Infrastructure Advantages in Florida
Florida meets present demands and future needs with a diversity of fuel sources.
Orlando, Miami and Tampa are among the nation’s “Top 30 Most Wired Cities,” according to Forbes’ 2009 rankings based on high-speed connections, Internet access options and Wi-Fi availability.
The Florida Consumer Choice and Protection Act, which took effect in July 2009, is expected to change the telecommunications landscape in Florida, and that makes incumbent telecommunications providers happy. ”We’re delighted with passage of the bill,” says Marshall Criser, CEO of AT&T Florida. “We believe it accurately recognizes that we have a very competitive telecommunication situation in Florida.”
Prior to passage of the legislation, Florida’s telephone companies had complained that they were at a competitive disadvantage with cable companies, whose phone services were not as greatly regulated by the state. By eliminating most state regulations on the phone companies, Florida’s new law is expected to provide a more balanced and competitive business environment. “We understand that our customers have a choice,” says Criser, “and if we don’t meet their needs, then they can go somewhere else.”
The new law also expands existing “lifeline programs” that give credit to low-income customers. Potentially, this could mean another half-million people in Florida will be eligible for cheaper rates. In addition, as demand for wireless broadband services grows, the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) is working to tap into some of the $7.2 billion in federal stimulus money set aside for developing and expanding broadband services to rural and underserved communities.
Florida is famous for its sunshine, but in preparation for those occasions when the skies do darken here, the state’s utilities routinely inspect their systems and test them for reliability. In addition, they “harden” much of their infrastructure on a regular basis by installing storm-resistant utility poles, clearing vegetation and beefing up communications and recovery plans.
On the electricity side, Progress Energy Florida invested $98 million in 2009 to strengthen its system; it also has a plan to mobilize thousands of employees, who otherwise have different responsibilities, to help in restoration efforts in a 35-county area. Likewise, FPL has committed $200 million to hardening its system, and TECO invests $20 million annually to keep its equipment secure.
Since June 2008, Verizon has invested nearly $190 million in efforts to toughen its Florida system, including construction of 87 new digital cell sites, 85% of which have their own on-site generators, and new, expanded fuel tanks to keep communications flowing.
AT&T has spent more than $500 million nationwide on its Network Disaster Response (NDR) program, which includes more than 150 technology and equipment trailers that company officials can rapidly dispatch anywhere in the U.S. when disaster strikes.
And many in Florida’s private sector are taking precautions. A 2009 survey by e-Rewards Market Research for AT&T reveals that nine out of 10 businesses in Miami, Orlando and Tampa have business continuity plans in place; nearly half require their suppliers and vendors to make continuity plans, too.