|Broadband, which commonly refers to high speed internet, is a great deal more than just a technology platform. It has become an integral part of our critical infrastructure and ecosystem, and is an enabling platform for innovation, economic growth and community development. Broadband speed and capacity requirements continue to grow as the technology and the Internet continue to evolve.
Today broadband enables the exchange of information in many different forms and is vital to the delivery of services in education, health, government, public safety, and for overall quality of life. Its impact on economic growth is critical in rural, underserved and developed areas and its role is significant in helping communities:
- Attract new businesses and business investments into state and local economies
- Revive and improve depressed communities and business districts
- Level the playing field to allow rural, underserved, developed and growing areas to gain competitive advantage
- Connect residents and community services to enable participation in a digital economy
- Provide more opportunities for employment, home-based businesses and increased income-earning potential
Next generation broadband has been implemented through community broadband networks with a total annual economic output in excess of $265 million deriving from an initial investment of less than $3 million - This is what is being termed now as Giganomics.
The Need for Broadband Planning
Although most cities and areas have access to broadband, older DSL and cable networks that offer broadband may be insufficient, or may very quickly become insufficient, for subscribers seeking to evolve to next generation broadband.
Broadband, digital needs, apps, devices, and services will continue to evolve and broadband bandwidth requirements will continue to increase. With the accelerated rate of broadband-enabled innovation and competitive opportunities, next generation broadband is quickly growing in demand to accommodate increased bandwidth needs.
The need for planning for next generation broadband is essential to stay competitive. In fact, in their recent published report, Planning for Progress, the UN Broadband Commission and Cisco, found statistically significant correlation between planning, penetration, adoption and economic growth. Planning for future opportunities requires lead time, investment and coordination statewide and across regions and communities to maximize benefits and results. There are many communities, cities and states that have started this process and a number of countries who are ranking as world leaders due to their planning diligence and utilization of next generation broadband technologies. Without planning, state and local economies risk falling behind and losing opportunities to lead and grow in today's global competitive market.
In order to plan for broadband, broadband advisory teams with supporting regional planning teams can be instrumental to build their communities, local and state economies. The proposed teams can help set the goals for the state as part of a statewide broadband plan, provide direction, align current and future broadband-related initiatives, aggregate demand to drive down cost help identify economic development and community development opportunities, and leverage best practices and trends in the industry.
Gigabit Trends and Community Broadband Networks
Best-Practices and Benefits
"Gigabit" cities, community broadband fiber/mobile networks are being built around the country to maximize ROI and are having a transformational impact on different communities with benefits that extend beyond the initial expectation.
These community broadband networks are being built by aggregating and creating demand and leveraging best-practices and trends, including the implementation of smart grid technology to reap some of the following benefits:
- stimulate economic growth
- drive community benefits
- drive down cost of service
- reduce city's operational cost
- control energy use
- provide more reliable service
There are many states in the U.S. that have invested the time and the funding to make broadband a priority as part of their economic development plan. In fact, many of these states across the country have demonstrated how broadband is essential to the health and vitality of a community.
The fastest broadband networks are being built by local government to create self-reliant communities through different operating models that reduce dependency on providers' economic models. Rural and underserved areas across the country are creating and meeting demand with next generation "gigabit" broadband infrastructure and attracting businesses from neighboring states. This is leveling the playing field between rural, urban and underserved areas and bridging any digital divide.
Today, community broadband networks are enabling communities and are providing residents, schools, hospitals and workplaces within communities with competitive advantage and quality of ife. Access and adoption to broadband removes geographical barriers and opens up opportunities to citizens. It improves the delivery of services for labor and workforce development, education, economic development and healthcare.
Gigabit networks that supply bandwidth beyond what is generally needed can spur demand and drive community economic growth by enabling innovation and the innovative use of broadband-enabled technologies by different institutions.
A description of the benefits is outlined for each sector with recommendations and ideas on ways adoption can be increased for each sector.
Funding Next Generation Broadband Networks
There are many types of funding opportunities for communities to build their own broadband community networks. Contrary to common belief, upgrading of broadband infrastructure does not require big name service providers. In fact, the fastest broadband community networks are being built by local government to create self-reliant communities through different operating models that reduce dependency on providers' economic models. There are many communities, cities and states who are now ranking as world leaders due to their planning diligence and deployment of next generation community broadband networks through collaborations and partnerships.
As part of an overall planning effort during any redevelopment, recovery or revitalization initiative, communities can synchronize efforts, share costs with other community stakeholders and instutions to lay infrastructure that can provide fiber optic gigabit speed broadband service to residents, businesses and community institutions, including schools, libraries, healthcare providers, municipilaties, public safety. Funding for these networks is being done through a variety of sources, including:
- federal grants
- state funds
- cross-sector funding
- municipal bonds
- city-owned/publicly-owned utility companies
- non-profit funding
- community funding
- crowd funding
- private funding
- public/private partnerships
Below are some resources that provide additional information
- Examples of some towns and cities:
- A small area in the creative center of St. Louis, which showed the following significant impact from its gigabit community broadband network - 1000 high-tech jobs paid at industry standard,;972 additional jobs across a number of industries, including real estate, employment services, food service and drinking establishments, hospitals/health care providers, telecommunications and wholesale trade; $132 Million in wages and benefits; $172 Million in additional economic benefits, such as sales, rents and services.
- Chatanooga, TN was driven by the city's electric and utility company with the initial goal being to monitor the municipal utility's electric grid and to minizae outages, help conserve energy and cost. The initiative included running fiber-to-the home to cover roughly 170,000 homes and businesses in urban, suburban, and rural areas.The citywide gigabit network has since then seen benefits beyond its expectation. Chattanooga's Electric Power Board (EPB) issued revenue bonds to finance the initiative and then received a grant from the US Department of energy in additional funding. Here's a summary write-up on the Chatnooga initiative.
- A link to our Broadband News page with additional examples and case studies compiled from around the country that have funded and have seen benefits from their own community broadband networks
- The Insitute of Local Self-Reliance provides many more resources and case studies and has put together a Fact Sheet for Financing Municipal Networks.
Policies and Legislation Can Maximize the Benefits of Broadband
Policies and legislation are other key dimensions that contribute to the success of broadband in state and local economies.
Some examples of policy changes used to maximize the impact of broadband, include:
- Promoting market liberalization and allowing local authority to build their networks
- Reviewing and updating Legislative and regulatory frameworks
- Considering Open Access to Infrastructure to share across sectors
- Balancing incentives for investment while supporting competition
- Utilizing Universal Service Funds (USF's) and other funding sources especially in areas where the private firms may be less willing to invest. Include funding for adoption programs, devices, content, and training.
- Creating incentives and use of government funds as direct investment
- Reviewing policy frameworks for spectrum
- Providing access to utility poles and rights of way
- Improving policies for wireless facilities and other infrastructure
- Supporting accurate and timely statistical modeling to monitor broadband availability, affordability and adoption by individuals, businesses , public sectors and community anchor institutions