next-genGig U and the Benton Foundation have recently published a best practices guide for city and town leaders looking to improve broadband outcomes.  The guide explores strategies for cities around 3 varying roles: as the primary investor and network manager, as the partial investor or public-private partnership approach, and as the main facilitator that aims to encourage full private partner investment.

The nearly 70 page document, titled The Next Generation Network Connectivity Handbook, is a thoroughly researched, case study packed best practices guide for any local leader considering the role of broadband in their community.  The authors ask, “Are broadband networks in your city good enough for it to thrive ten years from now?”  If the answer is no, leaders should start discussing community-led broadband strategies that, at the very least, might improve the economics for private investors to deploy better networks in the coming years.

The authors define “community-led broadband” as any efforts that involve the community taking an active role in network improvement.  This includes municipally owned and operated broadband, but community-led broadband doesn’t necessarily mean government funded broadband.  While some communities might not want to get into the business of network operations, leadership from municipal governments can provide just the right push to incent private industry to upgrade offerings to residents.

In addition to presenting multiple case studies of wired broadband deployments, the handbook also explores the use of free Wi-Fi offerings like New York City’s popular LinkNYC kiosks that provide a free connection for users that stay within 150 feet of the small structures.  So far 300 kiosks have been deployed with plans in place to build 10,000 kiosks.  The project is partially funded by the advertising revenues from the large screen displays on the sides of each kiosk.

The guide includes strategies for developing a framework to launch community initiatives ranging from minimal involvement to full-scale network deployments.  This section includes a detailed explanation of the “broadband cost-benefit equation,” to help communities understand how they can lower costs and risks for private investment.   The authors also suggest some possible public-messaging tactics to help leaders gain stakeholders and project momentum.

To view the full guide, click here:

https://www.benton.org/sites/default/files/nextgenhandbook.pdf