How to Prep for the Upcoming FCC Pilot Funding Program

Got a call the other day with an inside scoop about an upcoming FCC funding opportunity that’s a promising way to distribute money from the oft maligned Connect America Fund (CAF). This likely will lead to a feeding frenzy not seen since the days when the NTIA and RUS broadband stimulus programs launched.

Community stakeholders, public utilities, ISPs and “nontraditional” potential providers of Internet services want to know: 1) will we even qualify given the restrictive nature of past CAF funding, 2) how much money are we taking here and 3) most importantly, how do we get our hands on it?

It’s hinted that any entity is eligible, but time will tell. Total dollars available – unknown Check out the details, what few there are, on my Gigabit Nation radio show interview from last week. My job here today is to tell you how to prep to get a piece of the pie.

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The Gigabit Nation Top 10 for 2013

Gigabit Nation started in 2011 as a radio talk show to give listeners valuable news and instruction on how to bring faster, better broadband to communities nationwide. The show is now also a repository and reference center for best practices that help broadband project teams manage the business operations logistics of community broadband.

As each year begins, it’s good to look back over the most popular shows to see which broadband deployment issues drew the biggest interest, re-learn the lessons these presented, and predict a little about which issues will be important in the upcoming year. Nearly 80,000 broadcasts have been streamed or downloaded since the first Gigabit Nation broadcast highlighted Chattanooga’s public-owned network.

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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.

Six Steps for Moving Your Broadband Project Forward

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.

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14 Gigabit Success Stories. But Wait, There’s More!

Too often we see the incumbent propaganda that proclaims all community broadband networks to be failures. But nothing could be further from the truth as there are over 340 such networks, some having been around for 12 or 14 years. True, there are a tiny number of problem children, but four or five out of 340 pretty much spells.

That said, these networks have not had, nor will they have, an easy road to success. If your community plans to follow in their footsteps and leave big shoes for others to fill, you have to learn from those who’ve gone before. In my new e-book, Building the Gigabit City, I include a list of 14 of the 35 communities that own gigabit networks and were on my Gigabit Nation radio show. with an honorary mention of the Kansas Cities since Google actually owns that gigabit network.

Take some time to listen to these interviews. Here are 14 hours of valuable lessons, insights and practical advice from those in the trenches getting broadband done. Download my book (complements of Gigabit Squared) and get the inside scoop on these and many more communities with broadband networks of various capacities and technologies.

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Building the Gigabit City – My Latest Book Launches

Last week I released my first e-book, Building the Gigabit City. Enthusiasm for building broadband networks on their own or in public private partnerships is growing rapidly in communities across the U.S. But there’s so much that people need/want to know about community broadband, it’s almost impossible to bring it altogether in one place. Building the Gigabit City focuses on the needs assessment process. Do this part right and you significantly increase your odds for having a successful broadband project.

BGC smallerSuperfast broadband significantly boosts local economies, transforms education, improves healthcare delivery and increases local government efficiency. Building the Gigabit City helps you ask the right questions so you can do the same for your constituents.

Pulling valuable lessons from many of the 340 communities with successful broadband networks, this multimedia guide overflows with practical advice. Building the Gigabit City, produced in partnership with Gigabit Squared, helps rural and urban communities:

 

  1. ignore the hype surrounding gigabit networks;
  2. understand what super-fast access can and cannot do for your community;
  3. conduct effective needs assessment; and
  4. plan effective broadband strategy.

Here’s the Table of Contents

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Small Providers in the Big Picture of FCC Broadband Initiatives

Monday I stopped by Oakland Children’s Hospital & Research Center to catch up with FCC Chairman Genachowski who was announcing the Healthcare Connect Fund (HFC), and giving a shout out to those in California who are advancing telehealth initiatives. The purpose of the HCF is to expand broadband access to healthcare providers, as well as to patients seeking healthcare services.

FCC Chairman Genachowski (l) with Children's Hospital President & CEO Dr. Bert Lubin (c) and Alex Briscoe, Dir. Alameda County Health Care Services Agency

FCC Chairman Genachowski (l) with Children’s Hospital President & CEO Dr. Bert Lubin (c) and Alex Briscoe, Dir. Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.                   Photo by Erin Goldsmith

I was fortunate to score a two-minute walking (literally) interview on the Chairman’s way to a tech demo at the hospital after his remarks. I wanted his take on an issue that ISPs (WISPs) frequently bring up, such as during this Gigabit Nation interview.

The Wireless ISP Association (WISPA) feels that FCC regulations inadvertently keep WISPs out of the broadband financing programs, such as HCF and the Connect America Fund (CAF), by heavily favoring ILEC’s at least in the first phase of these programs. I asked Chairman Genachowski if there is a way to create rules that result in more WISPs becoming a part of communities’ broadband solutions.

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