The Broadband-Driven Economy: How to Plan It, Fund It, Measure It

My annual survey of IEDC members and other economic development professionals regarding how broadband impacts local economies closes Tuesday (April 1), so get on the stick if you’re in the profession but haven’t completed the survey (click here). This year, I’ve changed up a few things to focus more on applications than technology. And as you can read below, I also received some feedback about the role of econ dev pros in maximizing broadband’s benefits.

The first section of the survey asks members to report on the current state of highspeed Internet access in their jurisdictions. The second poses questions about how respondents see broadband being used to impact business development, healthcare delivery and education.

The third section asks them to assess various options for funding broadband networks, and models for communities to own and operate the business of broadband, even if the community isn’t becoming an ISP. The fourth section addresses key broadband policy issues such as facilitating competition and providing consumer protections.

I’m presenting the survey results next week during a keynote session I’m sharing with IEDC’s Chair of the Board, Bill Sproull, at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, TX. In going through the surveys responses so far, I read some of the answers to the open-ended question, “What are two things economic development professionals such as yourself need to do to help the network impact specific outcomes?”

Here’s a little preview of what you’ll find in the finished survey report that will be release right after my presentation in Austin. The following are unedited responses to the question.

  • Don’t worry about gauging results, but more about helping open the doors to experimentation and innovation. If you are just looking for specific outcomes, try coaching a sports team.
  • Private sector lenders, investors, and banks need to better understand broadband business so that it becomes easier to get commercial loans on reasonable terms.
  • Make sure that at the end of the day your community has real competition and at least one fiber-based provider.
  • Help the policy makers see through the telco hype. We cannot connect everyone through obsolete copper telephone lines.
  • a regional/locally derived solution (which is what we are currently planning & developing) will keep the $$$ within the region/state and have a significant impact,
  • Educate the reluctant generation about the potential economic growth that broadband will provide. Repeal anti-competition laws.
  • Help SME aggressively adopt technology improvements. Create collaboration center combined with telework center.
  • Fiber is essential to consistent internet service. We need to stop regulators from saying the cellular service is just as good. It is not. Line of sight is a poor way to provide service.

Complete the survey today. It only takes a few minutes.

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2 Responses

  1. Craig:

    At some point, the city is not really the right unit. It may well be for a while, as it is usually better to deal with regulatory barriers one government at a time. But after a while (noting the Chattanooga experience) it is really better for the network AND the city if a whole region can become “gigafied.” Google Fiber started in Kansas City, KS, but it quickly added KC, MO and then a whole group out of the other 35 jurisdictions in the metro area. I suspect the Austin effort will soon add Roundrock, Cedar Falls, Pluegerville, et al. to cover as much of the Austin metro area as feasible.
    Start small, grow large should be the mantra.

    Rollie Cole, PhD, JD
    Founder, Fertile Ground for Startups, Small Firms, and Nonprofits
    “Think Small to Grow Big”
    Author of WHOLESALE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT http://preview.tinyurl.com/wholesaleeconomics

  2. This is so true. The town I live in (near) Huntsville Alabama is currently investigating the possibilities of how to fund and obtain high speed broadband capabilities, through the municipally own utilities company. The City of Huntsville is the 38th largest city by land area, with a smallish population of 180K, very spread out, making the market realities hard to overcome, but if one looks at the North Alabama and Southern Tennessee combined statistical area a smarter regional plan could be forged. The area is ripe for “smart” manufacturing and fabrication facilities which could be facilitated by high-speed broadband access. But in the absence of a single governing body, for the region it seems the best option would be the formation of a public-private corporation which could spearhead development efforts. Just maybe that is going to be the way many regional ICT hubs will be financed and operated.

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