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Digital Divide: A Fireside Chat

Digital Divide: A Fireside Chat

Our just-released fireside chat delves into the infrastructure challenges linked to the digital divide. Listen to Dean Nelson of Infrastructure Masons (iMasons) and our Head of Development, Tyson Johnston, as they discuss how Toptana Technologies is working towards overcoming these challenges and bringing connectivity for all.

Quick Take:
  • The digital divide is the gap between those for whom high-speed internet is available, affordable, and accessible – and those for whom it is not.
  • For most of us, every aspect of our daily lives relies on broadband internet and the digital infrastructure that supports it. If you paid bills through your banking app, checked in with family on social media, saw your doctor via telemedicine, or took an online class, it was thanks to digital infrastructure.
  • As many as 163 million people in the US alone don't have access to broadband internet because digital infrastructure isn't available.
  • The solution to the digital divide starts with infrastructure development, which means overcoming tough challenges at every stage – first mile, middle mile, and last mile. 
  • Sustainability plays a critical role in how infrastructure is developed. iMasons, through the Climate Accord, have set strategic objectives to decarbonize digital infrastructure.
  • Toptana is solving those challenges, building a cable landing station with four subsea cable vaults to Asia-Pacific and a backhaul to Hillsboro and Seattle with a strong commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.
  • More info on the digital divide and what Toptana is doing to help bridge the gap can be found in our 28-page, interactive ebook: Bridging the Digital Divide.
Prior to the Quinault Nation's investment in this infrastructure, one household in Seattle, Washington, had more connectivity in one residence than our whole 210,000 acre footprint. And so, after we saw just how poor connectivity and the infrastructure that supports connectivity was, we started making our own investments. - Tyson Johnston, Toptana Technologies

Sustainability is super critical for this…If we're going to build a couple of hundred gigawatts worth of infrastructure, we must do it sustainably for the sake of the planet and our people on it. - Dean Nelson, Infrastructure Masons

Read the full transcript:

Molly [00:00:01] For most of us, every aspect of our daily lives relies on broadband internet and the digital infrastructure that supports it. If you paid bills through your banking app, checked in with family on social media, saw your doctor via telemedicine, or took an online class, it was thanks to digital infrastructure. Most people take this infrastructure and the activities it enables for granted. But as many as 163 million people in the US alone don't have access to broadband internet because digital infrastructure isn't available. This is the digital divide and it is widening disparities between those who can fully participate in and benefit from the modern economy and those who can't. I'm Molly Castelazo for Toptana Technologies and I'm happy to introduce Dean Nelson and Tyson Johnston, who join me for a chat about bridging the digital divide. 

Dean [00:00:56] My name is Dean Nelson. I'm the chairman and founder of Infrastructure Masons. We're a global nonprofit organization of 501c6, which is a professional association. And we unite the builders of the digital age for a better digital future. And that's about 7000 people around the world right now. They represent over $200 billion of infrastructure projects in 130 countries. So it's pretty much the builders of the digital age. And we come together to go after four different things. First is education. How do we go back and get the pipeline filled up with new talent to feed our industry? Second is around inclusion. How do we expand further than the demographics we have today globally? How do we invite more people back in? Because we have a shortage of people to fill the jobs that we've got. And then the third is sustainability. We're focused on decarbonizing digital infrastructure itself because we've got massive expansion happening globally, and we'll talk about that, I'm sure. And then the final one is about innovation. How do we go back and drive the technologies that allow us to do more with less, to be more effective with the work we're doing? And that's everything from generative AI down, you can just imagine. But our intent here is to go back and unite the community because we build the underpinnings of the Internet of everything. If you think about that infrastructure that's deployed, it's what you use every day for almost everything that you do. And so without that utility, it's very difficult for the world to function and for the world to grow and for us to actually level the playing field for the folks that we're going to be talking about today. 

