Last 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.
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.
"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.
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.