Stirring the Pot: February: Investment Incentives

As first published in Blandin Broadband eNews February 2012

It seems that the communities with little or no broadband are increasingly feeling the pain of this shortcoming. It is no longer theoretical that they will be left behind sometime in the future. Community leaders recognize that they have been left behind and that the tail lights of their well-connected community neighbors are disappearing into the future.

The definition of community is also expanding to include rural residents. Township and county officials are recognizing that operators of farms and home businesses, school children, doctors and older adults need and want broadband. Leaders of town-centered enterprises like banks, hospitals and schools recognize that their on-line presence is underutilized because 40-60 percent of their customers cannot access broadband.

These last-to-be-served areas are not the easiest places to provide robust broadband services. Low density population patterns and significant number of the people least likely to subscribe – older, lower income – are not enticing investment drivers. Yet they need to get connected.

Communities struggle to find solutions from the bottom up. We are seeing some incumbent providers sitting at the table to try and solve these puzzles. It would be helpful to learn from incumbent providers to what investment incentives will be necessary to make rural broadband investment possible. I encourage them to sharpen their pencils and to let us in on a formula that works for them and benefits rural communities.