Tyson [00:02:32] My name is Tyson Johnston. I'm a citizen of the Quinault Indian Nation, as well as head of development and chairman of the Board for Toptana Technologies, a recently tribally chartered enterprise under the Quinault Indian Nation. The Quinault Indian Nation is a treaty tribe, meaning that we're a signatory to a treaty between the Nation and the United States. So the Quinault River Treaty of 1855, which was later ratified as the Treaty of Olympia in 1856. And what that did is set up a federal trust relationship between us as a sovereign Indian Nation and the United States. And so at least until then, we've had formal government to government relationships as well as co-management and stewardship of our natural resources. As we've kind of moved into the modern area, tribal Nations like ours have looked towards modernizing our government structures and doing Nation rebuilding to allow us to remain competitive and provide better health outcomes for our tribal citizens. And that includes digital sovereignty and technology advancement. And so Toptana Technologies is a subsea cable company bringing ocean fiber to the Washington coast. We've not seen any landing here since 1999. And so, moving into that space since 2017, we also have a backhaul network that we're building right now that will get us to the data center campuses in Seattle, Washington, and Hillsboro, Oregon. And so really excited to continue to build relationships in this space and build an enterprise that has a mutually beneficial endgame, which is to not only bring connectivity to our communities, but bring better service to the unserved and underserved in Washington State. 

Molly [00:04:17] What is digital infrastructure and what role does it play in our lives? 

Dean [00:04:21] Whenever you use anything that is delivering an electronic service, you're going over a network that goes to a data center that actually is processing on a compute server and storing on some storage device. And that traversal is basically digital infrastructure. So when it leaves your phone or other device, it hits a tower, it goes over a fiber, hits repeaters, goes into a carrier hotel, which is routed over to a data center, which is now a compute cluster. If you think of all that, you use this every day, whether you're doing TikTok and watching videos to using PayPal back to anything with QuickBooks like all of those are running over this network and this infrastructure. So it is an absolutely mission-critical component of everybody's lives. 

What's interesting in this is that we have capacity concentrated in very specific areas. So this is the Americas, EMEA, across APAC. But we have disproportionate capacity in these areas. So developed nations, etc., have a lot more digital infrastructure than other places that are emerging markets. Now, the reason that we brought people together is that back in 2016, I really wanted to get a lot of my peers into a conversation around our industry itself because there's a lot of very well-meaning, purpose-driven, incredibly talented people in the industry. But how do we come together to actually compound the impact? And so that's why we said, let's unite the builders of the digital age across these four pillars. And that's actually worked out amazingly well. It's again, it's structured as a 501c6 on purpose. It is led by the members, right? The insights, because we care about the people and the work that they do and they don't lose continuity if they change jobs. Very specific thing here. It's about them, right. And they work at these amazing companies and they contribute to those companies. And then their career is what we want to basically leverage their experience or their expertise. So the founding of Infrastructure Masons is around that. And that was again on April 2nd, 2016, and the growth has been pretty phenomenal. 

I've literally the last three months gone to three different continents and had meetings with people all over the place. But what I find interesting is the trends that we're seeing. The top ten challenges, while they're maybe a little different regionally, there's a lot of the same challenges everywhere. And Tyson, what your story is about your nation, it repeats all over the place, just change the name and change the people. And the same challenges exist. And what's interesting is it's the same stuff in the United States that it is in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It still comes down to, as you said, connectivity. Do you have the network? You have to have those things, or else things don't grow. It's like not having water in a field. It's going to die out. You need to have that resource to be able to make that stuff expand. So we're very, very focused on the people within our industry and expanding that, but also the efforts that enable both education and connectivity for the world. So how do we go back and get access to those people in the right places and make sure that there is actually digital infrastructure to allow them to participate in the digital age? Because if there isn't, they can't. It's just a fact, right? Just like you don't have a power plant, you can't get work done. You need power in an area. You need network in an area. You need digital infrastructure to be able to enable all of these opportunities. 

