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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AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 | www.broadbandcommunities.com | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 43 Show Me the Money How should cities ask for loans, grants or investments to improve broadband? Short answer: Show funders how broadband will help them achieve their objectives. By Craig Settles / Gigabit Nation M any a plan for building a community broadband network has snagged on the shoals of fnancial uncertainty. However, there's actually much more money available for broadband than many communities realize. Typically, local businesspeople, educators or visionary political leaders start agitating at city council meetings, saying that the town should have its own broadband, just like Chattanooga. Citizens get excited as they recognize the possibilities. Ten someone asks, "How can we aford it?" People discuss passing a bond measure, but these aren't popular everywhere. Traditional loans are another possibility, but these may not be popular, either. Finding a Google Fiber to be a broadband sugar daddy has a lot of cachet – except for such nagging issues as communities' lack of say in key decisions (such as where the profts go). A public-private partnership is only as good to the community as the lawyers who craft the deal. Federal grants ofer hope, but there isn't enough broadband money to go around. After exhausting this list, broadband planners hit the brick wall. Communities need to step back and consider the problem from diferent angles. Rather than limiting themselves to the usual funding suspects and then despairing when these sources don't work out, they should cast their nets wider, looking beyond the institutions and partners that aim to fund broadband networks. Tey need to fnd people who pay for results, not for technology. Tese funders may not know the diference between a gigabit and a girafe. Te U.S. Department of Transportation is not in the business of funding broadband networks. It is, however, in the business of helping cities build, manage, use and maintain better streets and freeways. Bring them plans to better use streets and freeways, and DOT will listen. Te city of Columbus, Ohio, got a grant from DOT for almost $8 million to replace its aging, proprietary trafc signal systems with a more fexible system built on the backbone of fber optic cable and wireless communications technologies. Te city contributed $750,000. Tat means its IT department has fber running to every trafc light in the city – fber it couldn't otherwise have aforded. Besides having the Cadillac of trafc management systems, the city can now invite competitive providers to ofer broadband to homes and businesses. Communities build broadband networks to solve specifc problems. Tey should identify government agencies, nonprofts, foundations, local businesses with spare capital, wealthy individuals and others that have available funds to help solve similar problems. Bits, bytes, conduits and fber wires are just concepts. A lot of funding organizations don't care what the technology does; all they care about is whether it answers the need – and whose name is on the check they're about to write. WHAT PEOPLE DO WITH THE NETWORK IS KEY Raising all the funding from a single entity creates less heartburn, but it's unlikely to occur. A community must be adept at developing COMMUNITY BROADBAND