This Community Broadband Toolkit is designed to help communities establish, or improve broadband networks and services for the benefit of their users and their municipality as a whole. It builds upon previous research studies and takes lesson learned from municipal broadband projects conducted across North America.
Consisting of a set of guides, templates and tools, the Community Broadband Toolkit 2.0 expands on our original toolkit developed in 2008. While many of the original elements have been retained and updated, there is now a strategic focus on how broadband investments can be an economic enabler for your municipality. Toolkit 2.0 also expands the range of potential solutions for addressing broadband needs, recognizing that municipalities – large and small – are faced with a variety of different circumstances.
Solving Digital Divide for Communities
Every year a multitude of technologies are introduced, influencing and shaping our world in critical ways. The Internet is arguably the most pervasive of these technologies, as it continues to impact a growing number of aspects of our lives — from where and how we conduct work, to whether or not we succeed economically and socially. Affordable and reliable high-speed Internet (broadband) access is quickly becoming the most significant infrastructure tool of our time. Advanced broadband infrastructure has the potential to create jobs, increase a municipality’s ability to compete globally, create new technologies, increase opportunities for the region’s companies, enhance public safety, help to provide better and less expensive healthcare, and provide greater educational opportunities in communities everywhere.
The Broadband Toolkit is intended for use by communities considering ways to improve or expand broadband availability for the benefit of their citizens and businesses. While some communities may elect to undertake such initiatives on their own, in many cases the deployment of broadband networks involves collaboration between a number of project partners. This toolkit provides guidance and tools that will aid in the success of any broadband initiative.
The tools and guides provided here are intended for those who have already made a decision to bring broadband into their municipality. It is assumed that there is at least a basic understanding of what broadband is and how it can benefit individual users and a municipality as a whole. Finally, this guide includes an overview of broadband benefits, based on current research, to assist communities in establishing a clear set of goals for their broadband efforts.
How to Use this Guide
This toolkit addresses three major phases of implementing broadband for your municipality:
- Setting goals and selecting solutions that make sense
Broadband offers many economic and social benefits and, while the primary goal is to improve the availability and quality of broadband for a municipality’s users, every community situation is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It is important to set clear goals, evaluate options and select solutions that best fit your municipality’s circumstances.
- Getting ready and evaluating the readiness of your municipality
Before undertaking a broadband project, there are a number of important factors for your municipality and its project stakeholders to consider. And, if you give attention to the readiness factors described in this guide you are far more likely to see a more successful outcome. It is also important to remember that engaging local stakeholders in the review and final selection of solutions is sure to maximize the opportunity for project success.
- Getting started with a view to launching a successful broadband project
Once your municipality is ready, this guide can provide support and a host of useful tools and guidance to help you successfully implement your broadband project.
This toolkit is the result of extensive research and was informed by years of experience implementing broadband projects in North America, and internationally. Throughout the guide, highlight boxes are provided to emphasize key concepts and information.
Tips for using this Toolkit
If you are considering a project, start by setting some clear goals. Address the current state of broadband in your municipality. A core team should be established to conduct an initial evaluation of current issues, requirements, desired outcomes, and options for moving forward. Consider this an important preparatory step to ensure development of a rationale for having your broadband initiative.
During this preliminary stage, it is recommended that you gauge your municipality’s current state of readiness by engaging community stakeholders and potential partners. Further, it is recommended that you conduct a Community Broadband Readiness Self-Assessment. The results of the self-assessment can provide useful insights into both current strengths and challenges, which may lead to further actions that could get you closer to launching a broadband project. The readiness assessment also helps you build support for the planned broadband initiative among your stakeholders and contributors. This will provide a clear, shared understanding of what is required to achieve a successful outcome. Developing and giving influence to project champions has proven to be a key success factor for successful broadband initiatives.
Keys to success
- Have clear goals and establish desired outcomes
- Evaluate readiness
- Include community stakeholders
- Build a coalition of support
- Develop broadband champions
There are several key steps covered in this guide as you move from the decision to undertake a broadband project to its actual implementation. The below steps illustrate a path toward partnering with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to provide broadband services in your municipality. Other paths may make more sense depending on the community situation and needs, and some steps may not apply.
The first step, Set Goals and Select Options, is essential for moving forward and maintaining focus over time. Even if you have already started this step, this guide provides important information to assist you through this process.
The first four basic steps, as described below, should always apply no matter what path forward is selected.
Steps 2-5 describe how to select the right option for your municipality and how to prepare and ensure that you are ready.
|1. Set Goals and Select Options||Develop a clear set of goals for and outcomes you want and expect from broadband. Evaluate current issues and situation analysis and select an option most appropriate for the municipality. Consult with community stakeholders.|
|2. Readiness Self-Assessment||Perform a self-assessment to understand your municipality’s readiness to undertake a broadband implementation project. Any readiness gaps should be addressed with a clear action plan. The more ready you are the more successful your project will be.|
|3. Broadband Project Management Plan||Define (or refine) your broadband project plan. The plan should have a clear definition of roles and responsibilities, partners required, levels of effort and associated costs, and a timeline. Plans and actions must include promotion and community awareness, and extend beyond the initial deployment phase.|
|4. Commitment to Proceed||Leadership must be committed and implementation capability must be in place. Sources of funding and other resources must be identified and committed. The decision-making body and process required for the project must be determined by each municipality.|
|5. Request for Proposal (RFP)||An RFP should be issued to suitable ISP vendors. Proposals should be evaluated with a clear methodology toward vendor selection. Prospective vendors should share their financial projections. Selected vendor should become a partner in the project.|
|6. Partnership Agreement||Partners in the broadband project should formalize their roles and responsibilities and contributions to the ongoing success of the broadband initiative. This provides clarity for all partners in working toward their shared goals (This does not preclude separate vendor contracts).|
|7. Technical Plan||In partnership with the selected vendor a broadband technical plan should be developed for the region to be served. The plan should consider both the initial deployment and longer term evolution and operations.|
|8. Business Plan||Developed with the project partners, the business plan should provide the financial projections and plans for promoting broadband to maximize its use in the municipality and achieving positive economic impact.|
|9. Implement||Funding and resources are available and committed to proceed with broadband implementation. The decision to commence implementation should be made once the technical and business plans have been reviewed and accepted.|