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August 3, 2009 11:50 AM

All Un/Underserved Communities Should Be Aggregating Demand

In conversations I was having last week something dawned on me: every single community that considers itself unserved or underserved should be working to aggregate demand for broadband among its citizens immediately.

The reasons for doing so are manifold.

For one, it's important to acknowledge that un/underserved communities likely won't have a competitive broadband marketplace, where multiple entities operating multiple last-mile facilities compete for business. If a market hasn't been able to support or attract a single broadband provider, then it likely won't be able to support the deployment of multiple networks.

And in fact I'd argue that it doesn't make much sense for us to waste money spurring the deployment of multiple networks in a market that can't support them. Instead it's better to focus on bringing them one network that can live up to their needs.

But in order for any network to be financially sustainable, it needs sufficient demand for the services it delivers, which is why I'm advocating that all un/underserved communities start aggregating demand immediately.

The best part about doing this is that it can set the stage for encourage all models of deployment.

By being able to say a community has X number of people willing to spend Y amount of money for broadband that can be enough to entice a private deployer to invest in building out their network to that community.

Or that same aggregated demand can be used as the basis for constructing a business model for a municipal broadband deployment and/or it can lead to other models like coops.

On the flipside, if a community hasn't aggregated its demand, then it's unlikely a private provider will ever show up to save the day and it's less likely a municipal broadband project will succeed without all local anchor tenants on board with the project.

Another great aspect of aggregating demand is that it's something that can be started today. You don't have to wait to raise tons of funds or to draw up big plans or to put together all the pieces needed to start on a deployment. Aggregating demand can be as simple as creating an inventory of every entity in a community and starting to call them up to gauge their demand for broadband and if it's being met. With a handful of volunteers the process can get started.

And while the overall process should be more complex than this -- including things like gathering how much people are willing to pay for connectivity, how much bandwidth they need, and working on educating them as to why they need more -- the basic principle is pretty straightforward and is something that everyone could be working on right now rather than waiting around to see if the magical stimulus fairy rains money down on them.

So regardless of how your community ultimately gets wired, there's stuff you can be doing now to improve your chances, like aggregating local demand for broadband.

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Comments (2)

Valid points all round. And now is the time to be doing it. It is school holidays. The next generation are sitting around doing very little (on the whole) and are precisely the sort of volunteers who can talk about this to community stakeholders in a passionate way because they all want better broadband.

I will set my kids on to it immediately here and then I might be able to get on with some work!

Posted by Lindsey Annison on August 3, 2009 2:51 PM

Great idea, Lindsey!!

You're absolutely right. We have scores of kids sitting at home with nothing to do for the next month, all of whom would likely do anything to get better broadband at home. So why not enlist that workforce to get working on aggregating demand for broadband?

Wish there was more of the summer left as I don't know if there's enough to do anything major this year, but the great thing about kids is that they have breaks at winter, spring, and then there's always next summer!

Posted by Geoff Daily on August 3, 2009 3:38 PM

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