Looking for a New Location With a Fiber Hub? Try Florida’s Lake Nona

CEOs who need big, fast digital pipes—and, increasingly these days, that could be just about anyone—are looking closely at metro areas that can hook them up with 1-gigabit broadband networks ranging from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Dublin, Ohio, to Detroit. But near the Orlando airport, the 11-square-mile Lake Nona development represents one of the single most concentrated areas of 1-gigabit bandwidth in America, and the rapid development of this sunny economic enclave is ratifying investors’ decisions to “build it and they will come.”

The community of about 10,000 residents features Medical City, a healthcare-innovation cluster, and a residential area called Laureate Park that each benefits in big and particular ways from the fast data network that opened for business in 2011.

“We’ve really built a city and developed an innovation ecosystem at the heart of it,” said Jim Zboril, president of Tavistock Development Co., which built Lake Nona. “We’re using technology to connect an ecosystem of people, whether it’s residents or for economic development.”

“We’re using technology to connect an ecosystem of people.”

Lake Nona initially emphasized becoming an education hub with what Zboril called a “robust system” that begins with innovative pre-kindergarten operations. Then Tavistock and its partners set their focus on building a health and life sciences cluster that culminated in construction of the medical school at the University of Central Florida in Lake Nona, as well as a $1-billion Veterans Hospital and a $300-million children’s hospital.

Lately, Lake Nona has pivoted to broadening its economic development efforts to general commerce.

And while there have been lots of elements of success, including what Zboril called a “culture of collaboration” among local companies, major national tech companies, and Lake Nona government, the 1-gigabit backbone has been crucial.

“We built a complete fiber network throughout this property and deliver everything from content all the way to the device,” Zboril said. “We have a company that provides cable, Internet, telephone, security and fiber infrastructure and a company that does installation and low-voltage wiring, so we can influence the customer experience from end-to-end.”

Lake Nona also offers a shared distributed antenna system that ensures 100% reliable cell phone and mobile data coverage throughout the buildings of Medical City, an important consideration “as buildings sometimes become impenetrable by some wireless signals,” Zboril said.

Overall, Lake Nona demonstrates what forward-thinking and determined developers can build around a fast Internet network—and how CEOs and their companies can benefit from such a system.


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