The Sorry State of Broadband Competition – And How to Deal

In my 12 steps to move a community broadband project to successful completion, I put heavy emphasis on the needs analysis process. You can’t create the network that’s best suited to meet constituents’ needs if you don’t do this particular task well. But part of the assessment involves understanding the provider marketplace. “It sucks!” may seem 100% accurate, but it’s not a particularly complete analysis.

Assessing what communities need requires understanding what options they already have – or don’t have – to meet those needs. At both the national and the local level, getting a detailed picture of existing service providers and their market share, coverage areas, actual speeds and so forth has been difficult, if not impossible. Yet we must soldier on as best we can.

Whether you create a public-private partnership, convince a telecom company or service provider to offer better broadband or build a public network, this is a business venture. Business ventures require market intelligence.

Last week, data services company ID Insight and I released a high-level report on broadband competition in the U.S. It uses critical, but not private, data pulled from Internet transactions to determine service providers’ market share for each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Then we did some fancy statistical footwork to create a standard by which we can measure and rank the level of competitiveness between states.

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Moving the Ball Forward on Broadband

Everyone who’s going to be in Texas next Wednesday (April 28), in or near Dallas, come to the Communities United for Broadband workshop at the Broadband Properties Summit 2010. Actually, we have a twin bill of expert advice-giving. Members of Communities United for Broadband and our friends can attend these sessions as our guests.

At 2:20, broadband industry legal expert Jim Baller of Baller Herbst Law Group delivers the keynote presentation, “Fiber Faster: Its Up to Us.” Baller, who is assisting Google with its gigibit fiber project, will bring us up to date on the Google project. He will also share his views of where America is today, where we are heading, why we need to get there faster, and how we can do it.

At 3:30, I will conduct a workshop that gives attendees practical steps for moving broadband projects forward. Google has inspired tremendous excitement from communities nationwide. Now it’s time to harness this energy and creativity into action plans. Attend, listen, learn, collaborate and take those critical steps toward making broadband a reality.

Those registered for the Summit should mark us on your calendars. My presentation follows Ballers’ in the same room. If you are not yet registered for the conference, you can attend these two sessions as our guest. Register here, and use this VIP Code: CUBFree.

If you wish to attend the entire day of events on Wednesday, which includes continental breakfast and a buffet lunch, e-mail Meredith — meredith@broadbandproperties.com — or call 281-342-9655.

I’m looking forward to meeting you there.

Join N Carolina Again in Fight Against Anti-Muni Network Laws

Like a bad rash, Time Warner is back this week trying to stifle municipal networks in North Carolina. Not only that, our less-than-competent-broadband-provider Fairpoint is trying to kill a bill this week in New Hampshire that will make it easier for municipalities in that state to pursue the broadband option of their choice. This is the same Fairpoint, with one foot over the bankruptcy grave and the other on a banana peel of abysmal service, that is fighting a broadband stimulus grant awarded to Maine. Oy!

There comes a time when we supporters of broadband have to throw down, as we say in Oaktown. Get front and center with opponents in the legislative arena by flooding e-mail boxes, phone lines and literally the halls of government to push back against incumbent efforts and push forward the rights of communities to make their own choices for broadband.

Be clear with the message

A little further down I list the names and numbers of legislators on the committee that will vote on the N. Carolina bill Wednesday. Not much time, but broadband activists in that state have a track record of rallying troops in a hurry to descend on the state house. Click here for the particulars of the N. Carolina bill.

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$10,000, Incubator Deal for Your Broadband Vision

“Worse than being blind is being able to see, but having no vision.”

Helen Keller

Earlier this week I posted a list of 12 tasks critical to the successful implementation of a community broadband network. This framework is applicable whether we’re talking public-private partnership, private, nonprofit or public ownership. We’ll explore each step here and via Communities United for Broadband’s online collaboration and social network tools.

The list leads off with vision since you need a clear, concise motivational vision to drive your broadband efforts. Vision should not be confused with desire. Everybody can say “I want a gigabit broadband connection,” but that’s desire.

Vision is more about how you’re going to elevate others’ present condition, or achieve a goal that’s unique or earthshaking in its implication. “We’re going to use a broadband network to reduce unemployment in our area 50% and increase home-based businesses 20% year over year.” That’s a vision of where you’re going and how you’ll know when you get there.

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Even Broadband Can Use a 12-Step Program

Last week I announced Communities United for Broadband, a group dedicated to harnessing the enthusiasm for gigabit broadband Google stirred up into a national campaign for community broadband. We believe communities working together can produce higher levels of success for each community.

We’re giving people information they can put into action, links to knowledge resources, discussion tools for collaboration and to help communities move forward. We welcome those who applied for Google fiber, did the broadband stimulus dance – or not – and anyone else who wants practical steps for getting broadband into their communities.

In the past two weeks, together with my co-collaborator Jay Ovittore we focused on cheerleading to get the word out and recruit people ready to make things happen. We’re quickly closing in on 800 members. Here in week three, it’s time to transition to Instruction mode.

I developed 12 main tasks I consider integral to any successful network project, which I detail in my book, Fighting the Next Good Fight. Every week or two, Communities United for Broadband will offer instruction, columns, links and discussions, all of which communities can access, adapt and use to support their respective broadband efforts.

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Communities United for Broadband: Picking Up Where Google Leaves Off

Anybody here doubt for a minute that Google has lit a fire for broadband under a lot of folks? With just a handful of staffers, a Web site and probably a PR firm (all of whom, btw, deserve a 4-week all-expense-paid vacation to Cancun), they turned legions of people of all stripes and from all walks of life into rabid broadband fans.

The real question today, though, is not who might win Google fiber, but how do you harness this energy, creativity and the collective realization that “broadband really can make a difference to our community?” Over 1,100 cities responded to Google’s RFI and nearly 200,000 people nationwide submitted letters to the company. These numbers represent power, but it’s fragmented. Or rather, it was.

Last Friday, Greensboro, NC broadband advocate Jay Ovittore and I felt too much has been done for it all to end now. We believed Facebook was the key to moving people forward. Facebook pages enabled hundreds of communities to each attract thousands of supporters. Can you imagine these forces unified? Communities United for Broadband is our Facebook answer.

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