I’ve been working on a future-oriented economic growth program with the US Conference of Mayors and we have identified Chattanooga as a location to demonstrate some of these ideas because it has, by far, the largest and fastest deployment of fiber in any metro area in the US — enabling every home and other building to have a gigabit connection.
This story is a bit more technical that what I’ve previously shared. That said, I’ll link to some definitions for you non-technical readers — I promise, this one is going to be worth the extra effort. However, a bit of technology is required in the telling — so please bear with me.
Let’s step back in time. The first transoceanic cables used copper wire as the conductor that carried signals between continents. Unfortunately, the technology at the time was such that the cables were extremely bandwidth-limited and could therefore support a very small number of simultaneous conversations.
Furthermore, the physics of metallic transmission dictated that the transmitted signals would decay over distance, making it necessary to amplify and/or regenerate the transmitted signal periodically. This was costly, and required additional circuitry to filter electromagnetic interference and increase the signal level every few thousand feet.
When Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea for Web browsers, he really only wanted an easier way to access information on the Internet. He wasn’t planning on rewriting – and more important, simplifying — the rules by which information is exchanged and business is transacted.
Now apply that same concept to broadband Internet access.
An increasing number of countries already have national broadband plans, including Australia, Sweden, Morocco, Malaysia, and the United States. These networks are being deployed because, as we discussed in the Economic Incentive for Telecom Infrastructure Investment, they bring myriad advantages to their countries — and the citizens that apply them in everyday activities.
In Jules Verne’s 1869 novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine cruises past the first transatlantic telegraph cable. The book was published only three years after the first successful attempt to lay the undersea cable and was as wondrous at the time as Verne’s story. It connected New York and London and transmitted eight words per minute.
Businessman Cyrus Field first attempted to connect the two continents in 1858. He made five more attempts before he was successful, though it almost bankrupted him in the process. As historian Gillian Cookson said in a PBS documentary, “It was really a tool of commerce and a tool of news agencies. But because information could be passed so quickly and news could travel between the continents, [it was] revolutionary.”