As originally posted on Blandin on Broadband…
Decisions are not getting any easier for community leaders working on broadband. The pressure to do something is increasing as the impact of being un- or underserved mount, yet new wireless technologies are providing more strategy options.
Consider just these two alternatives from the many out there for consideration:
- A cooperative telephone company operating nearby offers to partner on a fiber to the home project that will provide gigabit service to everyone in the area. The project will require relatively large grants from both the state broadband program and from the county.
- A wireless company offers to partner with the county to offer services in the rural countryside that will offer 100 Mb/20 Mb service to 80% of rural residents. Implementation of the project will require a moderate sized state grant, but no county contribution.
These two simple examples require local leaders to make judgments that they may feel unqualified to make, considering the following questions:
- Fiber can deliver gigabit speeds both up and down and more. Wireless can now meet the 2026 state goal. Will wireless meet the needs of farms, resorts, students and tele-workers far into the future? What else could our county do with those local grant funds? Would fiber provide a long-term strategic advantage for our area?
- Will state grant makers grant our county the necessary large grant to make our project feasible or will they pass us by for solutions that serve more people at lower cost? Conversely, will state funders favor more high-capacity, future-resilient technologies?
- What about the 20% of rural households that would not be served with the wireless solution?
- If we only have an opportunity for one state grant, what is it that we really want long-term for our citizens?
Reaching a consensus on these questions will drive each community’s unique broadband solution. “Go slow to go fast” is wise advice that apparently goes back Rome’s Augustus. I suggest that you take that advice as you consider your options.