Craig Settles’ Broadband Question of the Day (July 29)

This question comes from Cathy Emerson, Project Manager,  Center for Econ Dev, California State University, Chico

How can we quantify the economic development benefits of broadband?

To answer this question, you have to separate the discussion about broadband’s impact into two parts: the public good and the financial benefits to the broadband project.

When most people talk about the main benefits of broadband that affect the local economy, they point to a number of significant impacts such as increasing local businesses’ ability to expand and compete effectively on a global basis, or drawing more companies to an area. Officials will add far-reaching affects such as using broadband to improve students’ learning and re-training workers for a digital economy.

While these are all good things, they are illusive goals for quantitative analysis. People all over the US have anecdotal stories that show clear ties between broadband and activities that improve the local economy. But these are factors contributing to the public good, and you can build a strong case for investing in networks based on them. However, if you also want to build a  “dollars & cents” case that shows how this public good will help financially sustain the network, turn the question around.

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Craig Settles’ Broadband Question of the Day (July 28)

Today’s question comes from Mike Mathiesen, CEO of America 2.0 Inc.

How would you get the participation of the local merchants?

Getting the merchants involved with your broadband initiative, and I’ll take the liberty to include the entire business community under the “merchant” umbrella, is at once simple and challenging. The simple part of the process is showing them as convincingly as possible that they stand to do well financially in the short- and long-term.

The challenging part typically is creating a detailed picture of what their broadband needs are, then tying these needs to the quantifiable benefits that will result from matching the right set of technologies and services to address those needs. As you take these steps, local businesses will become increasingly vested in the outcome of the project. This in turn means they’ll want to participate –i.e. buy services – on the network you build.

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Craig Settles’ Broadband Question of the Day (July 27)

Today’s question comes from David Allen of Midwest Energy Cooperative

What is the minimum customer density per mile necessary to get attractive financial results for a fiber project?

I would actually come at this question from a different perspective. Determining financial sustainability based on population density assumes a community is banking on subscriptions from consumers being enough to sustain the network.  I strongly believe this is the weakest pillar holding up your business plan, whether you’re a private or public sector organization.

The two reasons a residents-first strategy is shaky is that 1) consumers can be expensive to close, plus they’re difficult and expensive to retain, particularly once a competitor comes into the market; and 2) in many rural areas, even with concentrated pockets of homes, the total number of houses may be insufficient to cover CapEx (buildout) and OpEx (operating/upgrading costs).

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The Old Spice Man, the FCC’s 706 and Broadband

I was oblivious to the Old Spice Man YouTube buzz for days before seeing a tweet by a friend swooning over this guy. So I checked out several vids. When I stopped laughing, three thoughts hit me.

Holy midlife crisis, Batman! I gotta start getting to the gym earlier now to beat the rush. Then my subconscious kicked in with: business communication is being seriously transformed and a lot of people are going to miss this boat. Finally, a familiar theme rolled up. We’ll soon see once again that the incumbent emperors don’t have any clothes, for I truly doubt they’re ready for the looming transformation.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this week’s FCC 706 Report on broadband in the U.S. delivered to Congress slaps down again a lot of the industry’s b.s. about the “perfect competitive world” of broadband. The Old Spice dude fits into this discussion, how? His rise to icon status and what that rise portends ties directly to one of the key findings in the FCC’s report: less than half of broadband connections in the U.S. are capable of receiving a high definition video stream and less than 2% can send such a stream.

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Craig Settles’ Broadband Question of the Day (July 26)

I’m two Webinars into a six-session series and they’re going very well. But I’m getting more great questions than I can answer in my sessions. So every day – well, Monday-Friday – I’m going to answer some of the ones I didn’t get to.

You’ll have no excuse for missing any. You can subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed, follow me on Twitter (@cjsettles), or hook up with the Facebook page for Communities United for Broadband to get a heads up on the day’s question.

