Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable Summary: selecting private sector broadband partners

On Tuesday May 19, Blandin Foundation hosted a Broadband Leadership Roundtable discussion focused on selecting private sector broadband partners.  I started the conversation by asking participants to list some of the characteristics that they want to see in a broadband partner.  Responsiveness, transparency, community engagement, longevity and established reputation.  Several people indicated that they were looking for a provider who put “people over profit.”

That list alone demonstrated that it is important for communities to create a shared perspective on what makes a good partner.  “People over profits” may point to the need for a public sector entity or a cooperative.  It is interesting to note that “fast speeds” or “cheap prices” did not make this list.

Blandin Foundation has published a list of principles for partner selection and partnership development.  They are:

  • Complementary mission, values, and culture
  • Commitment to inclusion
  • Mutual trust and respect
  • Balance of power and sharing of resources
  • Clear, open, and accessible communication
  • Continuous partnership improvement
  • Established partnership roles, norms, and processes
  • Reality-based and action-oriented
  • Willingness to share credit
  • Long-term and flexible perspective

Two providers on the call indicated that they look for community engagement as a key indicator of a good community partner.  If communities can fill a room for a community meeting or if they can get a good turnout for a community broadband survey, that is a good sign.  If a community can provide even a small financial contribution to a project, even as little as one percent, that is a great sign.  One provider indicated that communities should seek to include multiple providers in coming up with their connectivity solution when possible.

We shifted topics to talk about an exciting new digital inclusion effort under development to ensure that kids have devices and connectivity when school starts in the fall.  Look for more information on this project soon.

Next Tuesday, May 26, we will talk about best practices in community broadband adoption.  In other words, once you have a network, what is your community going to do with it!  Learn about what some communities are doing through the Blandin Broadband Communities program.  A key lesson – most projects don’t take much money to be successful and to positively change your community!

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