New forms of broadband partnerships – going beyond customer-vendor

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recentlyPPP published a report on Public Private Partnerships based on lessons from three case studies: Westminster and Ting in Maryland, UC2B and iTV-3/CountryWide in Illinois, and LeverettNet in Massachusetts.

It’s a good look at a wide range of PPPs – outlined on the graphic to the right with a strong focus on balanced partnerships. They use examples of successful and less than successful projects to demonstrate their points. (Monticello, MN is one featured example.)

It’s an interesting outline for any community looking at their options…

For communities that decide to seek partners, take heed from the lessons above. Be sure to build community buy-in and document the outcomes sought. Vet partners carefully to ensure they will deliver what the community needs. Ensure that the community will continue to have some oversight or leverage over the network that the

community will depend upon for decades. It needs to remain accountable. Two means to ensure that are 1) outright public ownership of some assets and 2) a right of first refusal to purchase them in the event network ownership changes.

Finally, there is no way to dismiss risk in these projects. Partnerships should combine the best capacity of the public and private sectors, not serve merely to hide risk from voters. When a community hears that a partner has a “no risk” approach, they should be extremely skeptical. The PPPs that have delivered the best results and stood the test of time are those where the public has taken on greater risk, as in Westminster. They funded and own the network. We have yet to see partnerships in which the private partner provides all the financing but allows the public any meaningful voice in network outcomes.

This entry was posted in Community Networks, 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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