Molly [00:08:07] As many as 163 million Americans and billions more people around the world don't have access to high speed Internet. Tyson, talk about how the digital divide impacts the Quinault community and why you founded Toptana Technologies. 

Tyson [00:08:24] Absolutely. I really appreciated how Dean framed his remarks. Luckily, the Nation had been moved towards, from a policy level, looking at the advancement of technology and digital infrastructure as a mission-critical element to governance, to way of life, education, public safety. We had luckily started to acknowledge that importance just from other issues we have providing essential governmental services to our people, prior to the pandemic, but under the pandemic in those conditions, it was severely exacerbated. So having to almost overnight convert our workforce to telecommuting, education became almost exclusively online, which was very difficult to do in rural locations like ours. And just in general, we live in a very depressed region. And the Quinault Indian Nation, we're the largest employer, the largest purchaser of goods and services in this area. But as we move forward in time and try to remain competitive in industry and government and services, it's increasingly impossible to do without the digital infrastructure to support it. And so right now, our principal villages are on the Quinault Indian Reservation in Washington State. It's around 210,000 acres. And prior to the Quinault Nation's investment in this infrastructure, one household in Seattle, Washington, had more connectivity in one residence than our whole 210,000 acre footprint. And so after we saw just how poor connectivity and the infrastructure that supports connectivity was, we started making our own investments. The tribe was able to put together a microwave network to provide some level of service to our communities. We connected a fiber backbone to our reservation that was just off of our lands because a lot of times when you look at Indian lands or Native American reservations, it's a totally different land jurisdiction structure. And so a lot of infrastructure, water, electricity, transportation, what have you, it stops just short of reservations because of this kind of complex, no man's land that exists on the regulatory level. And so we had to work through those issues. 

And after learning about the industry, we're just at this point now where if it's not going to be the Nation who will make this investment, you know, make our communities more resilient, we don't see that happening any time soon. And that's where Toptana was founded under those principles. We want to bring infrastructure, new infrastructure into our state. At the first mile and middle mile level to service our needs, but also provide that as a resource and an opportunity to our surrounding communities. It's very maxed out right now and there's just a need in the industry for route diversity, redundancy and just new network paths. And so that's what Toptana is bringing to the table is opening up that opportunity here on our coastline, but also bringing those services to our backhaul network, to the community that will connect us from Ocean Shores, Washington, and out to the I-5 corridor. And so it's really built on those principles that we want to bring digital connectivity for all. We want that to be seen as a necessity and a utility and no longer as a luxury. It really is just a needed element for every day way of life. And for Native people in particular, we're really sensitive to other issues that technology gives us more resiliency around, being on the coast. We're especially susceptible to climate change impacts, sea level rise. And so we've been looking at smart cable technology and how that will better inform our fisheries management practices and tsunami preparedness. Native people have some of the worst health outcomes of any population on the planet, and so getting diverse medical services here through telemedicine opportunities and all of those types of ventures are really going to be life changing game changers for a lot of our people. And that's what the mission or the heart of Toptana is as much as it is a business and being a new provider for subsea connectivity, we also want to bring meaningful quality of life changes to populations that are otherwise very vulnerable and overlooked extensively.

Molly [00:13:09] Sustainability is one of Infrastructure Masons' core pillars. Dean, talk about what the organization and its members are doing to ensure sustainability in digital infrastructure. 

