Remember When Fiber Was Rare?

IS YOUR HOME OFFICE LOOKING a bit dated? No satellite linkups for videoconferencing? No broadband cable directly linking you to Kinko’s? Why not move to Celebration, Florida, a new high-tech community of the future, brought to you by the Walt Disney’ Co. and AT&T?

slfvLet’s look at the specs as described by its creators, then try to imagine life inside this “feature-rich communications tapestry.” Celebration, which might be a good name for a new GM car or a Kentucky Derby-winner, is a planned acre community developed by the Celebration. Co., a Disney subsidiary, and serviced by AT&T’s latest fab stuff. Residents will be able to access a variety of online interactive services, such as shopping, banking, and community information.

A “comprehensive, digital, fiber-to-the-curb optical network” will provide voice, data, and video communications in the community. From their homes, residents with technical jobs could, perform such complex, job-related tasks as downloading CAD files. People would even be able to vote from home–a nightmare for politicians who opposed the motor-voter law. Would democracy in the 2 1 st century mean a bunch of slobs lying in bed voting for president?

Here’s the kicker: Through product and services contributed by AT&T, the first 300 Celebration families. will have the option of becoming voluntary participants in a living laboratory. What?! Are we mice (no, not that mouse) 6r men?

Nonetheless, signing up for the lab could solve your current office problems. You can’t beat fiber to the curb, can you? All you have to do is find Celebration, which is not yet even a dot on the Rand-McNally atlas but is said to be “near Orlando”–obviously a fabulous place to entertain clients with children.

I’ve never been a fan of planned communities, such as the James Wilson Rouse-developed Columbia, Maryland, but I do like experiments. In college I was mesmerized by architect Paolo Soleri, who was building a community (Arcosanti) in the Arizona desert. The problem with Celebration is the term living laboratory, which makes it sound as if you’ll be stuck there–like the poor souls who spent two years inside the biosphere.

Now, if you’re talking about a time-share in Celebration, I could, see spending a few weeks a year playing with technology while the sun warms my Northern bones. And, of course, it is possible to live in Celebration without joining the experiment. Eventually, Celebration is expected to house 20,000 people, and only 300 families will be treated as mice.

Yes, you anticipated the next question: What will these virtual mouse people be like? Very difficult to say at this point in time, since the first house is not yet finished (sales begin in November for Spring 1996 occupancy). They could sit inside all day surfing the Net at supersonic speeds. They could be virtual workers whose children can’t get enough Disney. Or they could be Disney World employees who take the monorail to work. Or maybe people who just want to start from scratch with a state-of-the-art office.

Of course, there’s a good chance the whole experiment will just fade away. Telephone and media companies have made it a habit in the past few years to announce pilots of extravagant new delivery systems (I’m thinking of US West’s interactive shopping venture in Omaha, Nebraska), only to pull the plug before anything happens.

In any case, I won’t be there. I’m not cheerful enough to live in a town called Celebration, no matter how sophisticated the infrastructure. If someone were to wire Arcosanti, however, then I’d have to think twice. Just as long as they don’t call it a living laboratory. EeeeeeK!

One Response to “Remember When Fiber Was Rare?”

  • UnitedF:

    Oh Fiber. The dream that never came true. I remember shorting Global Crossing stock made me a ton. It was vaporware – which is really what that first tech bubble was.

    Good thing we learned from that experience 😉

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