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 | MAY/JUNE 2015 SUMMIT COVERAGE PLANNING FOR FINANCING By Doug Dawson/CCG Consulting, Bill Coleman/Community Technology Advisors and Mark Erickson/RS Fiber Before you go down the road to fnancing, you must be able to demonstrate that you have a well-conceived plan and that people in your community support your eforts. Your path from concept to deployed fber project will probably take longer than you expect. Here are some questions to consider: Do you have a champion? Is a person or a team of people willing to step up and devote the considerable amount of time needed to undertake the necessary steps? What is the competitive landscape? Do the incumbents do a good job? Are they well liked? Have you talked to the incumbents about upgrading their network? Is there an opportunity to partner with an incumbent? How will the people and businesses in your community beneft from the network? Will the network improve the delivery of health care in your community? Will it provide new educational opportunities or improve the quality of life for senior citizens? Will the presence of a fber network improve the ability of local businesses to compete in the marketplace? Are businesses and institutions ready to step up and make use of new network capabilities? What kind of support do you have in the community? How do local businesses feel about the city's becoming involved? Are schools on board? Have you talked with health care providers? You will need to be able to demonstrate support – meaning customers – before you can attract fnancing. Who is going to help you? Have you selected a consultant to draft a business plan? You also might need an engineering frm to provide an estimate of network costs to verify the numbers suggested by your initial consultant. Find a fnancial adviser appropriate to your planned form of fnancing. Get the adviser's opinion early to make sure that what you have in mind is feasible and legal. Be prepared to be fexible because the realities of funding may make you change your plans. You also need a plan to bring the public on board. Educating residents about the benefts of a fber network is key to gaining their support. If they see the benefts, they will be more inclined to support your eforts. This will require surveys, mailers, newsletters, websites and lots of public meetings. You will need a team of local volunteers to handle the early work that needs to be done. Somebody has to take charge of working with the consultants and working with the public. Who is going to pay for development costs? Before you go for fnal fnancing, you are going to have to pay for feasibility reports, engineering, legal advice, advertising and public awareness. This cost can be considerable and generally is proportional to the size of your project. Make sure you know up front how you are going to raise the needed money. These up-front costs can often be repaid from fnal fnancing, but somebody has to write the checks to get the project to the point of being ready for fnancing and construction. How will you be organized? You need to know which business structure you will use to own and operate the business. Will the network be a municipal, cooperative, nonproft or for-proft corporation? If it's a municipal business, this means getting the local politicians involved, holding public hearings and asking them to vote to support and fund the project. If more than one municipality is involved, you will probably have to create some sort of joint powers board as a way for the communities to act together. Expect that every community will have naysayers who do not want to use public funds to pay for fber. If you form a corporation or cooperative, you need to create the operating entity, choose people to lead the efort, and create and implement governance rules. How is this going to operate? Will you hire employees or bring in an outside frm? In either case, you need a detailed plan of how this will work before you get funded. Will you have any partners? If the project involves multiple entities, those agreements must be reached early. If this is to be a public-private partnership, all parties must be on board early with a clear understanding of roles, risk assignment, limitations and governance. In the end, you are going to ask someone to lend you a substantial amount of money from a private or public source or a combination of sources. More sources equal more complexity. Cities need to understand that borrowing money for fber projects is never easy and that the fnal step of getting fnanced is the hardest step in the process.