Managing Expectation

Community Broadband Playbook

Top Takeaways

  • Demand for broadband has built up over many years, and community leaders should be aware that citizen expectations are likely to be high and perhaps even unreasonable given the challenges of deployment.
  • Community leaders should take care to emphasize that the work will take months of planning and negotiation before even a shovel of earth can be overturned or a byte can be transmitted.
  • Community leaders and the broadband provider should be certain to keep constituents and potential customers informed as often and completely as possible through mailings, press releases and other communications.

A major theme of this toolkit is the idea that broadband providers must often be incentivized to deploy broadband in regions and neighborhoods where they are not certain that deployment will result in near-guaranteed profits and returns on investment. Formal or informal partnerships where counties and municipalities share costs or otherwise decrease costs of deployment through favorable policies are sometimes enough to convince incumbent providers to expand broadband access or fixed wireless internet providers to invest in new equipment and installations.

Broadband deployment, however, is expensive, time-consuming, and often technically complicated and uncertain. Installing broadband infrastructure in a neighborhood might seem a straightforward and uncontroversial task, at least until neighborhoods learn they are likely last to be served in the years-long deployment, and until citizens whose homes are set back a prohibitive distance from the main road are told that they will not and cannot be included in the service expansion. Businesses count on expanded broadband to help build their capacities and markets, homeowners hope for higher broadband speeds to access online movies and other resources, and to increase the values of their houses, teachers and students need broadband for research and completing homework. Demand for broadband has built up over many years, and community leaders should be aware that citizen expectations are likely to be high and perhaps even unreasonable given the challenges of deployment.

Policymakers and elected officials are naturally anxious to publicize the formation of the broadband committee and its work to expand broadband with the press and their constituents. Once these announcements are made, some constituents will celebrate the news, expecting that they will be enjoying broadband speeds next month. Community leaders should take care to emphasize that the work will take months of planning and negotiation before even a shovel of earth can be overturned or a byte can be transmitted. Further, community leaders and the broadband provider should be certain to keep constituents and potential customers informed as often and completely as possible through mailings, press releases and other communications. Citizens anxious for broadband speeds in their homes will have to be patient, but with the community’s perseverance and hard work, their patience can be rewarded.

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