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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
As the many middle-mile networks built by federal broadband stimulus, state and some private-sector efforts light up, broadband is not magically appearing on residential and business doorsteps as some local broadband champions mistakenly expected to happen. There's a lot of finger pointing, wailing and gnashing of teeth in communities as they subsequently try to figure out how to move last-mile projects forward.
OneCommunity announced a $2 million Big Gig Challenge grant to help public and private entities build community fiber networks in the nonprofit's 2,000-mile, 11-county coverage area. Their middle-mile fiber network is dedicated to propelling northeastern Ohio to the forefront of broadband innovation.
Listeners who want to move the last-mile ball forward despite the challenges to finding money and other resources will learn much from OneCommunity's COO Brent Lindsay and Economic Development Manager Liz Forester. They discuss the grant program and offer recommendations for other entities that want to create similar programs to drive last-mile buildouts to connect with middle mile infrastructure. Money is important, but Lindsay and Forester also describe the types of programs that must be in place so communities can maximize grants and other funding.
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