Community Foundations Boost Broadband and Economic Development

Today’s guest on my Gigabit Nation radio talk show, Sharon Stroh, gives us lots of valuable details on Steuben County, IN’s foundation that has made broadband possible for this rural area in Indiana. Before listening to the show, below is a helpful primer from fellow broadband advocate Larry Baumgart.

Community foundations are tax-exempt public charities serving thousands of people who share a common interest—improving the quality of life in their area. Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create permanent charitable funds that help their region meet local challenges. (Check out the Council On Foundations)

The community foundation should be formed under the auspices of a Community Development Co-operative and could be used to coordinate grant applications and to issue community bonds for open access broadband networks, community media center, schools, clinics, etc.    This can be readily accomplished by transferring public land, worthy assets, into the community foundation to secure bonds which local residents can invest their money, savings, 401Ks, etc. and can not only get interest, but through a cooperative might reap dividends depending on how the funds are used.

The bonds plus interest may be paid back several ways.  The obvious source of revenue is of course local community philanthropy.  As well as through grants, revenue would be raised through the sponsoring community development cooperative’s initiatives.  For example, a community enterprise endeavor might be an open source community broadband fiber network for an ongoing revenue source.  Obviously, to viably facilitate these types of initiatives the community needs to go through the formalities of a project initiative, in that, the concept specific to the local community needs to be defined and agreed to.  Subsequently, a feasibility study needs to be undertaken and the results of which agreed to.  From this a business plan needs to be drafted and again approved and finalized for design and implementation.

It could also be used to create and coordinate community currency, scrip, to foster local buying of products and services such as those in:

Okay, so why not take it one step forward and create a Community Co-operative Bank similar to The Cooperative Bank, of Roslindale, Massachussetts, to print local currency and support the Community Foundation?  Or, start a credit union with the 10 steps being advocated by the Florida Credit Union League,

Looking for further funding?  The National Consumer Co-operative Bank,  “will support and be an advocate for America’s cooperatives and their members, especially in low-income communities, by providing innovative financial and related services”.  It also has a subsidiary co-operative bank, NCB,

Maybe on a regular basis, and not just Christmas time, we should watch the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life“, to instill basic community and social values, to inspire us to create our own “Bailey Building and Loan Association.”

In case you missed the last Gigabit Nation show, the Executive Director of N. Carolina’s Mountain Area Information Network Wally Bowen gives listeners valuable lessons on forming broadband co-ops and nonprofits

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