The Walker County, TX Broadband Team has completed its community technology assessment. The results of the assessment can be found by clicking the symbol for each of the sections below. The Solutions sector includes recommended actions the community can implement to improve the broadband and technology ecosystem at a local level. It should be noted that much of the assessment was conducted before or at the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This worldwide event likely impacted many of the metrics included in this assessment.
Broadband access refers to the infrastructure that enables a high-speed internet connection. There are two primary types of broadband connections: fixed and mobile.
Fixed broadband is delivered to a user via one of several technology platforms including cable, digital subscriber line (DSL) over phone lines, fiber optics, and fixed wireless. Fixed broadband is designed for stationary use at a fixed location such as a home, business, or institution. From one location, however, fixed broadband service is often broadcast as a Wi-Fi signal to connect nearby devices.
The following interactive map shows where broadband is available in the community.
Public-private partnerships take many forms, limited only by the imagination and legal framework in which the municipality operates. Some communities issue municipal bonds to fund construction of a network, which they lease to private carriers, with the lease payments covering the debt service. Others create non-profit organizations to develop networks in collaboration with private carriers or provide seed investment to jump start construction of networks that the private sector is unable to cost-justify on its own., A public-private partnership should not be simply seen as a method of financing. The strength of these partnerships is that each party brings something important to the table that the other doesn’t have or can’t easily acquire. The community can offer infrastructure (publicly owned building rooftops, light poles, towers, and other vertical assets for mounting infrastructure) for the deployment of a network, as well as committed anchor tenants. Private-sector partners bring network-building and operations experience.
Leverage existing community assets in partnership with private sector carriers to expand broadband network deployment.
Action 1 – Determine Priorities: Competition, enhanced service, equity and service to all, public control over infrastructure, risk avoidance, redundancy, etc.
Action 2 – Examine models of partnership:
- Model 1: Private Investment, Public Facilitation: Make available public assets like fiber and conduit, share geographic information systems data, streamline permitting and inspection processes, offer economic development incentives to attract private broadband investment
- Model 2: Private Execution, Public Funding: Identify revenue streams that can be directed to a private partner, issue RFP for private turnkey execution.
- Model 3: Shared Investment and Risk: Evaluate using assets to attract private investment, evaluate funding new assets to attract private investment, evaluate building new fiber assets to businesses and/or homes for leasing to private ISPs.
Action 3 – Understand key legal considerations for localities looking to build a broadband partnership: Review authority issues, understand the legal tools and instruments that could shape the partnership, negotiate the agreement.
Local units of government; Broadband providers; Community anchor institutions; Residents and businesses
Building rural broadband from the ground up: http://bit.ly/2dx4MBw
United States Department of Agriculture: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahom
BroadbandUSA’s Introduction to Effective Public-Private Partnerships: https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/sites/default/files/publication-pdfs/bbusa_effective_public_private_partnerships.pdf
The Federal Highway Administration has indicated that “ninety percent of the cost of deploying broadband is when the work requires significant excavation of the roadway.” A “dig once” policy increases coordination between government agencies and utility companies to minimize the frequency of roadway excavation and disturbance. These policies aim to facilitate joint trenching cost savings and ensure that broadband infrastructure improvements are considered alongside other infrastructure and public works projects. To this end, these policies encourage or require that every infrastructure project include notification and facilitation of opportunities to lower the costs of broadband infrastructure investment by coordinating project planning when a right-of-way (ROW) disturbance occurs. Considering the rocky terrain in the area, such policies could make it significantly easier for internet service providers to expand broadband infrastructure in the community at a lower cost, making it accessible to more households in the area that currently rely on wireless or satellite connections.
Explore policy options that will make it easier for broadband providers to improve broadband infrastructure in the area. Where feasible and cost-effective, enact such policies. One prime example is a “Dig Once” policy whereby public or private excavators are required to coordinate with local authorities to install fiber or conduit whenever ground is broken on a public right-of-way.
Action 1 – Explore legislative strategies enacted by states and municipalities and determine if such actions would be legal and cost-effective.
Action 2 – Determine what steps would be necessary to enact a Dig Once provision that will be flexible and create as little disruption as possible, while still resulting in the desired goal of incentivizing the expansion of local broadband infrastructure.
Action 3 – Continue to monitor the impact of such policies and revise as necessary.
- Economic development organizations
- Fixed broadband providers
- Local and county government
- Road commissions
- Road and highway departments
- Utilities and other entities likely to dig frequently on public rights-of-way
Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Deployment from the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and The Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs: https://bit.ly/35jMBtN
Model Codes for Municipalities from the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee: https://bit.ly/3bSv92c
Texas Department of Transportation’s Right of Way Utilities Manual: https://bit.ly/2WctAWj
This initiative will help to sustain in-depth discussions around the adoption issue in the community by bringing together public-private partners., With the data gathered through this technology planning process, leaders will be able to focus on specific studies and solutions that will have the most positive impact on the community. There are several tasks the digital equity initiative can undertake depending on the needs identified in the community. Each task has its own implementation profile, but include: developing a community-based technology awareness program, promoting low-cost broadband service offerings; facilitating digital literacy training; making available low-cost devices; and identifying and expanding wireless hotspots in the community.
This initiative provides a foundation for overcoming the barriers to broadband adoption via outreach, awareness, access to affordable broadband services and devices, and digital skills training.
Action 1 - Create a digital inclusion task force composed of public and private stakeholders.
Action 2 - The digital equality initiative will seek programming options that address the digital divide for groups without an internet connection at home. The task force will use this plan to create a vision for advancing broadband adoption and assign responsibilities.
Action 3 - The task force will oversee the implementation of projects that will advance the adoption of broadband technologies for all residents.
Action 4 - After implementation, the task force will show results and shift plans in accordance with technology changes. Economic development, new jobs, and an improved quality of life will be achieved when a community experiences increased usage of computers and the internet, improved basic computer skills, increased use of technology in day-to-day operations of a community, and increased access to economic opportunities.
Community and business leaders; Civic leaders and organization members; Citizens; Local Government; Broadband Providers; Community Anchor Institutions
Mapping Community Wifi Access: http://tech.ed.gov/stories/mapping-community-wifi-access/
Community Wi-Fi – A Primer: http://www.cablelabs.com/community-wi-fi-a-primer/
Rights of Way Utility Manual: https://bit.ly/2WctAWj