Who Should Be a Part of Your Broadband Planning Committee? October 10, 2016 Author: Wes King Building a plan and strategy that works for your community is critical to seeing success in the development of infrastructure that supports broadband availability and adoption. In order to build that plan, you need to have the best team in place that can support those efforts by providing the valuable feedback, experience and critical insight to flesh out your strategy into something that is workable and achievable. So, who should be part of your broadband planning committee? Your City or County Manager Your city or county manager is a cornerstone in developing your plan. They know all of the key players and have the connections between and amongst all of the others that need to be involved in developing a plan that works. Additionally, they are instrumental in the operations of local government, both in advocacy to the elected officials as well as understanding the ins-and-outs of effectuating a plan locally. Typically, their role is also able to serve as the single point of contact for outside entities that are collaborating alongside your broadband planning committee. Your Economic Development Director or the Chamber of Commerce President We will refer to these folks as your business advocates from a higher level. These are the folks that are interested in making sure that the plan you are working from is going to at least begin to address the needs of the local business community. They act as the sales person for your county. They have valuable information on your buildings and land as well as often have an understanding on what broadband infrastructure might already be available nearby. They also typically have a pulse on how businesses’ needs around broadband are growing. They typically know who is about to open up a new eCommerce store as well as whose business is expanding their customer service portal to an international level. They know the businesses that are looking for a new home but require a large data pipeline. Your City or County IT Manager Your IT manager is important because they should understand the technologies associated with high-speed broadband service, the needs associated with those things for businesses, government, communities, etc., and they should also have an understanding of your local government infrastructure. This person also typically has knowledge of any locally owned municipal or county owned assets that would be beneficial for developing your plan, whether that be county-owned fiber or vertical assets that can be used as a fixed wireless tower. They also have the technical expertise that can be beneficial in educating the committee on the feasibility and possibilities of what exactly can and cannot be done. We use the term manager based on the assumption that cities or counties have an IT manager at this point but we are aware that some do not. This person does not need to have specific expertise with broadband and often times does not. If you do not have a person who would presumptively fill this role within your broadband planning committee, please reach out to our Technical Assistance team for more information and assistance on identifying a suitable and ideal candidate. Local and National Providers (Both Current and Tentative) Having the providers at the table helps open the conversations with them about the possibilities and needs associated with an expansion of services in your community. Often times, there is a gap of understanding between the needs of the community and the business needs of the provider. Having representatives of these organizations at the table opens up a direct channel of communication that allows you to begin to circumvent some of the gatekeeping processes that many of the larger providers have in place. It also allows you the opportunity to know exactly what that provider might need to move on an expansion in your area, from aggregated demand data or a fee exemption. If you need help getting a provider at your meeting, please reach out to our Technical Assistance team for more information and assistance. Our office cannot guarantee or entice a provider to attend a meeting, but we might be able to help your committee move in the right direction to facilitate their participation. Private Citizens and Local Businesses We said above that your economic development director and/or the president of your local chamber of commerce would be able to provide valuable feedback and information around the high-level business climate. However, they often cannot provide the immediate feedback around what the individual businesses are saying on the ground. While they can have some of the important information around expansion and availability as it relates to needs, they don’t always. Additionally, having a private citizen who can provide information on utilization can be extremely valuable. Assumptions on utilization from a macro level does not always provide quality feedback on need from a micro level. If you assume that everyone in your community is just using the internet for research and social media, then you will not properly serve the remote teacher at an out-of-state university. You will miss the individual that is running an online business selling crafts out of their home. These people are able to provide you the crucial demand data that can drive your strategy and plan as well as entice a provider into your community. They also plan a role in supporting the expansion of adoption in their community. Your Local Education Representative This might be a member of your school board, your school superintendent, or even a principal in the area that you are intending to develop. These people are able to help you understand the need of the students in the community and how adequate information can impact the student’s ability to learn and study, as well as the direction that the workforce is moving. Their involvement also helps with demand aggregation. Often times, education leadership is able to provide additional information on vertical assets that you might be able to use for fixed wireless opportunities. A Public Safety and/or Emergency Management Representative Often missed as a critical component, a member of your public safety or emergency management leadership provides valuable information on the needs for ensuring your community’s safety, how your public safety personnel operate and how high-speed broadband affects the way that they work. Another specific benefit that these members provide is that they have an acute knowledge of the community’s landmass and areas where coverage is less available, whether land-based or mobile, but might be needed for public safety or commuter purposes. Nonprofit Organizations North Carolina is rich with nonprofit organizations who have taken up the mission of supporting broadband needs across the state and country. They can support your committee in understanding the needs of students, encouraging adoption through local workshops and training courses and can help with providing devices to needy citizens. Another critical reason to have them at the table is that some funding sources, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, require that the applicant be a nonprofit organization. If you need help identifying a nonprofit that can help your broadband planning committee, please reach out to our Technical Assistance team for more information and assistance. Wrapping Up These are some of the initial people that you should considering having at your broadband planning committee meeting. It is not a comprehensive list and there are many others that you might considering getting involved. Your committee’s makeup should be targeted specifically toward the goals and objectives of your plan. If you have a downtown focus, then involving the individual private citizen who doesn’t have or intend to open a business in that area will not be as critical to the success. However, if your intentions are to expand availability in a more sparsely-populated area, then they become much more important for aggregating demand and for community organizing to develop a higher rate of adoption. If you need help identifying those people within your community, please reach out to our Technical Assistance team for more information and assistance.