Dean [00:13:20] Yeah, absolutely. We have a sustainability committee and strategic objectives around what we can do to decarbonize digital infrastructure. And one of those is called the iMasons Climate Accord. And this ties right back into what we're just talking about. We currently have 7 million data centers around the world. Locations with their own unique street address, 7 million independent locations. They have 105GW of capacity globally. That's capacity built for us to consume. This is UPS generator type capacity that's in data centers. And then the digital infrastructure today consumes 594 terawatt hours of energy. That represents 2.4% of the global energy draw. And the reason I say this is it's kind of a baseline of our industry. As I said, as you traverse that network and you go through all those components, it's consuming energy in all these different locations. Those 7 million locations, right. That represents 2.4% of the total energy draw across the world. So us as an industry, while it is smaller, it is still sizable and super important. And as we start to grow, because the forecast right now is that generative AI and that wave is going to triple this. Triple. Over the next decade. And if you look at DigitalBridge's forecast, in the next five years, 38GW of additional capacity is going to be represented by generative AI workflows. It's just insane the amount of growth that's going to be happening. So sustainability is super critical for this because if we don't go back and actually build this sustainably, we're adding to the problem. And when I say sustainably, that means how do you build net zero target infrastructure day one. 

Sounds impossible, but it actually isn't. And the reason for that is somebody's Scope 3 is someone else's Scope 2. And so if you think about the supply chain and everything we're building, we structured the Climate Accord to focus on this in three categories: materials, equipment and power. Because there's carbon associated with all three categories. Materials is concrete, steel, copper, everything else to build the buildings. And the structures to be able to house the equipment, which also has its own embodied carbon footprint from the sourcing of the minerals back to the devices being created to actually be deployed within a data center. That's just to get to the point where that building full of equipment can actually do something. How do you decarbonize that? That's an embedded carbon footprint. That's scope three. So you can do that with things like there's a company called Blue Planet Systems, and they are basically taking the carbon emitted from natural gas, the flare-off aspects of that, they're sequestering it in aggregate and creating concrete from it. It is carbon negative concrete because you're taking what would have been emitted, capturing it, sequestering it in aggregate to now build buildings that will be around for 50 years. It's those kinds of philosophies or approaches to say we have to think with sustainability in mind to address the actual materials of building these massive things. Secondly, how do you decarbonize the infrastructure? When you're actually building products, the equipment itself. And this goes back to energy. So if I have renewable energy that's enabling me to go back and smelt steel to be able to now create these products, I certainly have decarbonized at the source because I'm using renewable energy to be able to do this. So the equipment itself can have a lower carbon footprint and then it goes down to the power consumed in the data centers for it to be done. And Molly, I'm going into a little more detail here, but this is the strategy we go after because, my God, if we're going to build a couple of hundred gigawatts worth of infrastructure, we must do it sustainably for the sake of the planet and our people on it. So we have a duty, I think as digital infrastructure leaders to lead the way in this expansion. And that's what our community is really focused on. So there's the need, the demand, the growth, but then there's the process and the effort to actually build this in the right way. 

And the other thing that people I think misinterpret is that if I build sustainably, it's going to cost me more. All right. I have a tradeoff I have to make. I'm going to build this, but I'm going to pay more for power. I'm going to pay more for concrete. I pay more for this. Not if you're actually having a unified effort to build scale infrastructure to be able to do it. We see this with our partners around the world. They have come up with a better mousetrap. They've come up with a better process. They've optimized the supply chain. They've actually invested in ways to go back and decarbonize that supply chain. We've got to leverage those things and drive that behavior. So I think that we have now over 250 companies associated with the iMasons Climate Accord. They represent $6 trillion of market cap. These are insane numbers. When you think about the total combined value of these companies, that's a lot of buying power. And if you can focus them in on a strategy, you can move the needle. So it doesn't matter if it's subsea cables to landing stations, to data centers, to the equipment inside of them. All of them have a part to play in how we decarbonize digital infrastructure. And so, Tyson, when I look at what you guys are actually landing, right, how do you go back and now make sure that as we're growing with partners inside of that area because you're going to need data center infrastructure. You've got a landing station, that's the beginning. To participate in the digital age you need the ability to participate via compute, storage, GPU across that network, which means that each thing that goes into those areas needs to be sustainable. Well, leveraging things like the iMasons Climate Accord you can now have that day one. And I'll tell you, with the Infrastructure Act in the United States and the sustainability agenda, there are dollars that can be applied to the development of infrastructure that achieves those goals that can accelerate what you're trying to accomplish. Tyson, which is to take an underserved community, develop its capacity and let it participate in the digital age. There are government funds that can align everything I just talked to that will enable that to be accelerated and achieve all of our goals, which is to have a carbon free future that can grow everybody. I feel like I'm on my preacher's pulpit. But I really believe in all this. This is super important. 

