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Solutions: Infrastructure - Public-Private Partnerships

Develop Public-Private Partnerships to Deploy Broadband Service

GOAL: Leverage existing community assets in partnership with private sector carriers to expand broadband network deployment.

DESCRIPTION: 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.


Determine Priorities: Competition, enhanced service, equity and service to all, public control over infrastructure, risk avoidance, redundancy, etc.

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.

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


Dept. of Commerce guide to effective public-private partnerships:

Building rural broadband from the ground up:

United States Department of Agriculture:

Broadband Loan Program:

Direct Loans:

Community Connect:

Distance Learning and Telemedicine:

Broadband USA: Guide to Federal Funding of Broadband Projects:

Universal Service Rural Health Care Program –