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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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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Igniting a Fire Under US Broadband

Yesterday the White House announced two major developments. First, President Obama today will sign an Executive Order that mandates all the agencies managing Federal properties and roads create a uniform approach for allowing broadband carriers to build networks on and through those assets. This “build once” strategy should save an estimated 90% of the typical network infrastructure buildout cost.

Today also marks the launch of US Ignite, a long-developing project that brings together 100 or so public, private and nonprofit organizations in an effort to pool/integrate resources to streamline gig app development nationwide. It’s a little complex, but the gist of it is: build a bunch of gig network testbeds, unite university and community creativity, supplement it with private vendor contributions and churn out a bunch of apps, some of which are bound to be winners. In the end, broadband gets deployed faster coast to coast.

Both efforts have potential to turn out some pretty cool advancements in the U.S.’ march to nationwide broadband connectivity that yields the technology’s many promised benefits. As with everything involving politics, policy and money, the results can be a mix of the good, the bad and the unexpected. It’s all about execution.

Here’s my preliminary take on these announcements. Later today on my Gigabit Nation radio show, I interview a number of leading players within the US Ignite partnership to give you some additional insights from those intimately involved in the program.

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Interview with Jonathan Adelstein on New $700 Million Broadband Program

The USDA’s Rural Utilities Services (RUS) recently announced they’re hoping to make $700 million available for broadband projects through the agency’s Farm Bill Broadband Program. While not as substantial as the BIP program, nevertheless this is a sizeable enough payload to make a big difference in a fair number of communities. However, the actual money hasn’t been appropriated yet, so RUS is doing a Notice of Solicitations of Applications (NOSA). NOSA = send us an application to hold your place in the queue so you get money when we get money.

This is strictly a loan program, no grants involved. Big plus – it’s open to everyone including communities and public private partnerships. Other good news is that the baseline for what constitutes broadband is 5 Mbps symmetrical for wireline networks, and 3 Mbps symmetrical for wireless. You can read details on the program here.

I caught up with RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein by phone to ask a few questions and get some additional insights into RUS’ latest efforts to bring broadband to unnerved communities. There are a couple of key differences between this and the BIP program, plus useful information to help you get a handle on how to approach the loan process. I’ll have my own analysis here tomorrow.

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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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RUS in a Post-Broadband Stimulus World

Rural Utilities Services (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein and I have had a couple of opportunities to chat at events where one or both of us delivered presentations. Since we’ve had some interesting exchanges I decided to go for a formal Q & A with the one of the three central figures in the broadband stimulus program (NTIA’s Larry Strickling and the FCC’s Julius Genechowski being the other two).

My big interest is in what’s next on the agenda for RUS once they wrap up their part in the program. Many of those rural communities not fortunate enough to get a piece of the stimulus still plan to push forward for broadband in their respective areas, so it’s important for them to understand that RUS’ role doesn’t end September 30.

Administrator Adelstein’s comments are followed by my short assessment. This adds a coda to my recent analysis of RUS’s first group of Round 2 stimulus grants.

As a bonus to my loyal readers, I tossed in at the end here an interesting tidbit for some of you sports fans. The actual first time Administrator Adelstein and I shared a public venue was almost three decades ago and totally unrelated to technology.

Check back tomorrow for a re-cap of my recent meeting at the FCC. If I’m not careful, D.C. is going to become a second home.

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Preliminary Analysis: First Batch of Stimulus Round 2 Awards

RUS, NTIA and the White House yesterday held a preliminary conference call to talk about today’s official announcement of the first batch of NOFA 2 (broadband stimulus) award winners.

No doubt the winners are popping champagne corks and started their 4th of July weekend fireworks early. The rest of the applicants and some of the rest of you probably want to get some sort of word on winners so crystal ball gazers can try to predict how the rest of this funding round will go.

I’ll try to help you out a little. Just last week I wrote an analysis of grants RUS awarded for NOFA 1 in case you want to get a little perspective before reviewing our first hint at what NOFA 2 might offer.

The conference call was a little light on detail, so tune in to catch the word from President Obama to get a broader picture of the program’s progress. But here are some highlights.

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