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Next Generation High Speed Networks Symposium Remarks

Remarks, John Hamilton, Next Generation High Speed Networks, Symposium
City Hall, Bloomington, Mar. 1, 2016

Thank you Rick for kicking this off, and for your kind introduction. Welcome all, residents, visitors, the professionals, the curious. I am very excited about this afternoon, and so glad you can all be here, live, and on CATS. I want directly to thank Indiana University, Brad Wheeler, Dave Jent and your colleagues, for the leadership you've given our community, our state, our planet, on this issue, and for being here today. Thanks also to the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation and Lynn Coyne for your support today. We have a terrific assembly of experts ahead.

Our city is 198 years old this year. Over the past two centuries, our predecessors have repeatedly modernized our community - to upgrade, to stay abreast of a changing world.

In 1854 the Monon railroad was brought to town, opening up an isolated Bloomington to the wider world, sparking industrial growth like the Showers company that grew to the largest furniture maker in the U.S., and in whose restored factory we gather today.

Twenty-five years later, in 1879, 29 street lamps were installed, and seven years after that the first electric lights blazed from the courthouse roof.

Another generation later, in the early 20th century, our community installed sewers, modernized a water system, and laid bricks on 70 blocks of streets and sidewalks. Our population doubled quickly, and we saw a new library, a post office, the telephone and a gas and electric plant. In 1910, by the way, in a tense vote we also prohibited the free run of chickens on the square.

The basics were in place a hundred years ago - drinking water, electricity, gas, sewers, streets, telephones, sanitation, rail lines - and we've enjoyed prosperity since. I'll note that one more generation later, in 1939, we bought land for our airport, which operates today.

And we won't review minutes of council meetings or newspaper archives, but you know each decision to upgrade our systems, to adopt new technology, was not a simple one. With voices pro and con. But our long history of embracing the new infrastructure we needed has given us the Bloomington we recognize and love today. And now I believe it's our turn.

The 21st century is a century of digital infrastructure and global connectivity, of a flat and wired planet.

We're here today to talk about our place in this future. I believe that Bloomington's digital infrastructure will play a central role in our quality of life and economic prosperity going forward.

High-speed fiber connectivity is essential for modern businesses, the creative arts, education, health care, basic home life. And world-class connectivity is essential for our community to continue to thrive.

We do not have the digital network we need right now, and we certainly don't have the network we will need in 10 years. For 200 years, we've faced the future with confidence and optimism, and we should do the same now.

This afternoon we'll be continuing and expanding many recent conversations that have outlined why and how Bloomington should move forward. The stakes are high. And it's not a simple matter. One thing is clear: no cookie-cutter approach works everywhere. For Bloomington, I have outlined what I believe are vital guiding principles: Our 21st Century high-speed network should be community wide, community controlled and revenue positive. Put another way, this essential infrastructure can't leave people or neighborhoods behind; it should respect our community's autonomy and self-determination; and it must be sustainable. These are ambitious goals that I believe we can achieve.

Residents of Bloomington, current and future, depend on our doing the right thing here. I think of a small business owner marketing to the world. A musician collaborating with colleagues across the globe. A Phd student pushing the boundaries of knowledge. A government worker managing a smart city system. An entrepreneur focused on a breakthrough. A senior citizen who needs access to the best medical care. A junior high student who needs help with her homework. I see families who want a high quality of life, and we need to help them achieve it.

As Bloomington has been doing for two centuries, let's hunker down, figure this out, and get it done for our city.

Let's get to it. Introducing our first speaker, I won't repeat details in the program. I'll only add Blair Levin has been building serious chops on today's issues for years. In the mid '90s he was chief of staff to the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt. In 2008 he co-chaired President Obama's transition team on Technology, Innovation and Government Reform. And he then led the effort that produced the National Broadband Plan. Blair, we are so pleased that you joined us today, and we look forward to your remarks. Please join me in giving a warm Bloomington welcome to Blair Levin.

Closing Remarks, JH:

Thank you so much Lev for your remarks and to all the speakers and panelists - please join me in a round of applause. Thank you also to the city staff who helped put the event together (Rick Dietz, Mary Catherine Carmichael, Linda Williamson, Michael Shermis, Rick Routon).

Thanks again to IU and BEDC for your consultation, participation and support for this event. And thanks to all of you here in person and via broadcast, for your interest, and I hope future engagement in and support for our efforts.
Today is a beginning not an ending. We have a lot of work ahead. And a lot depends on our doing it well, together.

Three quick items to conclude. First, there will be a town hall hosted by the Information and Technology Department, open to the public, coming up soon. Watch for it, and please join us for more discussion and open dialogue about future plans.

And second, the City will be producing an RFI (Request for Information) by the end of this month. The RFI will gauge interest from prospective partners and evaluate possible business models for high-speed networks. Please look for that, and for those who may have interest, respond to that RFI.

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or reactions, please be in touch with me (, or City IT Director Rick Dietz (

Finally, perhaps most importantly, I hope you will try to join us NOW at a well-earned reception at the Upland Brewing Company, 350 West 11th Street (by the back second bar in the main building) to continue our conversations.
Thank you all; travel safe; and good afternoon.