Longmont, CO vs. The Empire. Latest Flashpoint in the Muni Broadband Battles

Two years ago, Longmont, CO decided it wanted to take back via a referendum its right to determine its own broadband future, only to have Comcast and its allies go ballistic and kill the measure. This year, Longmont is back for round 2. I found this column I wrote for TMCnet in 2009 and it’s still applicable today. Enjoy.

Longmont, CO has the opportunity to launch itself squarely into a digital communications leadership position among U.S. cities. IF its citizens can beat back the latest attack from the Empire, in this case with Comcast in the role of Darth Vader, and the storm troopers crouched in a hastily conceived vehicle called No Blank Check Look Before We Leap.

Today seems like a good day to neuter one of the biggest false arguments from the storm troopers because you’ll hear it every time a city’s on the verge of breaking free of the ills of the Empire. But first, a brief history.

[Cue serene music, pop up panoramic of sleepy bedroom community]. Longmont is a forward-looking community, as typified by being declared an “All-America City” by the National Civic League in 2006, an award for communities whose citizens work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results.

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After the Stimulus: Broadband and Economic Development

One of the big debates that goes on constantly is the one that asks, what’s the real economic development value of broadband. Of special interest to me, of course, is community broadband – networks run in part or in total by local government and/or stakeholders from within the community.

Last year the U.S. broadband stimulus program finished awarding public, private and nonprofit organizations over $7 billion to build new broadband infrastructure, create public computing centers and implement broadband adoption programs. Concurrently, hundreds of millions have come from private and other public sources for broadband. Improving economic development is a driving force behind these investments.

However, what have we accomplished for our investments, particularly in underserved urban and rural communities? It is a little early in the process, though, and only a small portion of the stimulus checks have been issued. Perhaps the more important question is, what economic outcomes can we hope to achieve in the next two or three years?

My national survey of economic development professionals, conducted in partnership with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) produced results that provide a number of clues. Here’s a sampling of this year’s findings.

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