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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Sneak Peek at Broadband and Economic Development Data

Over the years, I’ve heard some rather impressive claims about the economic healing power of broadband. Talking to people in the trenches, though, I get a different sense of what we should expect and how we will achieve it.

Why is this important? Decision makers in local, state and federal government who don’t fully understand broadband or local economic development launch major broadband initiatives and funding programs involving millions, maybe billions, of dollars. Unfortunately, the results can be frustrating, insufficient, wasteful and generally less than desirable.

The solution? Start by going to the people who have the answers.

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Kansas City, Google Fiber and Economic Development

All eyes seem to be on Kansas City after Google’s announcement last Thursday with important details on their fiber network. A lot of those details address consumer-side issues. Google promises to address business apps at some later date.

In the meantime, KC stakeholders are addressing broadband’s impact on economic development, and in part through their Web site GoogleConnectsKC. I was retained to write a series of 12 articles for the site on different communities that are making economic development strides using wired and wireless broadband.

Five have been posted so far and each week one of the remaining seven are being posted. Check these out and add them to your broadband playbook. Economic development in its many forms will be one of broadband’s killer apps in KC and elsewhere. This series helps you reinforce that strategy.

Articles so far

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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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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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In Broadband, the Questions Not Asked Can Kill Ya

I tell people in my presentations and workshops that knowing the right questions to ask is often equally or more important than the answers you get. Or the corollary of this philosophy, the questions you don’t ask could doom your project.

The ship Titantic’s front hull was built and fortified in answer to the question “what if we hit an iceberg head on?” But the ship’s demise came from no one apparently asking the question, “what if the ship sideswipes an iceberg?” Titantic’s bow could take a major hit and sustain damage in a way that probably wouldn’t have sunk her. But alas, the iceberg that did her in scraped the less durable side of the ship, slicing open four compartments that ultimately flooded and sunk the ship.

A common question today from critics of communities’ desire for a gigabit network is, “who needs a gigabit?” A question driven logically but shortsightedly by the fact that very few applications exist that can move a gigabit per second.

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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.

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