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Community broadband success usually does not ride solely on one person's shoulders. However, there is a type of person who is critical to a network project's success - the broadband champion, that local person(s) who figuratively carries the flag and supports the project to friends, neighbors, colleagues and even strangers.
Mark Latham, City Manager for Highland, IL, recently finished overseeing a broadband stimulus-funded gig network project for his community of 10,000 citizens after 78% of voters approved a bond measure to move the project forward. He describes the best tactics for identifying, educating, motivating and managing the small band of champions who will become the often-unofficial public face of your broadband project.
Look at any successful project and a common thread is a band of vocal broadband champions. With the right preparation, these individuals are critical to generating initial network subscribers, building political support, influencing potential investors and attracting general public support.
Every time you read about some city or county announcing plans to build a highspeed Internet network, it is almost certain you will read that the broadband network is expected to improve the local economy by bringing more innovation and jobs to town. But is this a guaranteed conclusion? Is it enough just to get a gig to every business, or do communities need to wire every home as well? How much innovation is needed before you see new jobs? And how many jobs equal success?
To answer these and related questions, Intelligent Community Fourm (ICF) Co-Founder Robert Bell joins us to discuss what our realistic expectations should be when addressing this economic development trifecta. Bell just wrote "Brain Gain: How innovative cities create job growth in an age of disruption," which becomes available June 23.
ICF last week anointed Toronto, Canada the Intelligent Community of the Year after analyzing over 400 communities from around the world. Bell offers listeners a rich array of real-world examples of constituents harnessing the power and potential of broadband to transform their communities. It is hard to predict what innovation will look like exactly, as each community is different, but Bell explains how to set the stage so that a community facilitates innovation.
Community highspeed Internet networks really started to become prominent in the media during 2011 - 2012, but broadband has been playing key roles in some communities for a decade or more. It is good to occasionally stop and take stock of what this technology is accomplishing.
Norm Jacknis, Senior Fellow at the think tank Intelligent Communities Forum (ICF), studies the economic and social development of 21st Century communities. He offers detailed analysis on what uses of broadband networks are proving successful and which tactics require re-tooling. We discuss:
what determines success, particularly in rural communities;
examples of communities impacting education and economic development;
what types of jobs created by broadband are best for long-term community growth; and
where are communities finding money to move broadband projects forward.
Jacknis provides some background on ICF’s Top 7 Intelligent Communities of the Year. These are chosen from hundreds of communities worldwide, and broadband plays a prominent role in their selection. Starting June 3 they will meet in New York City for the final selection of the Intelligent Community of the Year.
As an increasing number of communities begin seriously exploring options for a community broadband network, it seems municipal bonds are once again being considered as a serious funding option. This year's survey of economic development pros reveals that just over half feel their communities could successfully launch a bond measure, or that their chances for success are 50/50.
Three factors lead to the success of issuing muni bonds to fund community broadband networks:
the political will
successful navigation of the legal processes
assembling the right financial resources
David Shaw, Chief of the Government & Utilities industry section of Kirton-McConkie law firm and Laura Lewis, Principal at municipal financial advisory firm Lewis, Young, Robertson & Burningham, Inc., walks listeners through these three criteria in layperson's language to help stakeholders navigate these tricky waters. Both have experience working with bond efforts for cities across the U.S.
Helping Iowa and Colorado communities better assess all of their funding options for network projects, including a bond strategy, is a main component of the special 5-week broadband strategy Webinar series led by Gigabit Nation host Craig Settles.
In March, in partnership with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), host Craig Settles conducted a national survey of IEDC members. The primary goal was to better understand how broadband as a community asset impacts economic outcomes. A secondary goal was to provide a reality check to errant claims about broadband and those outcomes.
IEDC President/CEO Jeff Finkle (CEcD) joins us to discuss the results of this year's survey. The survey addressed the state of current broadband in respondents' jurisdictions, communities' plans to get faster, better broadband, and how the technology is impacting local businesses, education and healthcare services delivery.
Finkle explains to listeners the role of economic development professionals in addressing the issues reviewed in the survey. In addition, the discussion also examines common assumptions about broadband's impact on local economies.
Sure, everyone knows Chattanooga's public utility-owned rocks. But 11 years before EPB launched Chattanooga to fame, Springfield, MO was way ahead of the curve with its Springnet fiber network. Their Manager of Network Architecture/Support shares a lot of valuable knowledge and insights for communities that want their public utilities to get into the act.
Todd Christell gives an overview of Springnet's successes, including the introduction of a 1-gig service, and details on how they continue to capture new opportunities while fending off various challenges. He also discusses progress public utilities in general are making in broadband, and possible reasons private utilities continue to shun offering this service.
Christell reveals a novel way Springnet maintains its marketing edge - teenagers. He brought teens into the earlier planning process and took their input very seriously because, "they are the future. They understand this stuff better than we old folks do." Springnet widend its youth lens by teaming with 1Million Cups, Mid-America Technology Alliance and its City2City Connecting Gigabit Cities Hackathon to reach young entrepreneurs. Communities need to listen carefully to this because it's hard to argue with success.
How do you know when a public or community broadband project presents a serious threat to telco and cable incumbent providers? The flood of lies, half-truths and outlandish distortion of relevant issues. The only cure for the dark clouds that opponents try to cast over public-owned networks is to shine the bright light of fact-checked truth over errant anti-muni network statements.
