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?

I would say that attracting large incumbents such as AT&T and Verizon is going to be difficult unless you’re looking at a broadband project for a large fairly heavily populated county, or several counties collectively. Their overhead and business models are out of whack for the size of a lot of communities.

But the mid-size and small local providers? These are likely the ones you can work with best. However, I’ll warn you up front, some of these folks who’ve been in the telco business for 15 –20 years, that have owners in their 50’s or older and have a constrained world view, they probably won’t be creative or open-minded enough to see the possibilities.

In any event, understand that you have a hefty burden to carry to educate not only providers but also end users.

Through the needs assessment process, you educate your various constituencies and stakeholders of the transformative power of broadband so they clearly identify needs and opportunities that broadband will address for each group, and determine how much they’re willing to pay for those services. This process crystallizes market need so you can articulate it to others.

After this, you can create an RFI, an RFP and/or hold a lot of one-on-one sessions with providers to show them the revenue opportunities. They need to see the community’s goal before they’ll see the gold. Besides educating them, you have to spend time understanding thoroughly how providers make money; what are their overhead issues, what’s the cutoff point where they can’t afford to add more customers, what services do they really have to serve, etc.

So, the main question you really need to ask is, what do we have to offer providers that make an open network valuable for them. Cambria County, PA and Allegany County, MD are two local governments that answered this question and executed well on an open network model. Ontario County, NY recently put the money in place to launch an open access infrastructure.

This question came from my Webinar “12 Steps to Move Broadband From Ideas to Execution.” Don’t miss my next Webinar, “Finding the Right Business Model for Community Broadband.”

One Response

  1. Finding providers is easy: talk to current DSL ISPs getting sabotaged by the local incumbent. Most of them are happy to jump ship to an infrastructure that won’t be provided by a direct competitor.

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