Getting faster better is increasingly becoming an imperative. However, as much as stakeholders can see the value of the a highspeed network, the question of how to get from here to there stymies probably 50% of communities. And they can’t get out of the starting gate.
One major hurdle to moving forward is that folks often don’t know what questions to ask and to whom to ask them. Cities such as Chattanooga and Lafayette get calls and e-mails weekly from those seeking help, but it’s hard to keep your own network running if you’re constantly providing startup consulting.
The question asked 90% of the time is, how are we going to pay for a network? This isn’t a cheap adventure. Once the issue of money is raised, politics rears its head in all its local, state and federal permutations that can produce a morass of fear, uncertainty and doubt that further impedes the go/no-go decisions.
To get your communities to stop circling the question of “how do we get highspeed Internet access?” and get off the dime to actually move forward with a project that has reasonably good chance for success, consider the following six steps.
Your road to better broadband starts here
1. Read about two or three dozen stories of communities that have successfully built networks using one of a variety business operation models and/or funding mechanisms to pay for the network. Over 350 communities run broadband networks, either alone or in some sort of partnership with the private sector or nonprofit organizations, so there’s an abundance of stories. Find good sources for lots of stories here, here and here.
2. Armed with this knowledge of success stories, conduct a series of Stakeholder interviews with leaders within your community: head of the chamber, CIOs of two or three of the biggest companies, directors of two of your medical facilities, etc. These folks collectively will provide the first layer of information needed to pinpoint pressing broadband needs, identify potential anchor customers for the network, and recruit possible local funders for the network. Meet the needs these folks identify, you’ll find ways to pay for the network.
3. Conduct constituent surveys and data gathering efforts to validate the needs identified by stakeholders. When done effectively, the process of constituent or market research quantifies who needs broadband, determines what factors will influence them to subscribe, helps you determine what business models could work for you, identify revenue sources and shape marketing messages. E-mail surveys, group brainstorming, phone canvassing and town hall meetings are just some of the tactics to consider.
4. After analyzing your research data, assess business models and financing options. There are at eight (so far) proven business models besides local government ownership of the network, and six or seven funding options besides taxes and bond measures. For a handy overview of some of different business models, check out this article.
5. As stakeholders and constituents identify and coalesce around a range of possible options that get heart rates racing, it becomes clear that you probably should prioritize some of these ideas. At this point, you have to work seriously at finding the “one thing” – a pilot or showcase project that serves as a proof of concept that validates the bigger broadband plan.
6. Once you have the “one thing” and back it up with a plan for other broadband applications and services that will grow from the pilot project, you must give serious consideration to marketing strategy and tactics. You need a basic plan to market the project from day one and drive adoption. Execution of the marketing strategy begins months before the first Internet subscription is sold.
Broadband workshop coming to a town near you
I’ve developed a full-day workshop that gives you the insights and knowledge to execute these steps to get your broadband initiative moving forward. If your current broadband options suck, check out this workshop and make plans to attend. Your state’s not on the calendar yet? Contact me and let’s remedy this.
- October 9 – Roanoke, VA
- October 17 – Ottumwa, IA
- November 7 – Cape Cod, MA
- November 14 – Austin, TX
- November 20 – Longmont, CO
Filed under: Economic Development, funding broadband, Implementation strategies, Needs analysis, Network business planning, public private partnership, Strategic thinking, Tactical thinking Tagged: | broadband, broadband grants, broadband strategy, community broadband, craig settles, digital divide, gigabit, municipal broadband, National broadband strategy, rural broadband