Fiber optics program could make for a "tech savvy" Ottumwa

The city of Ottumwa wants the community to be involved in a long process that could very well improve the economic, health and educational atmospheres of the town.

Next week, a consultant named Craig Settles, a fiber optics and broadband expert out of California, will be conducting a needs analysis for the area to determine what is needed in terms of broadband capabilities.

So what is broadband and fiber optic technology? Settles described it as a railroad track. The more advanced the technology, the faster the train moves down the track. Or another analogy, imagine filling up a kiddie pool. Slower technology would be akin to filling it with a garden hose, while broadband and fiber optics would use a fire hose.

Ottumwa would like to use this technology to become "tech savvy", as well as attract and grow our local economy.

"What's going to take place in Ottumwa over the next couple of weeks is a process of explaining to the people what broadband is, what the various benefits are, give them a sense of all the other communities that have built or have partnered to build or have created non-profit organizations to build broadband networks," Settles said over the phone at a press conference Monday.

Each community has different needs, so the analysis is the first step in identifying Ottumwa's technology needs. The community is invited to town hall meetings to learn more and participate in the process, which will be both exhaustive and ongoing.

"It's very important that people in the community understand that this is a journey that we're going on together," said David Barajas, Executive Director of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation. "So we want - every step of the way - we want community to be a part of this, so when they come to the town hall meetings to listen to Craig, he'll be very explicit in helping people understand broadband, fiber optics, the definitions of them, what other communities have done, what we hope to do. It's all going to come down to what the community wants. It's really a community project to help us talk about and understand what both our short-term and long-term goals are."

No matter if your business or employer will prosper because of the broadband, or if you only use the Internet to send e-mails. Like a domino effect, the advancements will eventually affect everyone. And Barajas emphasized that even if you don't know anything about fiber optics, or don't think the improvements will affect you, it's still important to attend the meetings and learn.

The project will not happen all at once and requires the cooperation of several entities within the community.

"You can't just build the infrastructure and 100 new businesses will be on your doorstep," Settles said. "There has to be some sort of coordination between the chamber and the economic development corporation and local government and a number of other stakeholders, who in essence, make up the community."

The town hall meetings open to the public will be held in the City Council Chambers at City Hall Wednesday, November 28 from 6-7:30 p.m. and Thursday, November 29 from 9:30-11 a.m.

One-on-one meetings with Craig can also be scheduled on those same days. For an appointment, call 641-682-3465.