Broadband 101: Utilization Drives Impact

Earlier this month Derek Murphy, SNG’s VP of Project Delivery, and I attended the Rural TeleCon Conference in Arizona – put on by the Rural Telecommunications Congress (RTC). The RTC describes itself as a “national membership organization dedicated to assuring that rural areas in the United States have access to the information and support they need to obtain and use advanced telecommunications services and technology for social and economic development.” 

Leaders of regional broadband initiatives from across the United States gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face in 2011 and beyond.  Representatives from approximately 25 states expressed that while their opportunities (driven in large part by broadband stimulus) are significant – the challenges accompanying them seemed to be overwhelming to most. A key discussion topic at the conference was around looking for ways to leverage broadband for regional development.

From my perspective, there was a sea-change in the broadband discussion because of this focus on regional development. Beyond the “supply-side” of broadband, people started taking a serious look at the “demand-side” of the broadband equation. It’s the utilization that drives impact and benefits.

Hilda Legg, a former RUS administrator, noted in her keynote that it is imperative to the success of broadband initiatives is moving away from “business as usual” where telcos drive infrastructure build-out according to population and instead look to where utilization and accompanying impacts are the most significant.

So how do you overcome this? How do you help to ensure that your hefty investment has an even “heftier” impact?  Step one? “Identify needs, gaps, and demand.” Much of the broadband stimulus allocation was based on “gaps” and “needs” – areas that are under or un-served.  But this does not ensure use – unlike “Field of Dreams,” building broadband does not ensure people will come.

Instead of building a baseball field in a cornfield, make sure that you map demand – benchmark utilization of e-solutions throughout your region to uncover where the deepest and most long-lasting impacts will occur.

This exercise will not only help you know areas most likely to adopt broadband, it has the added benefit of driving awareness among businesses, organizations, and households.  So what? Well this helps to drive adoption, application development, and ultimately the economic and social impacts of the network.

Washington’s State’s Broadband Policy and Programs Manager Angela Wu summed it up best: “Don’t just map supply, map demand too!”

SNG’s Michael Curri Appointed to RTC Board

At the annual conference, SNG president Michael Curri was appointed to the Rural Telecommunications Congress Board.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the RTC as we’re extremely excited about the direction the organization is moving,” says Curri. “SNG looks forward to helping organizations understand how to map demand to leverage broadband investments for maximum impact.”

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