Broadband is a game changer – try to imagine a community that never developed roads – this primer might help

arcLast summer, the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) released a Broadband Planning Primer and Toolkit. I’ve been waiting for a chance to check it out. The day finally came.

I think it will be useful to a wide range of audiences.

It’s a primer so it includes the what and why of broadband. I’ll just copy my favorite line:

Try to imagine communities that never developed roads and electricity and you will understand the dismal prospects that confront unconnected communities.

They do a nice job of explaining backbone vs middle mile vs last mile and the range of transport options.

They include some policymaker-ready statistics…

  • Increasing broadband access 10 percentage points increases Gross Domestic Product 1 percent
  • Doubling broadband speeds for an economy can add 0.3 percent to GDP growth
  • 80 new jobs are created for every additional broadband 1,000 users

And at the local (home) level

  • Broadband speed upgrades affect development: Upgrading from 0.5 Mbps to 4 Mbps increases income by around $322 per month
  • Online job searches result in re-employment 25 percent faster than traditional searches

They go detailed for community leaders that may find themselves in a position to have to understand the technology, policy and funding aspects of broadband. They outline the various types of connectivity in the Appalachian Region, which with a few exceptions, is pretty similar to rural Minnesota. (We have trees and cold; they have mountains.)

The information is practical and easy to read. For example here are two segments from the report that help explain the problem with getting broadband to rural areas…

In areas where DSL service is not available, a number of factors can conspire to make the infrastructure inappropriate or insufficient to support new deployments. In some areas where homes are more than two and half miles or so from the central office or are remote, the distances are simply too great for DSL to be deployed. While DSL can potentially traverse copper for 15,000 feet, the quality and thickness of that copper often restricts providers to serving homes within 10,000 feet of their facilities. There are also instances in which copper has been overleveraged or shared between multiple customers using things like multiplexers, which can use a single pair of copper to carry multiple voice signals. The very measures that once allowed for economical deployment of voice service now stand in the way of deploying DSL service. This leaves some rural providers in the unenviable position of deploying new copper into rural areas.

Cable television service has proliferated in areas where household density is in excess of 10-15 households per mile. There are areas where the cable infrastructure penetrates areas of lower population density, but they often involve special circumstances and/or subsidy. … Many people in rural areas are disconnected from the cable infrastructure even though the cable infrastructure passes their residence. Many farms and homes in rural areas are hundreds if not thousands of feet from the roadway, and the cost of bringing the cable up their driveways is in the thousands of dollars, which often prevents them from becoming customers

Then they outline models of broadband deployment:

  • Public-Private Partnership
  • Private-Sector Led
  • Private-Supported and Government-Led
  • Joint Ownership
  • Municipal, Electric and Telephone Cooperatives
  • Municipal Deployments

They go into the same depth with financing models. Again, there’s a focus on the Appalachian – but much of the info works here too.

This entry was posted in Building Broadband Tools, 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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