Broadband Communities

AUG-SEP 2014

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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56 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 BROADBAND POLICY force, 43 percent indicated that the planning staf was participating in the efort. Just 4 percent of respondents indicated that the community had developed a broadband strategic plan for the community, and 28 percent answered "Don't know" to this question. Although only a small number of communities actually have stand-alone broadband plans, most communities have comprehensive plans, and infrastructure is an important element of these plans. When asked whether broadband infrastructure was addressed in the comprehensive plan, however, only 15 percent responded "Yes," and 20 percent did not know the answer. At a minimum, a comprehensive plan should include maps that are now readily available from the national broadband mapping efort and should cross-reference broadband strategic planning initiatives. Additionally, there should be policies to address the myriad issues related to broadband deployment and adoption. Respondents who indicated that the comprehensive plan addressed broadband issues identifed promotion of telecommuting as the most common policy, followed by a general goal of working with telecommunications providers to improve networks. Amending the zoning ordinance to address issues with wireless towers and promoting co-location of wireless facilities were also commonly noted. Policies that addressed broadband deployment and digital divide issues were least likely to be included. RECOMMENDATIONS Te survey indicates that planners have a low level of awareness regarding the basic components of broadband infrastructure and existing broadband planning initiatives. Not surprisingly, this lack of awareness results in comprehensive plans that neglect to address this critical infrastructure. Planners should be engaged in decisions regarding broadband investments to promote community interests such as economic development, neighborhood revitalization, coordination with capital improvements and meeting the needs of low-income households. In 2010, the American Planning Association issued an infrastructure white paper titled Rebuilding America: APA National Infrastructure Investment Task Force Report. Te chapter on telecommunications infrastructure contained a number of recommendations for planners to become more involved in broadband planning. Tese recommendations included the following: 1 Broadband needs to be part of a suite of services that build community and should be addressed in comprehensive plans. 2 Planners should coordinate with public agencies and private industries to cost-efectively deploy telecommunications and broadband infrastructure. 3 Cities should consider providing incentives, if necessary, to construct broadband infrastructure in certain locations. 4 Planners should support the use of a community planning process to identify the appropriate model for providing advanced telecommunications and broadband infrastructure. 5 Planners, public ofcials and communities need to become educated about the benefts of broadband infrastructure and issues related to its deployment. 6 Planners should promote the creation of state, regional and local task forces to address issues with deploying broadband and promote broadband applications, especially as related to planning practice. To provide education for planners, the American Planning Association – Technology Division is cohosting a seminar for planners on September 16, 2014, at the BroadBand Communities economic development conference in Springfeld, Mass. Tis day-long summit can be a model to begin giving planners the tools they need to be broadband champions. Service providers and economic development professionals can work with local planning boards, stafs and local ofcials to improve familiarity with broadband issues. Ask for time on the planning board agenda to make a presentation on the importance of planning for broadband. If the community is updating its comprehensive plan, ask that it add policies to promote broadband deployment, such as "dig once" policies and support for gigabit networks. Regularly monitor city council and planning board websites to identify when items regarding right-of-way issues or future street improvements are being discussed. Attend meetings and ask that the city budget for broadband improvements, such as conduit, be included as part of capital improvements plans. Cities that have been proactive in planning for broadband are generally prompted by advocates in the community who have brought this issue to their attention. A combination of educating and advocating before planning boards will result in positive outcomes for the broadband community. v Kathleen McMahon is a founding partner of Applied Communications, a Montana-based consulting frm that provides land-use planning, broadband planning and strategic planning for towns and community organizations. You can contact her at kate@appcom.net. Many planners who responded to the survey were also unfamiliar with broadband planning eforts in their communities.

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