Site Selection can be a tricky thing. You spend a ton of time upfront looking for that perfect location. The confluence of dozens of criteria, digging through fiber maps, looking at real estate, income and other state taxes. Even the best laid plans, and most thoughtful of approaches can be waylaid by changes in government, the emergence of new laws, and other regulatory changes which can put your selection at risk. I was recently made aware of yet another cautionary artifact you might want to pay attention to: Pay to Play laws and budget challenged States.
As many of my frequent readers know, I am from Chicago. In Chicago, and Illinois at large “Pay to Play” has much different connotations than the topic I am about to bring up right now. In fact the Chicago version broke out into an all out National and International Scandal. There is a great book about it if you are interested, aptly entitled, Pay to Play.
The Pay to Play that I am referring to is an emerging set of regulations and litigation techniques that require companies to pay tax bills upfront (without any kind of recourse or mediation) which then forces companies to litigate to try and recover those taxes if unfair. Increasingly I am seeing this in states where the budgets are challenged and governments are looking for additional funds and are targeting Internet based products and services. In fact, I was surprised to learn that AOL has been going through this very challenge. While I will not comment on the specifics of our case (its not specifically related to Data Centers anyway) it may highlight potential pitfalls and longer term items to take into effect when performing Data Center Site Selection. You can learn more about the AOL case here, if you are interested.
For me it highlights that lack of understanding of Internet services by federal and local governments combined with a lack of inhibition in aggressively pursuing revenue despite that lack of understanding can be dangerous and impactful to companies in this space. These can pose real dangers especially in where one site selects for their facility. These types of challenges can come into play whether you are building your own facility, selecting a colocation facility and hosting partner, or if stretched eventually where your cloud provider may have located their facility.
It does beg the question as to whether or not you have checked into the financial health of the States you may be hosting your data and services in. Have you looked at the risk that this may pose to your business? It may be something to take a look at!