Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 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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Page 27 of 114

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 21 this sound familiar? A Depression-era federal agency, the Rural Electrification Administration, established a loan program to alleviate the disparity, but power companies largely ignored it. Instead, people formed decentralized, nonprofit electric cooperatives, controlled by their rural memberships. Nine hundred cooperatives still exist today in 47 states. A similar paradigm exists today. Communities will not progress economically or educationally without high-speed broadband. Traditionally self-reliant rural communities should not give up their roots. Communities need to take the initiative. ACQUIRING THE TECHNOLOGY In the short term, it's unlikely that conversations about fiber optics, other than as backhaul, pertain to many rural communities – fiber broadband is just out of reach. e answer to high-speed broadband connectivity in rural communities will probably lie with a wireless internet service provider (WISP) rather than a wireline or cellular provider. Attracting a WISP requires completing the following tasks: • Form a community broadband committee. • Develop a survey to take to community members. • For each willing household, collect – e address – or better, longitude and latitude – e needed broadband speed – e amount the household is willing to pay for that service. If the broadband committee collects 200 commitments at the industry average of $50.00 per month for broadband, that's $10,000 per month, or $120,000 annual revenue out of one little community. Now the community is in a position to negotiate instead of supplicate – and the WISP won't need to invest a cent in marketing costs. Most WISPs respond that 50 confirmed customers are enough to justify placing an antenna to serve the community wirelessly, and that wireless infrastructure just might be useful in serving an adjacent community. e business case is even better if the local jurisdiction will help with the use of public assets such as rights-of- way, pole access, EMS infrastructure, backhaul, and the use of water towers, other strategic promontories and public buildings as antenna bases. Catalpa Partners' principals started placing broadband antennas on water towers in 2010, but we quickly learned that pastors of churches have both a spiritual and a material interest in communicating with their followers. Many places of worship have steeples, others have minarets and most have parking lots that permit these architectural devices to serve as unobstructed base platforms for wireless antennas. Some can even be induced to sponsor internet literacy programs for their neighbors. No computers? Fully depreciated, three- to five-year-old, internet-ready, corporate laptop computers with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities are available by the pallet at low cost to nonprofits and governments in an interesting intersection of Moore's law, corporate largesse and the disposal costs of hazardous waste. Farmers and displaced textile workers in North Carolina learn to use the internet. Photos by Ed Kashi

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