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A big majority of the hundreds of citywide and partial-reach broadband networks are celebrated successes by their stakeholders, businesses and residential subscribers, disproving critics who wrongly claim all public-owned networks are failures. Interviews live from the Kansas City Gigabit Summit reveal what it means to have a winning community broadband network.
Delegates from eight of the communities sharing their success stories with Summit attendees join us to give listeners insights to setting and meeting broadband goals. It is important to understand that, unlike private service providers, "return on investment" (ROI) is very different for communities focused on using broadband to improve economic development, transform healthcare delivery and otherwise serve the public good.
Guests, including those representing Winthrop, MN, Chattanooga and Jackson, TN, Monmouth, OR and Salisbury, NC, also discuss how they funded their networks, and offer advice for meeting the money challenge as opportunities and financing options evolve. One of the several strengths public entities have over private companies is the ability to repay debt over 20 or 25 years rather than being driven to meet stockholder needs for quick returns.
The Gigabit Summit is a national gathering of cities with broadband networks that are educating, helping and encouraging cities just beginning their broadband journeys. Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri are the proud hosts and gigabit showcase cities kicking off 2015 with the first big broadband educational conference of the year.
Cedar Falls, IA became Ground Zero for launching a Presidential drive for gigabit community-owned broadband throughout the U.S. Learn how this 20-year old network took center stage last week as the latest beacon leading cities nationwide on the path to faster, better public-owned broadband.
Broadband is driving Cedar Fall's economic activities. Listeners get a detailed breakdown of the city's progress since upgrading to a gigabit network a year ago from Bob Seymour, Planner III/Economic Development. Curtis Dean, Broadband Services Coordinator for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities provides insights to expected developments in the state's broadband future.
President Obama held up Cedar Falls as a great example of the value of public braodband networks in helping to meet America's highspeed Internet needs, and why we need giant service providers to stop blocking communities' ability to become the next gigabit success story. Our guests offer listeners advice on how their communities can overcome the challenges of these statutes.
State laws mandating these public-owned broadband networks get voter approval through referendum campaigns used to mean near-certain death for any project. Kiss those days goodbye! Meet the winners who have turned the tide.
November 4, EIGHT towns and counties all passed ballot initiatives to return the authority to pursue broadband to their constituents. With 70% or more of the vote. Predominately Democrat or Republican didn’t matter. How did they do that!? Representatives of Boulder, Rio Blanco, San Miguel, Yuma County and other communities give us the scoop on how they pulled off these big wins.
We’re going to find out:
Are the political winds blowing heavily community broadband’s way?
At the local level, is broadband now a bipartisan issue?
What tactics were effective getting these referenda passed?
What happened to the giant telcos and cable companies?
What comes next for these communities?
Will there be a flood of communities rolling out their own ballot initiatives?
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.
Many communities must understand that, without a well-crafted and executed creative marketing strategy, their broadband networks will have limited success. This is particularly true in states such as North Carolina that have a hostile political climate for public networks. Salisbury, NC has held their own for four years, but plans to turn on the marketing afterburners to accelerate their growth and impact on the community.
Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson and Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell present constituents and listeners with details on some of their marketing ideas. The city launched its Fibrant fiber network in 2010 and has steadily increased its subscriber base in the face of stiff incumbent opposition. They recently upgraded Fibrant to 1 gigabit per second service, which they expect will improve economic development, healthcare service delivery, education and government services.
City leaders see their marketing efforts moving forward on two fronts: 1) increasing marketing messages that educate various constituencies about the benefits of gigabit services, and 2) raising Salisbury's national profile as a forward-looking gig city that is a center of innovation. The Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem describe several of Fibrant's past marketing successes, and provide other community broadband teams with advice on how to market effectively against well-financed adversaries.
Tennessee, along with North Carolina, has become Ground Zero in the Obama Administration’s drive to roll back state laws restricting public-owned broadband networks. But what about on the ground? How do consumers, businesses and state legislators feel about these laws?
Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling discusses her views on why it’s time to question the value of her state’s restrictions. Sen. Bowling believes in the free market system. But she also believes from first-hand experience that the public-owned fiber network in her hometown of Tullahoma successfully meets a vital economic need that the market can’t or won’t address.
The Senator describes her constituency’s progress in economic advancement, education, healthcare since launching their own network. Some Tennessee townsfolk can look across the bridge and see citizens in cities such as Chattanooga benefitting from gigabit networks. Sen. Bowling feels this is an injustice to communities, and last year led efforts eliminate the restriction on public utilities to expand their broadband services to nearby communities.
ATTENTION: There is heavy static in show's first 3-4 minutes, but it clears up after that.
The pride of the pack when it comes to community broadband business models is the open-access model in which the local government or public utility owns the physical network and private-sector ISPs deliver services to subscribers. It looks like a relatively easy model to pursue, and dozens of communities say this is their preferred option. In reality, making open access work is a monster challenge requiring intense, constant effort.
Mt. Vernon, WA has built a small cadre of ISPs for its open-access fiber network. Information Services Director Kim Kleppe details how they overcame obstacles and seized opportunities to build a successful network that is financially sustainable. Listeners will learn:
why getting the second ISP is the hardest job in the world;
how to set pricing structure
tips for creating win-win situations
marketing tactics that attract ISPs and subscribers
how to keep everyone on the same page
Kleppe and his colleagues have 12 years experience building and refining their open access model. Communities just getting their networks off the ground can really benefit from the lessons of those who've been in the trenches a while.
Mike Marcellin, senior vice president of NetApp, talks about the work that US Ignite is doing in 31 communities across the country to encourage development of next-generation broadband networks and applications that run on them. The nonprofit is working in the areas of manufacturing, education, energy, healthcare and others and collaborating with developers who are creating innovative applications that need high-speed broadband networks to run effectively and efficiently.
Congressional reps, in their annual pique over the abuses of a couple of wireless companies, are attempting to once again throw out the broadband baby with the water of a corrupted few. Atty. Anthony Veach, from telecom industry law firm Bennet & Bennet PLLC joins us to discuss House bill 5376's threat to broadband usage in underserved communities.
Veach describes how the current FCC has made reforming its telecom industry-funded Lifeline grant program a priority, and discusses whether Congress's action threatens rather than helps create meaningful changes. Lifeline originally funded basic telephone service for low-income urban and rural households so no citizens would be economically forced to do without phone service. The Bush Administration expanded Lifeline to include wireless phone service as this was quickly displacing landlines. As smartphones become a primary device for accessing broadband, particularly in communities of color, Congress' action threatens to hit them particularly hard.
Listeners get an inside peek at Lifeline reforms to date, and what additional reforms are in the works. They also pick up some valuable insights into the Lifeline program, its main accomplishments over the years and some of the challenges the program faces as it tries to keep pace with technology changes not envisioned by Lifeline's original architects.
A large majority of municipal and public utility broadband networks are successes. Next Century Cities lays out several paths to help your community to reach this winner's circle.
NCC Executive Director Deb Socia describes for listeners a range of business and funding models for community broadband that are creating success stories around the country. Communities such as Santa Monica, CA and Mount Vernon, WA built success by using their networks for replace T1 lines and other old communications infrastructure. Others such as Monticello, MN formed public private partnerships. Jackson, TN and Cedar Falls, IA sell services direct to subscribers.
Socia's organization has assembled quite the brain trust of communities and she is happy to share some of that knowledge. Listeners will get insights into:
preventing critics from defining your success;
defining parameters and goals for success based on constituents' broadband needs;
helping non-technical people understand and become excited about how the network will impact them; and
promoting your successes.
Next Century Cities is a membership organization providing knowledge and peer- support for communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet.
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