Molly [00:20:07] Toptana is demonstrating that sustainability and development can go hand in hand. Tyson, talk about Toptana's approach to environmental stewardship. 

Tyson [00:20:17] Absolutely. And again, I just really appreciated Dean's remarks. I feel like when we talk about these issues, it always behooves me to talk about the values of tribal Nations in general as a primer. So when we engage in practices, government practices, business practices, anything we dedicate our energy to, it's our tribal mindset and teaching that we look seven generations into the future. So when we establish an enterprise like Toptana, it's not just with a profit-for-the-sake-of-profit, very short vision. We're looking 100, 150 years into the future and what kind of a world, what kind of resources and what kind of opportunities we are planting the seeds for in our future generations. And that's just a central point of how the Quinault Indian Nation does its business and how other tribal Nations, our relatives, do their business – and also, inherently, the goals of Toptana. That commitment to stewardship and sustainability and, being a coastal tribe, we've had a lot of opportunities come our way that we've denied. We don't get behind extractive industries. We don't tend to jibe with things that we view as unsustainable or risky to our natural systems that we steward on behalf of our people. We're an ocean navigating people. We're a fishing people. And making sure that we're also taking care of and giving voice to our ecosystems that can't speak for themselves is just absolutely central to who we are. 

And so being kind of new to this industry, learning terms like ESG and I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh at it, it's just to me, those are very indigenous concepts that I think are being repackaged into a newer form, which is good. And I think, moving the needle forward is what our interest is as well. We totally see the effects of all the carbon that's in the atmosphere, the rising temperatures and being on the frontlines of that. And so for us to engage with this industry, it's absolutely paramount that we also are adding our voices to that conversation about decarbonizing spaces and influencing the industry as a fledgling company and a Native American owned company into spaces where we've typically not walked before. And that's been a pretty exciting part of this journey. And even meeting people like Dean and other folks that are interested in these issues has been really refreshing because we didn't know going in if we'd find our comrades. I think that collective way of thinking, thinking as a community, thinking collectively as an industry, how do we influence the supply chain, the best practices, those are all things that I think that we should do. And having native people and tribal Nations at the table to talk about our lived experiences, our history, our culture, our science, and bringing our science to bear to these spaces is going to be absolutely critical if we do want to see meaningful change to address the decarbonization of this industry, but also how are we creating a better future for our citizens that will ultimately inherit this work that we're building for them. Everything we do is inherited by our children, and so that's what Toptana is really centered on. And what the Quinault Indian Nation, any enterprise or any venture we get into, it's with that mind towards how we prepare for the next seven generations and thinking in centuries instead of the next ten years. So I also feel like I just got on my pulpit. 

Dean [00:24:28] Amen. Hallelujah. I love what you just said, the seven generations. Right. And that it's inherent in what your entire culture has been built upon. It's sustaining the future. And what's interesting about ESG is it is a corporate packaging of these things – it's environmental, social and governance itself. But if you look at what we just talked through, there is the environmental piece (what do we have about carbon?). But the social component of this is so critical because as you build out infrastructure, you need to make sure you're not leaving people behind, local jobs, other things. So the social aspect of that, the impact within a community as you build out infrastructure. The other thing that we've found and really in these tours I've been doing is that, you know, the industry is unknown for the majority of the world, yet all of them use it. 

