The inherent nature of life sciences environments encompasses massive amounts of data coupled with stringent real-time processing requirements. Additionally, the environment often deals with life and death situations and faces heightened levels of privacy concerns making the security of the network paramount. Thus, the absence of such a high-speed, ultra-secure, and interconnected network prevents the corridor from reaching its growth potential.
The absence of the network is best explained by the economic concept of public goods. Given the market’s natural tendency to under provide public goods, that is goods that are “non-rivalrous” and “non-excludable,” because of the rational incentive to free ride, governments ought to step in and provide these crucial goods. In this circumstance, data networks fall into the category of public goods. No individual company in Montgomery County’s life sciences corridor has the incentive to provide the interconnected network to the entire corridor, and history has shown this to be the case. Therefore, the county government must facilitate the deployment of this network to the benefit all the stakeholders in the corridor.
What was the problem?
What is the solution?
To accelerate and fulfill a visionary plan for a vibrant life sciences community in Montgomery County, MD an ultra high-speed, secure, and interconnected fiber network will be built based on a co-op, non-monopolistic utility model. The resulting infrastructure will attract additional investment, new companies, and high-paying, high-tech jobs to the county.
While fiber networks themselves are not necessarily new or particularly innovative, the manner in which the proposed network is funded, deployed, and governed is truly innovative. Montgomery County’s fiber network is best described as a non-monopolistic public utility, much like water, sewage, and electricity. The county will provide the minimum requirements for the network, and more importantly, the governance of the network. The proposed fiber network will interconnect with the County’s own fiber network, Fibernet. For their part, the private sector, anchor institutions already in the corridor, and networking firms seeking to gain a foothold there will fund and build out the network.
The project is at its core a public-private partnership, working with private sector firms in the corridor (Kaiser Permanente, Adventist Hospital, Med Immune, Danac, Lockheed Martin, Verizon, and Comcast, among others), academia (Johns Hopkins, Universities at Shady Grove, and University of Maryland), and the public sector (Montgomery County, NIH, NIST, and the NCCOE).
The ultimate measure of success is the location and expansion of life science firms within corridor. The nearer term goals, however, are as follows:
1) Organize the group of stakeholders so they can speak with one voice
2) Develop the right mix of public and private resources to build the network
3) Deploy the network
4) Focus business development resources (including marketing) to attract new firms to the corridor
5) Regularly engage with the stakeholders to make adjustments as necessary