Drive Kicks Off to Move 1000 Communities to Broadband

Weary of the wait for broadband, and wary of Congress’ recent efforts to help, Communities United for Broadband (970+ members) has teamed with Broadband Properties Magazine to empower communities to deliver their broadband future now.

Next week, with the goal of assisting 1000 communities to move forward with broadband projects by 2011, Communities United for Broadband begins a program to give project teams basic broadband planning skills. Watching Congress spar with the FCC over the agency‘s effort to implement its far-ranging national broadband plan, an increasing number of communities believe the only way to get broadband that is sufficient to meet their needs is through local action. However, quite a few are uncertain as to how to proceed.

Pulling lessons from gigabit broadband offered today by Wilson, NC and Santa Monica, CA as well as from other similarly impressive networks, strategy expert and Communities United for Broadband Co-Director Craig Settles helps communities create their best solutions. Starting July 7, his series of Webinars guides project teams through the processes communities must address to be successful, from broadband needs assessment to resolving the myriad political challenges communities face.

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Who’s Broadband Free Market Is It, Anyway? Local Communities, of course.

The last time a Federal agency connected with the winds of change to broadband (NTIA) had a closed door meeting with incumbents’ arm twisters, rules got “modified” that pretty much screwed communities’ by diminishing their role in the stimulus program and elevating the role of private providers. This in direct contradiction of the intent of Congressional legislation that set up the broadband stimulus program.

This week we learned the FCC is holding a close door meeting with same arm twisters (ok, maybe different faces, but cut from the same cloth). WTF happened to transparency! Luckily for communities, there’s a public Notice of Inquiry for We the People to weigh in. But the way incumbents are reacting just to having public input where everyone gets an equal hearing, you’d think we slapped their mothers and assaulted their children. So I’m having visions of deja vu all over again about this meeting.

It’s time to rally and focus those communities that realize “if broadband is to be, it is up to me.” I wrote a column that puts a very fine point on the issue of the day. If all of those folks in D.C. carrying on about free markets deciding broadband issues truly believe that line, then let’s see ’em eat their own dog food. Check out the summary below, go read the column and then pass it on. Tell incumbents we’re asserting our free market force.

Summary

The best thing government can do for broadband is give free markets a bigger role. However, despite their strong arming Congress, large telcos and ISPs are NOT the market. The markets are actually constituents and stakeholders in local communities, many of whom aren’t getting the broadband they need. This paper discusses major shifts needed nationally and locally in communities’ role in broadband discussions, policymaking, legislation and funding. Otherwise we risk delay and failure.

The full article

“What’s Next After Broadband Stimulus?” and Other Valuable Webinars

A couple of weeks ago I made a swing through D.C. to meet with some folks and continue building support for Communities United for Broadband. I also delivered “What’s Next After Broadband Stimulus?” at the New America Foundation. You can watch the presentation here.

This session helps you understand a little better what local communities’ role in national broadband strategy should be. The event included a strong panel representing community perspectives via people from cities that are making broadband happen:

  • Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer of the District of Columbia,
  • Joanne Hovis, President-Elect of NATOA and President of Columbia Telecommunications Corporation
  • Gary Carter, Analyst at City of Santa Monica Information Systems Department will respond to Mr. Settles’ presentation.

I highlight key lessons from my book, Fighting the Next Good Fight: Bringing True Broadband to Your Community, in the context of national policy discussions on broadband. Actually, some days the discussion is more like a barroom brawl from the old westerns, with local communities cast as the damsel in distress whose fate depends on the outcome of these guys duking it out. No speaking role of note, just the prize for whoever wins.

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