And so there really isn't an understanding of what it is. Molly asked me at the beginning to define what it is. Well, the world needs to understand that when you pick up this phone to do something, there's a lot of stuff behind it that makes it work. But it has to live somewhere, right? It has to be powered by something. It has to be managed by people. It has to be refreshed over time. And so, how do we go back and make sure that as we build these things out, the local community has a voice into it? Because I think that your shared insights, your experience, Tyson, you just walk through. Just imagine in that region, in that area, being able to talk to the tribal councils and others about what else we should understand and know. And as you start to build that infrastructure, what does it mean to the local community? What would be a value add that could be combined with the deployment of. Because it's not just about giving access. It's about enabling that growth over time that isn't at the cost of something else. If we're going to build power plants, if we're going to build data centers, we're going to trench fiber, we're going to start to put those things in, what does that mean to the local community? And we have some concepts around this, around a social accord that we're exploring right now, which is how do you marry the local community with the digital infrastructure community to create a win-win so that everybody can participate. There are so many pieces to this puzzle. I just love the fact that you think further ahead than anybody in the industry that we have right now. By the way, seven generations, the furthest I've heard is 100 years. And everyone was challenging that. Chris Crosby at Compass Data Centers, he goes "Why do we build data centers for ten years? We should be building these things for 100 years and we should be planning to reuse them, refresh them, because why would we tear them down again?" Right? But seven generations, like, what does it mean to my kids' kids' kids' kids. You get that mindset. Boy, that's a totally different way of looking at it. That's a truly sustainable perspective.

Molly [00:27:33] Toptana's focus to date has been on the network infrastructure underpinning Internet availability. Tyson, paint us a picture of that part of the digital infrastructure system. 

Tyson [00:27:46] Absolutely. And so the way to think of Toptana is in three major elements. We have our fronthaul network. So, in the near-shore environment, we're developing a fronthaul network that subsea cables can connect into with the fronthaul connectivity network up to our cable landing station. So we have a CLS/IBX there in Ocean Shores, Washington. And then from there, we have a 79-mile backhaul route that goes from Ocean Shores, Washington, providing backhaul network connectivity from our cable landing station and out to the I-5 corridor. We will then connect into another network we've acquired that gets us to the data centers in Seattle and south to Portland, Oregon, and Hillsboro, Oregon. And so what Toptana is operationalizing is that fronthaul and middle mile network connectivity, as well as bringing a cable landing station to Ocean Shores with the thought that this will ultimately lay the groundwork or foundation for an ecosystem of new opportunities to come here. So Dean's point is spot on: we want to see cloud storage opportunities, other technology opportunities coming to this region where it otherwise wouldn't because that infrastructure is not there. So having a cable landing station there to kind of lay the groundwork can lay a foundation for a new ecosystem for the industry to kind of build itself around us is what our goal is now. And we're looking forward to that and are hoping to see that kind of happen over a phased approach over time

Molly [00:29:25] What challenges has Toptana faced in developing the cable landing station and backhaul networks? 

Tyson [00:29:32] I'll give you a couple of things. We're new to this industry, so we've done our due diligence and worked through many years of feasibility and other avenues to kind of get us to where we're at today in development. But there hasn't been any landed cables here [in WA] in over 20 years. And a lot of that is because the regulatory framework isn't there in the state. So we're having to do a lot of workshops and government to governments as well as updating regulations. So from a regulatory standpoint, we're able to bring these things to shore safely and address concerns and follow all the appropriate laws and codes. And so that's been kind of a steep curve, but something we have worked through pretty well up to this point. A lot of it's also been public education, getting folks aware both locally and regionally of what it is we're doing. Because like Dean said, we all depend on digital infrastructure in some way, but we don't really consciously connect the dots about all the ways we connect. And so that's been kind of a big part of our campaign, just the public education and getting folks aware and thinking more about the bigger picture for how information services gets to our phones, our computers, our TVs. But I think in the immediate future, it's really been the regulatory issues and continuing to work through those. And as we kind of pave the way through this, in the future I'm hoping this will be a much easier process for not only Toptana but other folks that want to do similar activity in the state. But right now, it's just kind of getting through these hurdles and making it within that kind of timeframe that's reasonable for the industry players that are bringing these very expensive infrastructure projects to our shores. But also being able to work within our timelines and following the appropriate laws and regulatory structures that exist. 

