The Broadband Communities Conference ended yesterday with a focus on public private partnership, digital inclusion and county-level stats on broadband regulation vs population growth.
Steve Ross gave a sneak preview of his research on county growth and broadband regulations. Turns out that policy restrictions on municipal broadband correlate with rural counties that lose populations. The same isn’t found for urban counties. I’m hoping to get Minnesota data soon and I’ll dig in deeper but it helps make the case that what works in urban areas – where there’s a market case for broadband – does not work in areas – where it’s tough to sustain a commercial broadband venture.
We heard from providers and communities that have gone into providing better broadband in rural areas. Here are some quick lessons I picked up:
- Cooperatives are key assets
- Broadband providers value ease of entry over financial incentives
- Governments save money by owning the network (at least to anchors). Lincoln Nebraska now pays $100,000/yr for Gig for 150 anchor institutions versus $4000/month/institution in a commercial market.
- Stock-led companies couldn’t look at FTTH in rural areas because a 10yr ROI doesn’t work for them!
We also heard from folks in the adoption field. Adoption always makes for good stories – because adoption improves the quality of life – deployment makes it possible but adoption does it. We heard about the computer refurnishing program funded by lemonade stands. We got to try out virtual reality goggles and learn about how VR can increase empathy. We heard about tech internship programs in rural areas giving students more responsibility, businesses real assets and creating ties between techie kids and the rural communities. We also heard from a teacher from the Fond du Lac reservation speak about the disservice we do to kids when we assume they know everything about technology. No one knows everything – there should always be room for questions and an open door for learning.
Here’s video from the day…