Is Spokane the “Most Wired City” in the World?

More than a decade ago, Spokane promoted its downtown as one of the most wired cities in the nation saying that the downtown area had “more miles of fiber per capita than any other city in the nation“, most of it actually dark fiber at the time the claim was made (and they were still promoting the dark fiber in 2008).

(The key to the claim seems to be “per capita” as downtown Spokane has a population of only 2,133 people as of 2006 -(page 12).)

To this day, several web sites promote the “most wired city” claim, not mentioning that was likely true for a short time near the dot com peak and only for a several block area in the downtown. In 2010, Spokane is not on the Forbes Top 20 list of “most wired cities”.  Indeed, many cities today proclaim themselves as “the most wired”.

Sadly, most of the area not only remained disconnected from broadband Internet but was off line until 2005 to 2007, depending on the neighborhood. For example, my neighborhood did not receive DSL or cable modem service until 2005-2006.  This was common throughout much of the region. AT&T bought the older TCI Cable plant but after five years, had upgraded only 25% of the network to support broadband Internet. Not until Comcast took over did the network build out get done quickly. Qwest was then having some financial difficulties and had to cut back on infrastructure projects (since resolved).

For various reasons, Spokane County residential areas lagged many other cities by years. Yet this nonsense claim of “most wired” was translated into further false claims about Spokane.

Back in the 1990s, the promoters highlighted the Fernwell Building in downtown Spokane, calling it “Downtown Spokane’s 1st Intelligent Building”.  Marketeers gave an area of the town, including that with the Fernwell Building, the name “Terabyte Triangle” with hopes of having a catchy name somewhat like “Silicon Valley” and with a goal of becoming a major software development mecca.

Today the High Tech Centerpiece of the “Most Wired City” is 32% vacant according to the leasing information on the Fernwell Building web site – click on Available Office Space and explore each floor.

Similarly, Spokane is home to SIRTI. SIRTI is a state run economic development agency whose role is to act as a technology business incubator providing guidance and other assistance (good group of people too).  Start up businesses may co-locate in either of two SIRTI buildings.

If their web site information is correct, as of July 2010, perhaps 60% of the square footage of the main SIRTI building is available for lease and approximately 40% of the newer “wet lab” building is available for lease.

It is not encouraging to see the “poster child” centerpiece buildings for local technology having such high vacancies.


2 Responses to Is Spokane the “Most Wired City” in the World?

  1. Pingback: “New” tends to be delayed in Spokane « Spokane Economic And Demographic Data

  2. Pingback: Anecdotal story on the collapse of innovation in Spokane « Spokane Economic And Demographic Data

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