Private Public Partnerships

Community Broadband Playbook

Top Takeaways

  • A partnership means that the county or municipality builds community support, identifies its needs, and offers its resources to the broadband provider to make broadband deployment more financially attractive to the provider.
  • The municipality has several policies available that can encourage forming public-private partnerships, and expand broadband access.

The North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office recommends that the public community – town, city, county – form a partnership with a private, commercial broadband provider to expand broadband access to as many citizens as possible. In simple terms, a partnership means that the county or municipality builds community support, identifies its needs, and offers its resources to the broadband provider to make broadband deployment more financially attractive to the provider. In return, the broadband provider brings its technical expertise, innovation, equipment, and capital investment into under- or unserved areas in the community. In the end, both partners share the risks and costs of broadband deployment.

The public-private partnership can take several forms. For example, a city or county may offer a cost-sharing opportunity to broadband providers, in which the municipality contributes an agreed upon portion of the costs of broadband expansion to an under- or unserved region. A community anchor tenant, such as a school system, community college, hospital or a public safety system, might offer a stable starting point for the network and a gathering place for residents seeking wireless broadband access before the network is built or expanded. As discussed in the next section, the town, city or county can choose to lease rights of way at no or reduced cost for the installation of broadband infrastructure. Further, the municipality can make its vertical assets – tall buildings, water towers, etc. – available to broadband providers at no or reduced charges, for the installation of fixed wireless internet equipment. The municipality has several policies available that can encourage forming public-private partnerships, and expand broadband access.

BroadbandUSA: Introduction to Effective Public-Private Partnerships

This publication provides an overview of common broadband partnerships, the factors communities should consider in developing a successful partnership model, and tips and best practices NTIA has observed through its oversight of $4.5 billion in broadband grants to public, private and joint projects across the country.

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