How Loudoun Lost IT
Sunday, July 20, 2003; Page LZ02
How Loudoun Lost IT
The focus of Loudoun Extra’s article on the advertising efforts of Loudoun County ["County Putting the Word Out," July 3] underlines the notion that, due to the dot-com bust, Loudoun is trying to market itself as a culturally diverse area.
While there is some truth to that statement, Extra might do well to interview residents and prospective employers around Loudoun to find another, very real reason why growth has slowed in the county.
Quite simply, Loudoun County has dropped the ball in assuring adequate infrastructure to support a bevy of high-tech employees.
For a county that hosts some of the biggest names in Internet and telecommunications, the fact that it’s essentially impossible for a large plurality of Loudoun residents to get any sort of broadband connectivity cannot be overlooked as a major reason why businesses have slowed their expansion in the eastern portions of Loudoun once so fast to expand.
Verizon has touted the Brambleton experiment in Loudoun, an effort to provide “fiber to the home” broadband connectivity to a new development under construction. Nonetheless, [Verizon] fails to mention that similar equipment already exists elsewhere in Loudoun from failed broadband experiments several years ago, thus making DSL [digital subscriber line] impossible to obtain for most regions. Verizon has done nothing to remedy this.
On the other side of the market is Adelphia, whose financial and legal woes are well documented, but its technological failures may not be. Adelphia is rolling out two-way, high-speed Internet through its cable system. Many Loudoun residents had been told it would be completed in 1999; more than halfway through 2003, the most populated areas of the county are still waiting for access.
Yet all this time, Loudoun County should . . . shoulder much of the blame for attempting to lure high-tech companies into its borders without assuring that proper IT infrastructure was in place to support it, and afterward, not pushing IT industry leaders to roll it out. Companies are realizing that without broadband, employees are less likely to live near the office and that telecommuting is an impossibility.
Broadband has become ever more important in the D.C. metropolitan area, and this has become painfully obvious to high-tech employees “marooned” in the county. Perhaps Loudoun should look to placate existing residents and companies before launching a far-fetched advertising campaign to try to attract more even more disillusioned parties.