Molly [00:31:38] Dean, as you think about building the infrastructure that will bridge the digital divide, what are the top challenges you see? 

Dean [00:31:45] Tyson touched on a few of them. I would say the number one is, do you have a network? It doesn't matter where in the world if you don't have a network connection, you can't get started. So that's kind of the core. And, you know, I was just in Nigeria and South Africa. Nigeria has no cloud in the country. If you think about the largest city is 23 million people, which means that they have to traverse all these different areas to go down to South Africa. It's a small amount of capacity or to Dublin or to Sweden or something else to be able to get cloud capacity and that limits businesses, that limits opportunities, it limits all types of things. And similar things, Tyson, where they have a limited amount of capacity on the subsea cables and things they've landed. But, you know, Lagos has that now. There's a new cable, a new Google cable, that landed within Lagos. And that has dramatically increased the capacity. And I use this analogy a lot. You think of a freeway system if you have this going all across the country, excellent. You can have people reaching wherever you need to, but if you don't have an off-ramp to a local community, to a city, to a small metro, everybody passes them by. So this is a very interesting comparison here, that the people that we're trying to go back and actually lift up don't have the means to actually get on the freeway or get off the freeway, or others to visit in that area. So it all comes down to: you have to have connectivity. So that's first. 

Second is you have to have power. There's got to be some type of availability to power to now enable this digital infrastructure to grow. And so if you think about around the world right now, in the developed areas, like the largest data center market in the world is Loudoun County in Northern Virginia. Loudoun County has over 2000 MW of capacity. It's the largest data center deployment in the world. Everybody who's everybody is there. Yet they have no available capacity. There's no more power left. In the largest data center market in the world. And it's not because they can't generate the power. It's because they don't have the transmission lines that can actually get through people's backyards to be able to deliver power to where it needs to be. So when you think about the power generation and the roots and where that goes. So Tyson, specifically, I think within your area, thinking about your seven generations, what does the growth look like and how do you do master planning, at a city scale, but also in a region, to make sure that you can attract these types of things? So I would say that, again, network and power. 

[Thirdly] is the government alignment with incentives or tax abatements or, you know, trade free zones or something else that will attract the businesses to come there. There has to be a structure in place that allows people to understand, first off, on the government side, it is valuable to invest in programs that will attract digital infrastructure, companies and infrastructure. Right? When you do that, that starts to now boost up all the other opportunities. And the beauty of this is when you actually start to land these data centers and the infrastructure, they don't actually consume the natural resources that people do. Roads, schools, fire departments, etc. They basically say, I'm building up infrastructure for everyone to consume, but I have to help invest in the other ones for the roads and things to come in. But the first jobs that go in data centers are small. It's a ten megawatt data center with maybe, you know, 10 to 12 people in it, maybe 20 people over multiple shifts. When you think about the second, third and fourth tertiary jobs that come out of that, this is everything from the hotels that the people stay in to the actual restaurants they eat at to the rental car agencies that they get things from. Like all of that is local income. That's not necessarily attributed easily to what digital infrastructure investment looks like. But I will tell you, the most valuable return to local residents has been in Loudoun County. Their taxes have gone down. Right? Their cost of everything has basically gotten better because of these major investments that have gone on. Yet master planning has a limitation on what they can do. So I would say that is probably the top three things that each area that is trying to figure out how to participate in the digital age needs to consider. Because if you have those, you can attract the companies and it will tell you one man's loss is another man's gain. So if you think about the loss, these areas that have these really high concentrations but cannot actually expand, the companies have to go find other places to do it. Where are they going? They're going to go to the places that have those three things. If you have those three basics, you will attract the expansion. And remember, digital infrastructure could be tripling. It's got to go somewhere and it doesn't matter where in the world – the US, Europe, LatAm, Canada, Africa, all of them have the same challenges. It still is, 'I need to build something somewhere and I need to make sure that I have the resources to be able to do that. And the tie to the community there to make sure that happens.' That's my perspective. 

