Editor’s note: Darren Smith works for the City of Wilson and is manager of the soon-to-open Gig East Exchange, a place for the citizens of Wilson and Eastern North Carolina to come together to share ideas, collaborate and be exposed to limitless opportunities.
WILSON – As things changed overnight with COVID-19, many people were faced with the need to work from home, to work remotely. I watched my fellow city employees mobilize to make sure essential personnel had working laptops with installed platforms to ensure video conferencing and other needs could run on their machines successfully. The team confirmed that supporting the services in our community would not be interrupted.
The Haves and Have Nots
It struck me that everyone in my town will need reliable high speed internet access in these trying times and because the city had the forethought over a decade ago to build a fiber-to-the-home network [Greenlight] to ensure unlimited bandwidth, we do not have to worry about slow speeds or any type of interruption in communication to do our jobs. The need for access and connectivity has rapidly become the norm and we have it; we could have quickly been crippled without it.
I then thought about the many towns and cities across the country that are not as fortunate. That in the blink of an eye, the way we live, work and communicate changed and not having a reliable broadband service, or not having internet all, became not just a problem but a critical one! Many would be left on islands with no connectivity and that is not acceptable.
It’s interesting that in times of trials and tribulations we find clarity, much needed clarity, as to what is important, what is a “want” and what is a “need.”
Growth of remote work accelerating
Before COVID-19 it was reported by GlobalWorkPlaceAnalytics that 2.8 percent of the US workforce was working from home at least half the time. That’s an astonishing 3.7 million people. Over the last decade, the number of work-at-home employees has grown almost 10 times faster than the rest of the working population. These numbers have certainly accelerated, and will continue to grow, as we come out on the other side of this pandemic.
Gig East Exchange
Reliable, fast internet has made location-independent work a reality for many people. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why coworking spaces like the Gig East Exchange in my city are popping up around the country to support these workers. COVID-19 has brought into focus on what better work-life balance means and a new generation of workers might never go back to a traditional office, and they’d probably prefer it that way.
Broadband for the future
This said, I’m again excited that my city has not only built a reliable backbone to support our current needs brought to the forefront by COVID-19, but that we continue to leverage our broadband service to build a strong sense of community. The Gig East Exchange will give entrepreneurs, creatives and remote workers the resources needed to be successful, and in return, they will help Wilson grow even stronger.