There's a buzz in the air about Gigabit Internet coming to Charlotte, but not much clarity as to what it will really do for Charlotte business owners. In fact, the timeline for when we can take advantage of it and how it may change our business environment are sometimes unclear. I'm here to offer clarity, hopefully.
This list will guide small and medium sized business owners on what to expect, what they can do now to prepare, and how Charlotte will change.
You will learn the following:
- What will Google Fiber do to competition and pricing for Internet?
- What will Gigabit Internet do to attract tech talent and tech companies?
- How will faster Internet speeds change the dynamics of remote workforce?
- Will Gigabit matter as much for our reputation as things like Sports or Airports?
- What should I do now to prepare and when will I be able to improve Internet speeds?
Gigabit Internet could be a game changer for Charlotte, but details are uncertain. Here are 5 things gigabit internet will do for Charlotte business owners.
1. Google Fiber will improve competition and lower pricing for Internet
Some business owners I work with just want the Internet to work! They don't care how nearly as much as they care if their employees are slowed down or interrupted by bad service. Google Fiber getting so much publicity has been an interesting trigger for business owners to review their current Internet Service Provider (ISP) and strategize about how Internet really affects their business. That's a very good thing! As cloud technologies become more popular, useful, and economical, the one thing that stands in the way of success in the cloud is the Internet pipe to access all your information in the cloud.
My prediction is that Google Fiber will create more supply in the market and thus drive prices down, especially for lower speeds. As speed of infrastructure increases across the board for all kinds of providers, expect to get more speed for less. Predicting the availability of what was formerly high-speed internet to become common place and low priced, we are recommending business owners sign shorter contracts so they can have more negotiation power to take advantage of lower prices on speedy internet. If your small business is still on a T1 its time to graduate to a bigger pipe, even if it isn't all the way up to gigabit speed. Or if your business is getting 5 mb for several hundreds of dollars, it probably makes sense to challenge and get double or quadruple that speed for the same price. With any upgrade right now, sign a 2-year deal as oppose to a 3-year, 4-year, or 5-year deal. The industry is changing (improving?) so fast, you don't want to be locked into speed that will hurt your ability to use the most modern day apps and technology 3 years from now. There will be data intensive internet based software you haven't yet dreamed of riding on that internet connection coming into your building 3 years from now.
2. Gigabit Internet will attract more tech talent to Charlotte
PayPal just agreed to place several hundred high paying jobs in the Queen City. Red Ventures and AvidXchange are a couple homegrown tech campuses that serve customers well outside the Carolinas. Clearly, crown town is on the rise. Gigabit Internet is infrastructure that facilitates our rise and makes large players confident they can commit to large campuses and significant hiring in the Charlotte market. Charlotte already has one of the best international airports in the country.
For a long time Charlotte survived on southern charm and being a financial powerhouse, but with infrastructure now built out and improving daily, look to see Charlotte become known for more than just big banks. Charlotte has the opportunity to be a silicon valley of the East Coast if it plays its cards right. Austin, another gigabit city has proved to be a good model for how to become a regional powerhouse in the tech space. Tech initiatives like HackathonCLT, Digital Summit, CityJam, and more are a welcome sign of vibrant digital culture. Data centers like DC74, Peak10, and Caronet being right in our backyard are also important building blocks to establishing CLT as a hub for information technology on the East Coast. It will be interesting to see if the 17 universities in the UNC school system, especially UNCC can keep up with demand for folks that can write killer code, administer big data, manage networks, and support servers and end user devices.
3. Faster Internet will change how your employees want to work and alter traffic!
Did they widen 485? I remember a lot of orange cones and being really excited to see improvements, but traffic still abounds! We have hundreds moving to the area every week. Traffic will continue to mount. Often city leaders tout carpooling, public transit such as fixed rail lines and busses, or major roadway projects such as widening I-485 or creating toll lanes on I-77, as the main ideas to alleviate traffic. Perhaps, the best way to keep Charlotte from going the way of Atlanta traffic is to take advantage of home based work or alternative schedules. Not everyone needs to be in the office before 9 AM. Some companies might learn that employees, especially Millenials would enjoy starting work a little earlier or a little later than the traditional 9 to 5 grind. Early birds (larks) might hit their desk at 7 AM and cut out at 3 PM to get in a round of golf at a local course or mountain biking and kayaking at the USNWC. For our late night birds (owls) they might really appreciate time spent with a young child in the morning or getting properly caffeinated before hitting a less crowded commute, while still working through sunset. Internet infrastructure improving throughout the city makes working from home way more reliable and realistic. If bosses can get used to checking in with their people via video or instant messages, traffic could be changed in a big way for our city, and employees might have a better work life balance as a result.4. Becoming a "Giga" city will drop the ",NC"
I'm from Charlotte. I'm not from Charlotte, NC. I can't stand when the associated press feels like they have to clarify that Charlotte is in North Carolina, but not that Chicago is in Illinois. Our culture in the Queen City is coming along nicely, our sports teams are legit, and we are home to some of the country's largest businesses. Perhaps, as our infrastructure, including internet, becomes world class, they will drop the ",NC" and give us some long awaited props as a city. Oh look Forbes just tipped their proverbial cap to us as the #9 fastest growing city in the United States.
5. Gigabit Internet will take a long time to install, but business owners must prepare now!
For my last prediction, I'll be a bit more measured. I'm as excited as anyone for Charlotte to become a technology hub. That said, this installation of Gigabit Internet will take time! Google Fiber has not announced any release dates or deadlines for their efforts. AT&T may actually beat them to the punch because they already have such widespread infrastructure in the area. Level 3, Windstream, Comporium, and Spirit are all trying to take ground in the Charlotte area as well. In all, we are talking about a lot of work to be done with physical wires both under and above ground, sub stations, rights of way, and tedious construction. We will have to be patient. When Google Fiber was announced many owners of small and medium sized business wanted to know how to sign up. Well, it isn't that easy, the announcement was essentially Google's vote of confidence that they could work with the city planners to get their fiber into the right areas. They hadn't started any construction at the time of the announcement. They've been at it now for about a year and may continue construction efforts for another 2 or more years before your area is lit up with gigabit speeds. After construction comes a sign up period and then individual address installations.
So what can you do in the meantime?
- Evaluate your current Internet Service Provider
- Look at their price
- Review the renewal policy so it doesn't auto-renew without your knowledge
- Check out their Service Level Agreement (SLA) to see what their policy is concerning acceptable downtime and expectations for coming back online
- Take advantage of better speeds now, but sign shorter contracts
- Think about what services you should be moving to "cloud" based technologies
- Hosted Exchange Email
- CRM and ERP Software
- Accounting Software
- Thin Clients and Terminal Services
- File Storage
We're excited for the future of our city! Gigabit is going to be great, but we've got a long way to go before it is spread throughout our city footprint. In the meantime, we would like to help business owners get prepared for leveraging better internet speeds and navigating the plethora of cloud based resources. If you have questions or would like to have us complete a free review of your Internet Service Provider's bill, click the link below and we will book a time to come discuss this with you in person.
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