Broadband Communities

MAY-JUN 2012

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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Page 84 of 118

Lessons From Community Broadband Successes Three municipal fiber success stories – Bristol, Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Lafayette, La. – offer important lessons for communities that hope to follow in their footsteps. By Christopher Mitchell ■ Institute for Local Self-Reliance Editor's Note: Tis article is adapted from a new report that contains detailed case studies of municipal fiber deployments in Bristol, Va. (BVU Authority); Chat- tanooga, Tenn. (EPB Fiber Optics); and Lafayette, La. (LUS Fiber). You can read the full report, which was published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the Benton Foundation, at broadband-speed-light/ W hen a community undertakes a challenging investment such as a fiber broadband network, mistakes are unavoidable. Some will be painful. Te most successful communi- ties take time for planning and picking their partners to ensure that they will be able to overcome challenging obstacles. PREPARE Examine whether your community can be motivated to take on a substantial amount of work and a huge expense. Find out who has been successful, who has failed and what lessons were learned. Because this early preparation is often confusing and hard, successful commu- nity networks often start with a tireless champion who takes responsibility for moving the process along. Develop a vision of what is necessary for businesses to flourish, educational op- portunities to abound and quality of life to improve. Look three to five years down the road – getting to the point of offering services will take that long. Good net- work architects try to get a feel for trends 10 years out. Building a sustainable net- work requires this longer view. Reach out to, meet with and, if pos- sible, visit other networks. Assistance from existing networks is available. BVU Authority operates a division focused on helping other communities, and the Chattanooga EPB Fiber Optics staff has met with many communities that went on to build their own networks. DEVELOP A PLAN Avoid the trap of study after study. You may not need to pay tens of thousands About the Author Christopher Mitchell, researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, writes regu- larly at and can be reached at . 74 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | MAY/JUNE 2012 of this work should be done before any feasibility study, particularly for com- munities without municipal power au- thorities that have already established relationships with potential subscribers. BVU developed independent busi- ness plans and commissioned market surveys to verify assumptions and pro- jections. It wanted to ensure it had a re- alistic plan that gave it the best chance for success. Chattanooga devoted re- sources to its planning efforts for many Developing a vision requires more than asking people and businesses what they want. Often, it entails extrapolat- ing from what people say they need now and speaking with people in technol- ogy businesses who are not vested in maintaining the status quo. As Steve Jobs said, "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." of dollars to learn that 80 percent of residents would like to pay less for tri- ple-play services from a local, publicly owned network at some indeterminate future point. Feasibility studies can be useful, but they can distract from the necessary work of understanding the full com- munity need, building partnerships and considering broader solutions. Much Building a sustainable network requires taking a longer view than most users have. As Steve Jobs said, "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

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