Vetting Vertical Assets

Community Broadband Playbook

Top Takeaways

  • Vertical assets—municipally-owned water tanks, tall buildings, radio towers and other features–are especially useful when considering fixed wireless broadband.
  • In order to get the most out of your plan, it is critical to understand what a vertical asset is and how it plays a role in your plan.
  • Potential assets may vary for a variety of reasons. When identifying the best opportunities, looking for locations that have visibility to potential broadband customers or users is the key.

When looking at the best ways to expand broadband infrastructure in your community, look up. Vertical assets—municipally-owned water tanks, tall buildings, radio towers and other features–are especially useful when considering fixed wireless broadband. Our Technical Assistance team will work with you to identify and qualify vertical assets. Vertical assets support technology and infrastructure so that your community better connected.In additional to publicly-owned assets, we often look at other privately-owned assets that might prove particularly advantageous as well.  

So how do you identify and qualify vertical assets?  

Here is a quick rundown of our steps so that you can begin to think about the best assets that might help your community’s broadband connectivity grow.  

Understanding a Vertical Asset and How It Will Be Used 

In order to get the most out of your plan, it is critical to understand what a vertical asset is and how it plays a role in your plan.  

Vertical assets come in a variety of forms based on how you are looking at them. Probably the most obvious is an existing vertical asset. In some cases, these are located on the property of homes of local residents or on the roof of a business that is willing to help, and yes, they include towers. Once you understand the value of the Vertical Asset you can determine your course of action for any given location. 

Identify and list your existing potential assets 

Potential assets may vary for a variety of reasons. When identifying the best opportunities, looking for locations that have visibility to potential broadband customers or users is the key. 

Usually, the Planning and/or Permitting Department is aware of the existing and proposed tower sites, so that department is a good place to start developing your list. As part of your list, you will need a list of names of owners and locations so that the field study can be effective. A county representative that can help with the field study should also be identified at this time. This would be someone that can accompany one of our technical advisors during the field study. 

There are probably other vertical assets that aren’t in the list that your municipality or county maintains. A field study will help identify the ability for providers to use the Vertical Asset in an efficient manner.  

Despite what the name “wireless” implies, wires provide backhaul or transit to the internet for data delivered wirelessly. Our office can help you examine available backhaul opportunities. , as well as view, shed analysis on the potential customer base at any given location.  

Here is a great example of a way that your area might be able to identify some of those other assets and add them to your list.  

  1. Identify the areas that will need to be serviced. This happens via numerous sources, but mostly through a demand aggregation survey or citizens that reach out via social media or email. Try to get the area to provide as many houses and businesses that will pay for service so that we have at least “X” number of people to serve.  
  2. Use tools like Google Earth Pro to identify any vertical assets.  Using close up street-level views and identifying structure shadows and add them to a list. Look for tall buildings, water towers or any other tower or vertical structures.  
  3. Engage the Broadband Infrastructure Office’s Technical Assistance team for an available broadband infrastructure assessment. Using Fiber Locator and other tools, our office can help identify what known fiber assets may be in the area, and the ownership of those assets. 
  4. Drive-By and Visit. Perform a drive around of the area, specifying the assets you may have found on your online search. See if any of the assets have easily identifiable owners and contact information. While performing the drive around, also see if any additional fiber or other (coax) assets are around and document them and the ownership. 
  5. Contact the Owner. Once the vertical assets are identified, contact the owners and see if they are interested in leasing space on the tower to a WISP or other provider and if so, what are the fees and processes to getting space on the asset. 

Examine your Tower Ordinances 

Now is typically a good time to being to assess and understand what policies and ordinances are in place that might impact a provider’s ability to utilize that location. Are there impediments to entrepreneurs that may want to deploy?  The Broadband Infrastructure Office has examples of Counties that adjusted their requirements. Sometimes these ordinances alone are prohibitive of expansion.  

Share the findings with Fixed Wireless and Mobile Providers that can help fill the gaps 

The Broadband Infrastructure team has access to existing and potential providers interested in your vertical assets.  Using the qualified vertical assets, our team can help share that information with providers making deployment opportunities available. 

In essence, we will send out the locations, costs, and associated processes to use these vertical assets, the known fiber, coax or copper assets that could feed these assets. That covers the technical end. Also to that, we send a list of known “willing to pay” entities that may serve as the “anchor” customers for the WISP or provider, giving them reasons to want to serve an area, with the needed assets already identified. That helps serve the business end.  

Closing and Key Points 

It is important to remember a few things while doing this. There is no vertical asset that is too obscure for consideration. We have found a variety of opportunities that come from strange places and are here to help. Additionally, we generally recommend that you do not visit some of these more obscure potential locations alone. Sometimes there are unseen hazards that may be dangerous.  

If you need help performing a vertical asset assessment, please contact our technical assistance team to schedule an appointment. 

VETTING VERTICAL ASSETS WORKSHEET

You can use this tool to pre-qualify or pre-disqualify vertical assets prior to a member of our Technical Assistance team arriving in your town. You should complete one worksheet per vertical asset and keep it with your planning materials.

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