TOLLHOUSE -- Imagine your home
being equipped with video on-demand, with technology that allows you to watch
your child play in the neighborhood daycare center, with an interactive community
billboard that lets you make reservations at the tennis court. Imagine an entire
town imbued with the idea of community and connectivity rolled into one.
The Property Development Group is
creating a new project that it calls an e-Village because it
will support future growth of telecommuting and faster technology
access. A historic Sierra mountain community is about to be reinvented.
It is in the Sierra foothills above Clovis and will combine the various
communications wires and lines that supports the new media modern
communications links, like broadband and virtual private
The e-Village is a partnership involving
Nortel Networks, California State University at Fresno, Chawanakee School District,
Edison Utility Services, Sierra Foothills Public Utilities District, Cal-Trans,
and Property Development Group.
The idea is to unite all of the remote local Chawanakee
School District and the tiny town's businesses with Fresno State University
through high-speed Internet connectivity. For example, letters from the schools
can go out to all parents in the community electronically rather than by regular
mail. Nortel will provide the network infrastructure for the homes, replacing
the multiple connections for cable television, telephone, fax and broadband Internet.
One of the advantages is that the whole community
is known to be broadband-capable and will be likely to use it, since the
project is going to be marketed to telecommuters and will offer features like
virtual private networks (VPNs) for connecting to work networks. "Twenty percent
of our workforce telecommutes," said Greg Marrow, director of portfolio
solutions for Nortel, in Boston, Massachusetts.
"If we had those capabilities in cities where we
have a bulk of our employees, it would be an option we'd look at as well," Marrow
stated. An entirely wired community also means localized services. Much like France's
Minitel system, e-Village does business-to-consumer commerce
and broadcasting local events, like school sports.
"This e-Village is being touted as a telecommuting
village, so all of the infrastructure associated with telecommuting will be there
for every resident for that community," said Marrow. "It's unlike broadband access
today, where you don't know who has access to high-speed connections.
In Madera a full-scale new e-Subdivison is
already in the early stages. Ground will be broken in the June/July time frame
and the first homes there should open at the end of the year. Houses are expected
to start at $110,000. Property Development Group has not selected an Internet
provider yet since the project is in an early stage, however, AT&T Broadband has
been available in Clovis and Fresno for some time, courtesy of MediaOne,
which AT&T acquired in 1999.
Opinions on this option are mixed. Emmy Johnson,
principal analyst with Synergy Research, thinks itís a natural fit for
new homes. "It makes sense that they are going to start offering this, as Internet
access is becoming so ubiquitous," she said. "One thing that might be beneficial
is there would be ports throughout the house to make it more movable, so you don't
have access in (only) one room."
But a Silicon Valley realtor says the
home is still a family place, not an Internet place. "I think it would
be a great thing to have, but will it make a difference in selling
homes? No," said Rita Pelache, with Alain Pinel Real Estate
in Saratoga, who has helped new arrivals to the Silicon Valley.
"Buyers still care more about floor plan and living, especially people
with children. The main concern is still square footage, price and
location, location, location."