Will Your 2014 Broadband Strategy Embrace Multi-Dweling Units? (pt 1)

As economic development pros and others develop strategies for using broadband to boost their local economies, here’s one strategy you should consider that can achieve this goal PLUS increase the financial strength of the network. Are you selling owners of commercial multi-dwelling units (MDUs) on being anchor tenants of the network?

Analyze Santa Monica, CA’s execution of this strategy so you can repeat their success. The City of Santa Monica’s IT Department built its initial fiber network infrastructure in 2004 primarily to replace the city government’s aging data and voice communication networks, saving $750,000 in the first year. Then they discovered offering services to local businesses attracted new companies and jobs.

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The “Building the Gigabit City” National Tour

Longmont, CO’s point person for the city’s gigabit buildout, Vince Jordan, recently said he gets lots of calls from Colorado communities asking how to move forward with similar networks. His observations inspired me to create a special training program to give communities the building blocks to replicate U.S. gigabit success stories.

As those billions of stimulus dollars in middle mile network buildouts nationwide begin lighting up, communities are realizing a whole lot of work is still required to get actual Internet services into their neighborhoods. Quite a few also are realizing they don’t know quite how to plan or pay for these communitywide last mile networks.

So my program is a full-day, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work event limited to 20 jurisdictions max, and broken down into five sessions. Each session, addresses a specific skill set, and is tailored to local issues and addressing attendees’ feedback I gather from pre-workshop questionnaires and worksheets.

The key element is the consulting. My advice is customized to workshop attendees’ questions and needs. Attendees build skills in implementing key tasks necessary for moving broadband projects forward. My book, Building the Gigabit City, continues the skills development by expanding on lessons learned during the workshop.

Sessions overview

  1. Recruiting key community stakeholders
  2. Effective constituent data gathering and needs assessments
  3. Assessing business models and funding options
  4. Finding the “one thing”
  5. Marketing strategy and tactics

This is the initial list of cities where the training sessions will take place. If your state’s not included, call me: 510-387-4176.

There are also sponsorship opportunities for companies that want to participate in a unique marketing outreach program targeted to decision makers ready to move broadband projects forward.

Your Broadband Education Straight from the Source

Nowhere else on the Web can you find such a complete source of first-hand broadband project management and policy experience. And this knowledgebase grows weekly.

Last August I launched Gigabit Nation, the only radio talk show devoted to broadband, and have amassed quite a treasure trove of excellent insights as well as advice from people immersed in broadband projects and policy. Over 60 hours of interviews with public, private and nonprofit sector leaders who are getting broadband done.

Below is just a sampling of Gigabit Nation interviews. Go to the show’s Web site to get the complete list of archived shows. And don’t miss my upcoming shows. There are new guests and new topics every week. Tell your friends.

[Take this 5-minute survey to influence topics for future shows]

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The Middle Mile/Last Mile Disconnect

Last Thursday Washington, DC announced they’re powering up a 100-gig network, funded in large part by broadband stimulus money. If I’m not mistaken they’re the only urban area to get money for an infrastructure project. That’s kind of a pity since urban areas have some pressing infrastructure needs that get ignored by the media. But more on that in a future post.

This week I tackled another challenging issue represented by the DC deal that gets ignored by much of the media, and probably policymakers as well. What do you do about connecting all of these middle mile projects to last mile (or first mile, as my UK friends regularly remind me) projects? Huh. You say you haven’t heard about a lot of projects connecting consumers and businesses to those stimulus-funded middle mile buildouts? That’s my point.

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After the Stimulus, Now What – Sound Marketing Maybe?

Last Monday I participated in a Broadband Breakfast panel in DC that examined the effectiveness and shortcomings of the broadband stimulus program. It was a pretty good session since there was one person representing a winning project team and one whose team did not come away with an award. Charles Benton, head of the Benton Foundation, and I represented the thought leader crowd.

We each evaluated the program, which yielded a couple of B’s, a couple of A’s and a C. I gave a high grade for intent and good execution considering the near-impossible task NTIA and RUS faced, but C+ for uncertain results in the communities since I’m not sure how many of these awards are going to pan out.

In further Q & A, there were feelings expressed by most of us that the crop of awardees could produce a mixed bag of wins and losses. However, we all offered advice on what communities everywhere can do to move broadband forward, whether or not they won stimulus money or submitted to outlandish craziness in order to snag Google gigabit gold. You can watch the event here. It’s well worth the time.

One crucial “where do we go next?” answer is marketing. Everyone who’s involved in broadband needs to come to grips with this realty – if you can’t mount an aggressive, creative marketing campaign with a strong PR component, you’re hosed.

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NOFA 2 Lessons from a Round 1 Winner

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As everyone scrambles to make one last charge into broadband stimulus history – for better or worse – here’s a hopefully helpful post to give you at least a tiny edge in your pursuit of the gold.

I decided to profile stimulus grant winner Tad Deriso, President & CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative in Virginia, in part, because his group is the self-proclaimed “square peg in a round hole.” MBC is a co-op of private-sector-only companies, they didn’t form a public-private partnership, they’re a middle mile project not targeted to all the usual suspects and they challenged NTIA/RUS’ definition of underserved. Yet they still come out ahead.

Let’s see what we can learn from this slightly odd duck in the winner’s circle. Many of Tad’s comments pertain to the due diligence process, but understanding how they navigated this process offers some insights on where to tighten up your proposal.

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NOFA 2 – It Does Matter How You Say It

I listened to the NTIA/RUS workshop in Denver as these folks spelled out what makes for a good grant application, interpreted rules, etc. My ears perked up when they started on why projects got rejected. Specifically, when they explained that, for apps to get graded well in the Purpose (of the proposed network) category, “you have to be compelling, credible and clear.”

There have been some bitter and justifiable commentary about the first funding round, it’s lack of transparency in key areas and the lack of feedback throughout the process. I’ll add my 2 cents on this, but since the agencies gave some specific feedback, albeit in a general audience rather than to specific applicants, I want to jump on the key lessons.  

Months ago I wrote a column on how vital it is for you to write a really outstanding mission statement and executive summary. I believe readers thought I was loony giving them writing tips while they were trying to sort out engineering issues, 122-pages of hell and other seemingly more important issues.

Listen up folks! This is important. Today’s workshop spent significant time relating how reviewers rejected apps right off the bat – before due diligence – because of what was said, not said or how it was said. I point you later to a document with advice you probably want to heed. But first, a summary from the people who hold you future in their hands about what can kill your good, even great, idea for a network.

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These services can help in your NOFA 2 hour of need:

Application review; Present better data.

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