National Broadband Plan? Think Globally, Act Locally.

It’s been almost two weeks, and we’ve seen a couple thousand news articles plus an avalanche of blogs on the FCC’s national broadband plan. Heaven knows I don’t want to babble down the same worn paths as all those other folks, so I’m going to come at this thing a little differently than most.

I want to look at this plan from the perspective of the small town, an urban center, a rural county. What exactly does the NBP (we geeks need an acronym for everything, don’t we) do for these communities directly, in some real way that they can touch? More importantly, what can communities *do* (action steps) to derive some benefit from the plan?

There are two main categories of media coverage for the NBP. 1) This document is useless because it doesn’t tackle head on the fact there isn’t enough competition to generate greater broadband adoption, or improve the broadband people already have. 2) This is a nice document that covers most of the right bases and sets us off in the right direction.

In my opinion, the NRP is a boxing license. A what? The NBP is a license for the D.C. forces favoring meaningful overhaul of how broadband is defined and delivered in America, lead by the FCC, to get into the ring to battle policy issues with the forces for the status quo, lead by the incumbents. The 370+ pages in the NBP lay out the arenas in which these rumbles will take place (spectrum allocations, right of way rules, etc.).

Many of these heavy weight policy bouts will have meaningful impact eventually at the local level, but it will be a challenge for communities to understand, follow or influence a lot of these discussions. However, in a later post, I’ll talk about some of the primary policy discussion communities will need to tackle. Aggressively.

It rests on your community’s shoulders

The main NBP take-away for communities is, “if broadband is to be, it is up to me.” Or, to quote an oft spotted 70’s bumper sticker, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Ultimately ladies and gentlemen, as a practical matter, if you want broadband in your community, your community has to collectively roll up its sleeves and make it happen.

There is no magic wand in the NBP that will make broadband appear on your doorstep. In fact the NBP has no plan in the traditional sense for a community to “follow these steps and better broadband will be yours.” You want broadband, you’re going to have to work your ass off for it. You’re going to have to be creative, resourceful and relentless in planning, lining up resources, finding money, generating community support and all the other tasks needed to imitate the success of these and other communities. Make no mistake, you must act locally.

Luckily, a lot of you have built the foundation for moving this ball forward. 2,200 people applied for broadband stimulus money last year. And what, maybe eventually 300 or 400 of these will get funding. Expect smaller numbers for NOFA 2. Still, that means possibly 2,500- 3,000 communities, companies and nonprofits have a dream and the foundation of a plan. Add hundreds of communities that want broadband but stayed out of the stimulus race.

With the Google mania just completed, we find something north of 1,100 cities and towns that submitted an RFI. Many were called by the siren song of gigabit broadband, but very few (with luck, 4 or 5?) will be chosen. But that leaves 1,095 communities with RFIs that also reflect a dream and foundation for a real broadband plan.

If broadband is to be in those thousands of communities, then it is up to people like you to find their way to the promised land. Sorta like this community in Minnesota.

I’m shifting content in this blog from “broadband stimulus” mode to “getting broadband done” mode, so stay tuned. There are many resources online, with MuniWireless.com, Intelligent Community Forum, The Daily Yonder, One Community and Muni Networks & Community Broadband being some of the sites I follow because they highlight who’s making broadband happen. I’ll be highlighting more resources as we go.

I also started a Facebook Fan Page for my new book for those of you readers on Facebook. This page helps you get more value from the book and opens opportunities to network with others pursuing broadband. This week’s focus of the page will be on vision, which is a vital element of any broadband plan if you want it to actually succeed. If there’s one major success Google achieved that most of us can agree on, it’s that they got a whole lotta cities to create visions for what they can do with gigabit broadband.

So, what’s the word, bird? Are you ready to make broadband happen in your community?

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