As we’ve noted in this space before, the early part of this century sees our region suffering from a pronounced disparity of a vital utility — broadband Internet. Thousands of households and businesses in this area lack access to a reliable high-speed Internet connection. This threatens to put Northeast Tennessee at a distinct disadvantage in terms of economic development.
Broadband connectivity is essential to lure both businesses and new residents to a community. Without it, many of the new tech generation will go elsewhere. That includes public Internet access — better known as wi-fi.
Public wi-fi is more than an amenity. It’s fast becoming essential in a culture where people work, socialize and play on laptop computers and smartphones.
We would hope officials in Johnson City will take note of what’s going on in other growing downtowns in this country. A few years ago, city commissioners and downtown leaders discussed the idea of wi-fi, but dropped the idea because of cost and technical concerns. With all the good things presently going on in the downtown, we think now is the perfect time to revisit the issue.
Fifty years ago, it was access to convenient parking that drove business development in the downtown district. In the coming years it will be access to wi-fi and other amenities of the digital age that will determine the fate of a city’s downtown.
Public/private partnerships related to broadband connection have proven successful in many progressive communities across this nation. We think Johnson City should join them. The future is here and it is at our fingertips.