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Every City Needs a Broadband Strategy

November 19, 2018

The range of broadband issues relevant to municipal leaders continues to grow.  Pressing issues at the national and local level include the role of communications on economic development, the lack of competitive options for internet access, the high cost of services, requests by wireless companies to site 5G cell towers around the city, the impact of the digital divide on underprivileged citizens, privacy issues and net neutrality.

Until now, municipalities have mostly been watching from the sidelines while private companies have taken control of wireless and wired communications systems.  With that control, these companies have decided where they will build, what they will build, what the price will be, what services will operate on the network, and the kind of innovation that will happen on these systems.  However, the network is now so fundamental to modern life and economic development that municipalities can no longer afford to merely watch from the sidelines. Municipal leaders must develop robust strategies around broadband issues with an eye toward the long-term viability of their communities.

As cities wrestle with their role in these issues, city leaders should first develop sound strategies before thinking about feasibility or implementing a particular solution.  Strategies need to solve the fundamental problem with current communication systems which is this: incumbent network operators want to serve subscribers just enough to make the maximum profit.  Cities, counties and subscribers seek systems that profit just enough to provide the maximum service.

5 Key Strategic Recommendations we make to our clients include the following -
 

1.   Digital roads will be as important in the next 50 years as physical roads have been in the past 50 years. Digital roads should be organized like physical roads.  Municipalities should own and control digital roads and the Private Sector should provide services running over those roads.

2.   Systems which separate infrastructure and services and force services to the cloud will lead to real competition, lower prices and accelerated innovation.

3.   By owning and controlling essential broadband infrastructure, cities can create networks that are flexible, evolvable, sustainable and scalable.

4.   There is enough money being spent every year by consumers to fund robust fiber optic networks throughout any city.  The problem is not where to find the money but rather what financial structure is appropriate to finance strategic projects. Cities are positioned to simultaneously lower costs and drive up value for consumers.

5.   In the absence of municipal intervention, current broadband providers will trend toward monopolies with higher prices and lower value.  As recently happened with FCC regulations for 5G cell placement, cities will increasingly lose control and influence over this essential infrastructure if they don’t approach broadband communications strategically.

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