City Planners and Broadband Survey

I’m pleased today to share a guest blog post by Kathleen McMahon, AICP. Kate works for Applied Communications; they consult on land use planning, telecommunication assessments, housing needs assessments, grant writing and strategic planning…

As a follow-up to a recent American Planning Association (APA) report on broadband planning, the authors conducted an on-line survey APA members to determine awareness among planners regarding broadband technologies and the extent that planners are addressing broadband issues in local planning documents such as comprehensive plans.    The broadband planning survey indicates that there is a low level of awareness among planners about this critical infrastructure and that less than 15% of communities are addressing the issues in their comprehensive plans.  Other key findings included:

  • Approximately one-third of planners were familiar with the Broadband Plan but only a dismal 15% had actually viewed or used the broadband maps.
  • Most respondents to the survey indicated that they were familiar with the “last mile” technologies of DSL, cable and 3G or 4G wireless services.   When asked about “middle-mile” networks, however, 84% of the planners didn’t know about the availability of this service in their communities.    Additionally, about 50% of planners were unable to answer if there was fixed wireless service in their planning area.    A significant number of planners were also unaware whether “Fiber-to-the-Home” and free downtown Wi-Fi services were available in their communities.
  • 22% responded that they aware of an existing of a task force in the community while 47% said they didn’t know one way or the other if there was broadband task force in their area.   Of those who were aware of a community or regional task force, 43% of planners indicated that the planning staff was participating in the effort
  • Just 4% of respondents indicated that the community had developed a broadband strategic plan for the community while 28% answered, “Don’t know” to this question.
  • Of those respondents that indicated that the comprehensive plan addressed broadband issues, the most common policy was to promote telecommuting followed by a general goal to work with telecommunications providers to improve networks.   Amending the zoning ordinance to address issues with wireless towers and promoting co-location of wireless facilities were also common policies noted by respondents.      Policies that addressed broadband deployment and digital divide issues were least likely to be included.

City planners should be part of the broadband discussion.  They are involved can represent the public interest and help coordinate broadband planning with other city plans.  As this survey indicates, there is a need for the broadband community to reach out to planners through workshops at planning conferences and by engaging planners on broadband task force groups.   (Note:  For the complete survey results send an e-mail to

This entry was posted in economic development, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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