Teleports: hubs of intelligent cities
A recent survey of economic development officials revealed that 87 percent of respondents agreed that information technology and communications are “very important” to the future of their communities. However, only 20 percent are confident that their local leaders know how to make their communities prosper in the Information Age. According to experts in the information technology and economic development fields, the first step for making a community prosper is the creation of a broadband hub or “teleport.” Teleports provide users with shared access to high-speed telecommunications and other services throughout the world. They are vital to performance and delivery of governmental services, from 911 networks to the monitoring and administration of social services. Teleports can attract to cities industries that will prosper in decades ahead. For example, New York City, site of the world’s first teleport, had gone through a wrenching fiscal crisis that brought it to the brink of insolvency in the late 1970s. As a result, the city was not prepared to meet the growing demands of the Information Age. The city’s business and political leaders agreed that information technology and communications were vital to the future of the city’s media and financial services industries.
After years of study, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey decided to invest $70 million to develop the infrastructure for a new, high-tech office park on Staten Island. The rationale was to use information technology to lure tenants to the site, says John Jung, a board director for the World Teleport Association.
If the site could offer something that would allow companies to reduce the cost of doing business and provide them with the right technology, they would use it.
“If a new ‘port’ could be developed outside Manhattan, businesses might locate there to do things they could never afford to do in Manhattan,” says Jung, who is now chief executive officer of CED.
Because it could reduce the cost of doing business, Merrill Lynch built its worldwide data center on Staten Island, following the construction. Telehouse, a Japanese company partly owned by AT&T, built a facility to house and operate mainframe computers and telephone switches for customers. The Teleport Communications Group, created by Merrill Lynch and Western Union, developed the communications infrastructure for the park.
The new company built a satellite “infield” in the park that connected to a master control center. The center operates a fiber-optic network connecting all the new buildings in the teleport park and extends into Manhattan and Brooklyn. Primarily, the infrastructure allows companies to operate their mainframe data centers or have secure sites for servers and vital network equipment.
The Port Authority began to promote the unique characteristics of the world’s very first teleport to businesses that required access to broadband communications. It’s $70 million gamble has paid off and continues to deliver dividends. Today there are five fully leased buildings at the Staten Island site with rent above market rates. More than 2,100 people are employed in new jobs at the teleport, in industries including computer operations, communications, security, building services, back office functions and telecommunications.
The New York City teleport model is being followed in cities worldwide. In fact, experts say there may be as many as 200 of these new ports in existence by the year 2005.