BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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54 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 BROADBAND POLICY City Planners Need Broadband Education City planners develop the documents that guide cities' growth and infrastructure upgrades – yet few of them are familiar with broadband issues. More education is in order. By Kathleen McMahon / Applied Communications C ity planners can play key roles in helping facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure. Tey are responsible for drafting planning documents that chart the needs for community growth, they communicate with public ofcials to help set local priorities, they administer regulations for subdivisions and they coordinate with other departments on issues regarding rights-of-way and investments in capital improvements. Additionally, planners are rapidly adopting new technology applications that require robust broadband networks. However, a nationwide 2013 survey of almost 300 planners conducted by this author as a follow-up to the American Planning Association research report Planning and Broadband: Infrastructure, Policy, and Sustainability (PAS Report #569) indicates that planners generally lack familiarity with basic broadband concepts. Given their key roles in the potential deployment and use of broadband infrastructure, it is time to begin engaging city planners in discussions on broadband. Te broadband and planning survey was conducted online in 2013. A total of 282 planners from 26 states responded. Te majority of respondents (63.8 percent) worked for city or county planning departments, 13.6 percent worked for private consulting frms, 5.4 percent worked for state or federal agencies and the remainder worked for other types of employers. Respondents represented small towns, midsize jurisdictions and large metro areas. PLANNERS ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH BROADBAND CONCEPTS Te frst part of the survey was designed to assess city planners' familiarity with basic broadband topics and concepts. Given the prominence of the FCC National Broadband Plan and the NTIA broadband mapping project, survey respondents were frst asked to indicate their familiarity with these initiatives. Approximately one-third of planners were familiar with the Broadband Plan, but only a dismal 15 percent had viewed or used the broadband maps. Planning for any type of infrastructure requires familiarity with the basic components of the system. At the very least, planners should be able to respond to questions about the availability of broadband services to prospective businesses and should be knowledgeable enough to coordinate with broadband providers on issues such as use of rights-of-way and provision of service in new developments. Most respondents indicated that they were familiar with the last-mile technologies of DSL, cable and 3G or 4G wireless services. When asked about middle-mile networks, however, 84 percent of the planners didn't know about the availability of this service in their communities. About 50 percent were unable to answer whether there was fxed wireless service