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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the endless stream of RFPs for community broadband feasibility studies widens, are these communities considering the intersect between broadband and cloud computing? It's important to have quality infrastructure that reaches all constituents, but it's equally important to build an infrastructure that supports applications that make the network financially sustainable. Learn how to create a role for cloud computing in your broadband planning.
Bernie Arnason, publisher and editor of Telecompetitor, keeps his finger on the pulse as he covers developments important to the broadband ecosystem through his analysis and commentary. Arnason is particularly focused on how network operators, including community broadband project teams, monetize the infrastructure while serving communities' needs.
Listeners get a solid grounding in how targeting local enterprises and small businesses with cloud computing services has a payback both in generating high-end, big dollar subscribers with low churn rates, and increasing the economic strength of community businesses. Arnason describes how to design the network buildout and subsequent marketing of cloud and other services to capture this low-hanging fruit. He also discusses the "Internet if things," which is an important element of cloud computing strategy.
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.
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.
Feetz don't fail me now! Chattanooga this week unveiled several awe-inspiring 3D applications that development teams created this summer on the city's gig network. As broadband champions get their brains wrapped around 3D printing and the technology's potential benefits, it's immediately clear why your broadband plan should include 3D printing apps. Two companies from Demo Day give you an eye-opening peek at the future.
This is is a 3D printing manufacturer and retailer that creates custom-fit footwear for consumers of all shoe sizes. Using patented algorithms and snapshots from the customer’s phone, Feetz integrates custom sizing measurements with individual design preferences to bring comfort, fit and style into each pair of hyper-customized shoes.
These folks have created a 3D printing manufacturer that provides contract medical devices for pre-surgical planning. Using patient-specific data, the company creates anatomical 3D models that enable surgeons to plan procedures before operating on patients.
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