Today’s question comes from Roel Coert (didn’t provide organization name).

With open access, is it difficult to attract service providers to offer the basic triple play plus innovative services?

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My Next Broadband Strategy Webinar

Those of you who are new visitors here (and some of you regulars) should attend the bi-weekly Webinar series on broadband strategy planning I’m doing with Broadband Properties Magazine. It’s happening Wednesdays.

If you missed 12 Steps to Move Broadband From Ideas to Execution, check it out today, and also tell your colleagues about it. This session gives you a strong foundation for beginning or enhancing your broadband strategy. The Q & A is quite engaging as well. You can download the PowerPoint presentation to integrate with your planning material.

Here are the details on the next session (July 21). Sign up today!

7 Ways to Make Your Needs Assessment Pay Dividends

A broadband needs-assessment spells the difference between success or failure reaching your project’s economic development, financial and political objectives. An effective needs assessment is the heart that pumps lifeblood into every element of your broadband project, from identifying and recruiting important stakeholders to selecting the most appropriate business model. Learn how to:

  • Target the right audience
  • Determine the right questions to ask
  • Link needs with network sustainability
  • Create a marketing vehicle from your efforts

Let’s see your face in the place. To learn about the whole Webinar series, click here.

Last Nail in Coffin of N. Carolina’s Anti-Muni Network Bill

O joyous day! O rapture! That insidious bill incumbents’ pocket legislator, NC state Senator Hoyle, tried to pass to kill muni broadband networks met its final demise over the weekend.

The citizens of North Carolina can breathe a sigh of relief. 34 communities pursuing Google gigabit broadband can dance the Macarena with reckless abandon. Everyone who believes in the right of communities to determine their own broadband future can take a moment to celebrate, but only a moment because the battle never ends.

Early this morning I received an e-mail from Catharine Rice of the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (SEATOA) with the details on how this bill went south, way south. It ends with a shout out to the many NC legislators who refused to back down under the endless assault from incumbent lobbyists. Here it is. Take notes. You might need some of these tactics in your state one day.

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RUS in a Post-Broadband Stimulus World

Rural Utilities Services (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein and I have had a couple of opportunities to chat at events where one or both of us delivered presentations. Since we’ve had some interesting exchanges I decided to go for a formal Q & A with the one of the three central figures in the broadband stimulus program (NTIA’s Larry Strickling and the FCC’s Julius Genechowski being the other two).

My big interest is in what’s next on the agenda for RUS once they wrap up their part in the program. Many of those rural communities not fortunate enough to get a piece of the stimulus still plan to push forward for broadband in their respective areas, so it’s important for them to understand that RUS’ role doesn’t end September 30.

Administrator Adelstein’s comments are followed by my short assessment. This adds a coda to my recent analysis of RUS’s first group of Round 2 stimulus grants.

As a bonus to my loyal readers, I tossed in at the end here an interesting tidbit for some of you sports fans. The actual first time Administrator Adelstein and I shared a public venue was almost three decades ago and totally unrelated to technology.

Check back tomorrow for a re-cap of my recent meeting at the FCC. If I’m not careful, D.C. is going to become a second home.

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Preliminary Analysis: First Batch of Stimulus Round 2 Awards

RUS, NTIA and the White House yesterday held a preliminary conference call to talk about today’s official announcement of the first batch of NOFA 2 (broadband stimulus) award winners.

No doubt the winners are popping champagne corks and started their 4th of July weekend fireworks early. The rest of the applicants and some of the rest of you probably want to get some sort of word on winners so crystal ball gazers can try to predict how the rest of this funding round will go.

I’ll try to help you out a little. Just last week I wrote an analysis of grants RUS awarded for NOFA 1 in case you want to get a little perspective before reviewing our first hint at what NOFA 2 might offer.

The conference call was a little light on detail, so tune in to catch the word from President Obama to get a broader picture of the program’s progress. But here are some highlights.

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