Waterways of the Information Age
The obvious restated at risk
A blog post by P.T. Withington sparked a water-cooler conversation with Bret Simister and Sarah Allen about the notion that access to the Internet is analogous to proximity to a waterway in prior ages.
Once upon a time, locating on a river or coast was crucial for access to a steady flow of information, goods and services. Owners of such sites enjoyed enduring prosperity. The Internet serves this role today. And the faster the connection to this digital waterway, the greater the flow of information, goods and services. These notions seem rather obvious, given the general recognition of the importance of broadband and the common use of geographic metaphors when discussing the Internet.
Yet some deployers of 802.11 WiFi access points essentially want to improve their own land, and convince strangers to pay for it. Most of us would only co-invest in property improvements in exchange for a share of the return. Otherwise, property owners should be content if their efforts increase foot traffic, a common measure of retail property lease value.
The merchants of Newbury Street in Boston, wittingly or unwittingly, endorse a new variation on the first rule of real estate (‘location, location, location’). They can not relocate alongside a river or coast, but they can offer a substitute with similar virtues. By bringing complimentary WiFi coverage to their street, they provide in reality what rivers today only imply — ready access for all to information, goods and services. This simple act accomplishes for them what it has done for all trade centers — it makes their vicinity a better place to do business and to live life. Will they be surprised if greater prosperity follows?