Broadband Communities

MAY-JUN 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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44 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | MAY/JUNE 2014 COMMUNITY BROADBAND speeds. Parents line up to subscribe to community networks, so engineering design must consider their demands when planning infrastructure location and capacity. Hospitals and clinics will see a network as their vehicle for ofering new telemedicine services, and this in turn should drive residential take rates. Moving from the planning stage to the pilot project is the next opportunity to plan for success. A pilot project that establishes and analyzes benchmarks helps anticipate demand. Te pilot's fber build and participants are selected to enable the team to test assumptions resulting from the needs assessment. Longmont's pilot project helped its team determine that a 60 percent take rate would strain the utility's human resources because it might have to triple the number of people installing infrastructure at customer premises. Te engineering design stage presents another chance to prepare for success. Longmont's design frm, Uptown Services, carved the citywide buildout into six phases, each with about 5,000 passings of homes and businesses. "Te area we designated for the frst phase has conduit already going past 1,100 homes, so we can get in, build out quickly and start up service," reports Jordan. "We get a fast win, prove ourselves and drive up demand in the rest of town when people see what's going on here. We prioritized the other phases based on where we can build out quickly with a good mix of homes and businesses." Tis issue of balancing home and business customers is very important because communities want to generate high revenues from business subscribers to ofset the costs of building laterals deep into neighborhoods. Google has done a great job of showing how to build a successful residential business. "However, when you do the math, you need business subs," states Jordan. "Te ratio of businesses to residences in Longmont is about 1:8. Google can ignore businesses [in the short term] because they have deep pockets, plus they're not expecting a network to pay for itself for a long time. For others, over the long haul, businesses always generate the bulk of revenue." Probably the greatest insurance for positive outcomes from the halo efect is to masterfully manage stakeholders' and constituents' expectations. If everyone expects to get service at once, lots of people will be unhappy. Jordan and his team constantly and consistently remind people that the network will take three years to complete and somebody's going to have to be last. Project teams must overcommunicate to constituents the realities of broadband and deployments. … AND PREPARE FOR THE WORST Longmont learned through experience that preparing for overwhelming success can help prepare for unexpected negative events as well. Te city's buildout was well underway in fall 2013 when a natural disaster tested the network in ways not foreseen. Te city found that the robustness of its capacity was key to passing the test with fying colors. A massive September food hit Longmont's portion of the state, causing at least $1 billion in damage as it wiped out homes, businesses, highways and interstates. In addition to causing property damage and loss of life, the fooding made travel and communication within the area difcult, if not impossible, for several days. Longmont's network enabled an enormous impromptu crisis communication and crisis survival operation. Te city's videographer went airborne in the local skydiving club's airplane several times daily to video damaged structures, rivers and waterways, road conditions and stranded survivors throughout the region. Te city loaded massive video fles to YouTube. A team of round- the-clock webmasters and volunteers kept the city's servers and Web pages pumping out videos, Facebook posts, Twitter messages and other communications to residents, the Army Corps of Engineers and people outside the area. Jordan observes, "Without the network, there is no way we could have done this, particularly on such a massive scale. We had the only comprehensive and up-to-date news coming from these areas." Te major network and cable news outlets placed cameras mainly in one or two areas that kept showing the same scenes repeatedly. Tough no one could have foreseen such a use for the network, the city is revising its emergency response plans to incorporate its ability to move massive amounts of data. Another fortunate outcome of the city's planning was the decision to build durable underground vaults to house network cabinets. Despite the deep water and heavy mud deposits, the cabinets and electronics were completely undamaged. Using typical street-level cabinets could have resulted in catastrophic damage to the network. It is early in the gigabit game and there are few rules, for better or worse. However, gigabit networks clearly produce great interest and excitement that drive subscriptions. It is incumbent upon communities to plan well for the best of times yet be well prepared for the occasional storm. v Craig Settles is a community broadband industry analyst, a strategy consultant and the host of the Gigabit Nation radio talk show. Reach him at In addition to managing the phased installation of their networks, operators must manage constituentsÕ expectations to avoid creating disappointment. BBC_May14.indd 44 5/29/14 9:17 AM

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