Over the last several years, TCT has been cautiously expanded broadband service by building fiber to the premise networks to businesses and communities outside our certificated service area. Many factors have been weighed before fiber was built to these areas but, as in most business cases, it came down to a question of “will the project sustain and pay for itself?” A lot of work goes into researching and assessing these projects. Just doing a high level engineering plan to determine the cost of a project is thousands of dollars. There is also the question of adoption, is there enough proof that the community will support the project and are there enough people to take the service?
Many rural communities do not have access to a fiber network (like TCT’s service area communities have) that can offer high speeds and capacity. COVID-19 exposed the weaknesses in connectivity for a lot of rural communities across the nation, and in response federal and state governments have rushed in to fill funding gaps with broadband grants and low or no interest loans. These funds are very competitive. If a community wants to take advantage of these funds and take the initiative to bring better broadband to their town, they will need a plan.
What should a community consider when attempting to improve broadband connectivity for their town? According to Broadband Communities Magazine, www.bbcmag.com, they should first create a Broadband Master Plan that identifies what they want to accomplish regarding broadband. They must also identify local leadership or champions, who can help get support for the plan. There are many questions communities can ask to develop their broadband goals, such as:
- What kinds of speeds and capacity is expected out of the service?
- Does the community have inadequate broadband because the current provide cannot or will not invest in the existing network?
- Can the community attract a provider that will invest in the current network or build a better network?
- Will an updated or new network be reliable and affordable?
- Are there funding sources the community can access for project?
- How will better broadband help improve the community’s access to education, medicine, and job creation?
- If a better network is built, will the majority of businesses and residents support it by taking service?
- Does the community have a plan for growth, and how is that plan supported by broadband connectivity?
If a community truly wants to grow and prosper, or just keep the jobs and anchor institutions they currently have, broadband connectivity is very necessary. There are many tools to help a community devise a Master Broadband Plan. Broadband Communities Magazine is a good starting place but, it is important to do the research, be clear on the goal and have solid community support.