In Utah, a group of cities in the UTOPIA fiber project are evaluating a potential deal with infrastructure-building giant Macquarie that plans to build a strong pro-community network. Longmont, CO passed a second referendum measure last November that paved the way for the city to accelerate deployment of its muni-owned network. FreeUTOPIA Editor Jesse Harris and City of Longmont Asst. City Manager Sandi Seader dissect the most persistent of the mischaracterizations of community broadband.
Beginning with the charge that "all muni networks are failures, and working through such gems as "municipal networks will cause firefighters and police officers to lose their job" and "these networks are unfair competition" to giant telcos, Harris and Seader set the record straight. The discussion presents facts and details community broadband project teams need to hear so they can better assess their business model options, be prepared for the inevitable pushback they face from incumbents and astroturf groups.
Last week Kansas citizens revolted fiercely against a proposed state legislation that would have nuked broadband competition from municipalities in that state. All forms of media exploded with public advocates railing against the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger's threat to competition. Many consumers decry the lack of competition. But what's the private sector's take?
Executives from two companies that provide highspeed services offer private-sector perspectives on the state of U.S. broadband competition. Large telecom and cable companies tell us all is well. Many rural communities say they barely have dial-up services. What's the real deal? And if the source of problems is lack of competition, what can or should the private sector do about it?
Jerry Cady, the Director of Sales and Marketing at LS Networks, and Mark Scully, President of Comspan Communications tackle serious issues on the topic.
in communities where broadband is lacking, is the private sector alone capable of resolving the problem;
what role do state and local governments have in increasing competition;
are the FCC's potential actions regarding net neutrality, easing restrictions on municipalities and expanding the Connect America Fund (CAF) likely to impact competition; and
will a transition from traditional network to IP technologies add to or reduce competitors in various markets?
Though occasionally the butt of political humor, Toronto is no joke when it comes of using technology to improve Canada's largest city's economic future, Toronto began serious efforts to capitalize on Internet networks when Muni WiFi was all the rage in 2005, and WiFi emerged again in 2013 as a key technology for the city as they tackle digital inclusion issues. However, its plans to use a gigabit network as part of an aggressive economic development project on the waterfront helped catapult the city to the coveted title of Intelligent Community of the Year.
After an exhaustive survey of over 400 communities worldwide, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) staff determined Toronto to be the leader of the pack. Waterfront Toronto President and CEO John Campbell discusses the role of broadband in its $35 billion revitalization project. An estimated 12,000 new residents are targeted to receive a 100 Mpbs service, while local businesses should see 10 gigabit services.
ICF is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. It's Intelligent Community awards salute the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology,
Community broadband project teams and stakeholders always hear that these network services are the new utility, they improve economic development and people use broadband to find jobs. But what's missing? After the news stories, conferences, Webinars and calls to colleagues, what do those folks driving broadband deployments still need to know?
Jeffrey Gavlinski, one of the two primary people behind this year's successful Mountain Connect rural broadband conference, shares what he finds are the questions, answers and information that still elude individuals, many of whom don't even know what they don't know. Do we really understand what these networks should be producing? Are project teams being taught the a-b-c's of building good networks, and how to market them effectively before and after deployment?
Knowledge is power, but what you don't know can kill even the most promising broadband plans. Gavlinski has attended plenty of conference, talks frequently with lots of people and stays on top of broadband news in preparation for his own conference. The industry is marketing a lot of sizzle these days, but is it giving those who need more news they can use enough steak and side dishes? This interview gives listeners an overview of the kinds of details required to fill in the knowledge gaps and where these details may be found. The role of consultants in filling these gaps is also examined.
With developments of the past two months, we have to wonder if there is a new trend of public broadband network advocates becoming more powerful in state legislatures. We've seen three bills to introduce or increase restrictions going down to defeat in conservative legislatures, and Tennessee saw serious efforts in their legislature to roll back restrictions on public networks.
Veteran telecom attorney Atty. Jim Baller, President the Baller Herbst Group and strong advocate for informed local choice in broadband matters, helps us decipher what these recent events that go counter to state legislative action that gave 19 states restrictive anti-muni network laws. What do these developments tell us about the power of lobbyist or the political attitude of legislators? Have the pro-muni net forces become better organized?
Tennessee is of particular interest since previously conservative legislators have held fast in their antagonism towards public entities' involvement in broadband. Atty. Baller also discusses currently unfolding developments in some Democrat-controlled legislatures. The interview is coming live from the annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors, which focuses heavily on broadband and telecom issues important to city and county governments in S. and N. Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
A recent survey of economic development pros reveals that 43% believe broadband-driven telemedicine will have a significant impact on local economies. Maybe it’s time communities move that needle well north of 50%.
The Illinois Medical District in Chicago is betting a 100-gig network covering 560 acres and digitally integrating over 40 medical facilities will reduce costs, score major research projects and attract new businesses. District Executive Director Warren Ribley explains the details of this ambitious project, and why other communities should consider something similar. Fujitsu Network Communications is a key private-sector partner in this project.
Though many people mistakenly assume large metropolitan areas to be the land of broadband abundance, Ribley describes the area as currently “a broadband desert.” Telemedicine, when powered by Internet at light speed, promises to be an economic accelerant to lift up urban and rural communities that have vision, creatively and seriously good planning.
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