiber capacity and immediately realized the potential value of making the network available throughout the community. Ozuna worked with city staff and community leaders to put together the initial framework for the San Antonio Area Broadband Network (SAABN), unveiled a year after her appointment in February 2013.

Former Councilwoman Leticia Ozuna, creator of SAABN and cyber security analyst. Photo by Miriam Sitz.

Former Councilwoman Leticia Ozuna, creator of SAABN and cyber security analyst. Photo by Miriam Sitz.

"I don’t like to think that having access to technology is going to be an accident for the next generation of kids," she said, calling her own professional success serendipitous in light of her humble beginnings.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, a leading advocate of SAABN, spoke to the ability of widespread broadband access to level the playing fields. "It's pretty clear if you look at a map of broadband access that it tracks with socioeconomics," he said. "There is a great digital equity argument to be made."

Wayne Wedemeyer, GAATN chair and University of Texas director of telecommunications, has spent much of his career deeply entrenched in the capital's internet goings-on and answered many questions on the more technical aspects of broadband while also describing the economic advances that such systems offer.

NOWcastSA streamed the entire panel discussion, which is also posted to YouTube:


 

Miriam Sitz is a freelance writer in San Antonio. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz and click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.

 

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4 thoughts on “Embracing Broadband: The Future of the Internet in San Antonio

  1. I’m sure non-profits and companies who work with government institutions can benefit from the infrastructure as well. CodeHS is a good example. If the infrastructure is going out to the public schools and other government agencies then any non-profit or company that is attached to that agency should be able to use it’s resources including bandwidth.

    About the discussion, I cannot view the video. The screen reads “This Video is Private”.

  2. I moved to San Antonio from Tacoma, WA in 2007. I like San Antonio much better but there is one thing that Tacoma did well, that is, form the “Click Network.” The Click Network is a high speed fiber optic network created by the City of Tacoma to provide universal access to high speed internet in the City. The City of Tacoma, after completion of the project declared itself, America’s “most wired city” (we are not referring to the high rate of caffeine consumption there).

    Universal access to high speed internet is becoming a necessity for growth, educational services, business communications and healthcare due to the electronic health record and need be viewed as a basic city utility like water and electricity.

    As a political libertarian, I admit that I am not a fan of big government. Nevertheless, there are certain services that government does best or government regulated utilities do best such as roads, gas, electric, water and communications. Utilities cannot cherry pick neighborhoods where their services are provided and that need include communications. Roads are not just provided to ritzy neighborhoods.

    Currently, there are several broadband providers which provide limited geographic service coverage and one provider with fairly broad coverage but less than stellar customer service and what I feel are questionable billing practices.

    The City of San Antonio should not wait on Google fiber or any private entity to bring broadband to San Antonio but need take the initiative to “wire” San Antonio with a public network.

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