Tyson [00:37:15] One thing Dean said too that made me think about additional things on the government alignment piece in particular. There's been historic investment we've seen in the past few sessions for technology infrastructure coming out of the Biden administration. A good portion of those resources has even been protected for tribally led funded projects. But I think getting that government alignment to be flexible and meeting the unique needs of regions is important. We've seen a lot of that investment typically go towards last mile development or use and adoption type of programs versus new infrastructure, middle mile infrastructure. And so I think also on that government alignment piece underscore it's so awesome that we're seeing this kind of historic investment occur, but we need to ensure that we're also developing new infrastructure and prioritizing those types of developments in mind with some of the other purpose areas. Because that's really what Toptana's been in that space but not really seeing the majority of the investment going towards new infrastructure and have been more for those last mile fiber to the home elements which are absolutely important. But there's still that need for new networks, new infrastructure to plan for the needs of today, but also that explosive growth that we foresee happening in the industry, like what Dean talked about with generative AI and other things on the horizon. 

Molly [00:38:58] If you had a one-time-use magic wand, what would you do to bridge the digital divide?

Tyson [00:39:05] My wish would be that the buzzwords that we have adopted today, like Internet for all, Connectivity for all, is realized. But not in that we're just seeing communities connected, that we're seeing the talent, the workforce be developed locally. That's also part of Toptana's dream too; we want to ultimately see our workforce be trained and be educated in these different STEAM fields as well as trades, opportunities to access good living wages in jobs that are sustainable and will bring new opportunities to this region. And so I think having a magic wand where we get to that point where we have proof of concept, we show people that this is a good place to do business. Tribes are a necessary part of the equation and a good addition to the industry and advancing our shared goals. I think that's  the type of magic wand I'd hope to find. Unfortunately, we don't live in the world of magic. We have to create our own. And so I think having opportunities to have discussions like this and talk with people like Dean and putting our collective magic together is how we're going to get there. And I get really inspired by the folks I've met in the industry so far and the relationships we've been able to build. And I hope that Quinault Indian Nation and Toptana gets to play a role in bringing that diversity and that uniqueness to an industry that's very important. And it's honestly quite necessary for our way of life and how we foresee living it as we advance and grow over the next 20, 30, 40, 100 years out. 

Molly [00:41:05] I love the way you describe that, Tyson. We don't live in a world of magic. Nevertheless, I will ask Dean the same question: if we did live in a world of magic, and because I think it's a useful exercise, what would you wish for to bridge the digital divide?

Dean [00:41:25] Tyson, you might be a wizard. You just have to think like Harry Potter. So I would say my magic wand would be that we have digital infrastructure in place that levels the playing field for everybody to participate. Because I will tell you, it is so incredibly inspiring to me to watch what happens when you give education and connectivity to people because whether it's – my mom and I build schools in northeast the mountains of India – what's happening in Africa, to what's happening across India, all of a sudden you have a whole bunch of people that can participate on a global stage because of the Internet, because of connectivity, because of tools, because of technology. It's not that, you know, like the past. So I think we do have some magic we can yield here as Tyson was saying. That magic is infrastructure. And that magic, when you sprinkle that pixie dust on people, they create amazing things. But we got to make sure that we're aligning all of the different elements together to be able to make that happen. And that is, I keep thinking of the people, planet, profit aspects of this. We've got to pull the people in, and we have to make sure that we can do things sustainably. But we have to connect the governments and make sure that they understand the economic models that make that prosperity happen. So there's this trigger of digital infrastructure that allows us to be able to now level the playing field and have everybody participate.