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Growing the Internet 3 July 2019

Becoming Broadband Ready Means Community Innovation and Collaboration

Cat Blake
By Cat BlakeSenior Program Manager, Next Century Cities

There are countless communities across North America that are hungry to see better broadband access for their residents. It’s clear to local leaders that high-quality Internet access is the bedrock of a healthy and successful community – providing job opportunities, bolstering education, transforming health care, and democratizing access to information. What isn’t always so clear is how to make it happen.

That’s why Next Century Cities teamed up with the Internet Society and Neighborly to create the Becoming Broadband Ready toolkit. This comprehensive toolkit provides local leaders with a roadmap to encourage broadband investment in their community.

While every community will choose to tackle connectivity a little differently – a small island community and a large urban center will likely have unique considerations and approaches – there are many common threads that run through successful broadband projects. Becoming Broadband Ready compiles these threads into an easy-to-use and impactful resource for any community, providing resources specific to:

  • Establish Leadership
  • Build a Community Movement
  • Identify Goals
  • Evaluate the Current Circumstance
  • Establish Policies and Procedures to Support Investment
  • Prioritize Digital Inclusion
  • Identify Legislative and Regulatory Barriers
  • Explore Connectivity Options
  • Explore Financing Options
  • Be a Clear Collaborator
  • Measure Success

Next Century Cities identified the toolkit’s key priorities by learning from the countless communities that have taken action to connect residents to fast, affordable, reliable broadband. The toolkit lifts up local solutions so that communities can learn from one another about what does and doesn’t work at the municipal level – from innovative financing models to collaborative infrastructure permitting practices.

Fostering robust broadband access is no small undertaking. The technology is complicated, the policy considerations are nuanced, and the regulations are always changing. But municipalities have extraordinary amounts of resources that can be leveraged to encourage investment in broadband infrastructure and ultimately better connectivity.

For example, in the state of Nebraska, municipalities are barred from providing broadband service or from leasing fiber. So when the city of Lincoln wanted to do something to encourage broadband investment, local leaders had to come up with a creative solution. The city ended up building a 350 mile conduit network along abandoned water lines, traffic conduit, electric conduit, and gas lines. The city has leased out the conduit to seven different carriers, creating healthy competition, and has generated nearly half a million dollars per year in lease revenue. Despite significant legislative barriers, Lincoln found a way to bolster access to broadband, and the community is reaping the results.

Separately, cities like Huntington Beach, California have developed creative permitting practices to encourage wireless investment. In order to prepare for 5G deployment, the city worked collaboratively with several wireless providers to create four small cell design standards. The designs are publicly available, and if a provider submits permitting applications to the city that match the designs, they are able to move forward with an expedited approval process. Since implementing this process, the city has created agreements with multiple wireless carriers, and has also become the first community in the United States to deploy Philips Smart Fusion Poles.

The toolkit is full of creative local solutions like these that encourage connectivity. In addition to providing examples throughout each topic section, the toolkit includes topic-specific reading lists and checklists of action steps.

Additionally, the toolkit was purposefully developed as a website so that it can be updated easily and often. New technologies and network models mean that best practices are always evolving. Next Century Cities will continue to add information, links, and sections to this toolkit so that it remains a core resource for communities into the future.

Becoming Broadband Ready’s strength is in the innovative successes of tenacious communities and organizations across the country. If you have a suggestion or contribution, or if you would like to become a member of Next Century Cities, please reach out to [email protected].

Find all of Next Century Cities’ resources and tools to encourage local broadband expansion and adoption on our site.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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