Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2017

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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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 | www.broadbandcommunities.com | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 39 cannot patronize the community's retail businesses, their children will not attend the schools and the tax value of their property will decline. Sloan concluded, "Convince me that you are suffering because the incumbent is not providing adequate services. Document the requests you've made. Establish the economic costs of poor broadband. Invite key legislators to your municipality, focus on this subject and present information to them. Be really creative in your thinking. Suggest imposing an 'economic justice tax' – a fee on the provider to offset the penalties your community is suffering – and make sure it can't be passed on to the customers. Lobby for statewide broadband franchising because negotiating with individual communities is frustrating for providers." Sloan advised talking to legislators when they aren't actually in session – it's easier to get their attention when they aren't overwhelmed with work. In addition, it's a good idea to find out what the broadband and economic situation is in a legislator's district. ose from well-served, thriving districts may respond to different arguments than those from struggling districts. ELECT THE RIGHT PEOPLE Josh Byrnes, an Iowa state legislator and general manager of Osage Municipal Utilities, said the first step in dealing with legislators is to elect the right legislators. He advised asking all candidates their views about municipal broadband. e next step, Byrnes said, is to form a coalition. After all, broadband affects a wide range of people and organizations. Farmers' organizations, realtors, economic development officials, bankers, educators, unions, and transportation advocates all need better broadband: "It's an odd group, but that's what it takes." ough it seems counterintuitive, Byrnes advised, "Avoid the legislators that already support broadband. Why waste your time with them?" Educating those who don't understand the issue is a better use of time, he said. And keep the message simple because "a lot of legislators are not very intelligent." Brochures tend to land in the wastebasket, but if the message can be boiled down to fit onto a business card, the legislator is likely to put the card in his or her pocket and keep it. Data about impact on the economy or jobs is most likely to catch legislators' attention. Byrne also advised, "Make it personal. Connect it to them. Show the legislators the haves and have-nots. And sell the idea that broadband is infrastructure. We have done a really poor job of taking care of infrastructure of all kinds, so connect the broadband issue to the infrastructure piece." Above all, Byrne said, don't give up. Convincing legislators can take years of patient work. FIND THE HOOK "ere has to be a hook – a reason for legislators to care," said Matt Schmit, a Minnesota state senator. "It could be the impact to their constituents, the return on investment, the great economic efficiencies, the environmental benefits, the number of jobs created or the nonstate dollars leveraged." Keep the message simple; just show them how broadband makes life better. One problem, Schmit said, is that legislators often think "the private sector is taking care of it," and they need to be shown that, in some communities, that isn't true. Broadband advocates must be organized and persistent and must talk to legislators who can be persuaded. "Be prepared for a window to open," Schmit said, "and pounce on the opportunity." Sometimes an opportunity may involve tweaking or modifying legislation originally proposed by incumbent providers. "Good versus evil may not be a useful approach," Schmit pointed out. "Try to suggest approaches that work well for everyone." Ellen Satterwhite, director of the public affairs firm Glen Echo Group, said, "e first question I ask a legislator is, 'Are the networks you have today OK for the next 10 years?' Everything that will happen in the state for the next 10 years depends on the network." She emphasized that broadband is not an individual choice but a community choice. Satterwhite advised, "Use the power of the internet. Fifty emails may not equal 50 lobbyists, but maybe 5,000 emails do." Josh Byrnes, Representative, State of Iowa; General Manager, Osage Municipal Utility (IA) Matt Schmit, Senator, State of Minnesota Ellen Satterwhite, Director, GlenEcho Group "Convince me that you are suffering because the incumbent is not providing adequate services. Document the requests you've made. Establish the economic costs of poor broadband."

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