June 2010: The Broadband Lifecycle and Your BB Score


“The broadband lifecycle: e-strategy, pre-planning, and building capacity”

This month we continue our three-part series covering the steps of the broadband lifecycle as we focus on the strategy and the decision to invest, as well as the network build, or expansion.

By Michael Curri – Broadband networks can create a “platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” in your community – delivering the infrastructure to capture economic and social opportunities, some known, some yet to be invented.  Many communities fail during the broadband strategy, build-out and adoption phases as they lack focus and/or sufficient investment of time, energy, and resources.

Too often communities develop strategies based on following recipes from other regions. Instead of uncovering what the needed resources are, or how to leverage current efforts to best serve the specific and unique needs of the community, civic leaders race to “do what they did.”

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for successful broadband strategies that bring economic and civic benefits to a region and its citizens. Each community not only has different needs, but different strengths to best leverage the broadband platform. Strategic Networks Group (SNG) has for years been helping governments, at municipal, regional and national levels, to best understand where investment will make the biggest impact – and each and every time the best approach involves following the broadband lifecycle.

Before your community can thrive with its own “platform,” you need to get over the common pitfalls along the broadband lifecycle. In case you missed it, last month we reviewed how initiatives can fall flat because of a lack of focus and/or sufficient investment of time, energy, and resources (demand analysis and pre-planning). SNG encourages all broadband project managers to design and run their broadband initiative with one eye on the Broadband Lifecycle. Click here to review steps one and two.

Step 3: e-Strategy & decision to invest

Often the toughest stage – this is where you and your partners in this journey need to ask yourself some tough questions, including – should we proceed?  Obviously, you’ve started the journey, so you believe in the value and benefits that broadband can provide your community. But while you (and your colleagues) may be ready to proceed with building your region’s very own “platform for innovation” – will it be used, will it be sustainable? In short, have you addressed the key factors in the pathway to sustainable success?

Obviously, you’re not asking the “are we ready” question in a vacuum.  A critical component of being “ready” is understanding the investment required – where the it will come from – and what the measurable benefits will be… will they outweigh the costs?

One way to do this is through SNG’s Community Broadband Readiness Self-Assessment, a process that SNG is taking communities through across the United States – most recently in Miami. The assessment tool provides a comprehensive understanding of the relative value of key factors that should be addressed as a pathway to sustainable success.

Image002 The Community Broadband Readiness Self-Assessment Tool is structured around six readiness categories:

  • Leadership
  • Vision and Plan
  • Organizational Stability
  • Community Awareness
  • Implementation Ability
  • Market Profile

For example, the readiness assessment showed that Miami-Dade had a relatively high level of readiness to undertake a broadband initiative.

SNG can help guide you in this phase applying market analytics and our proprietary Community Broadband Readiness Self-Assessment Tool.  By shaping your strategy to address not only broadband for un/under-served areas, but to include applications to drive innovation and efficiencies, we’re able to help establish a strategy to maximize broadband’s benefits. Recently SNG conducted readiness assessments for Miami Dade (FL), Lexington (KY),  Akron (OH), Aberdeen (SD), providing an objective view of the current state of readiness for undertaking a broadband initiative

Step 4 – Build or expand network capacity

This step seems like the most straightforward – but don’t be fooled. While we know that building the network is can be the most difficult step, we all have or are a part of a technical team that specializes in building networks. But there are many implications – that without the right guidance and discipline – could be neglected.

Are your technical and business plans in place to ensure a smooth implementation? Do you have the right provider – and are your requirements well defined? SNG has helped regions in Ontario and partnered with organizations like IBM to ensure the build process runs smoothly, building to the current and future needs of businesses, organizations and households.

Next Month: Steps 5 (Awareness & adoption support) and 6 (Monitor impacts and outcomes).

What’s your broadband score?

DEi While we’re on the topic of steps 3 and 4 and developing e-strategies for successful broadband initiatives and network builds, have you ever been asked by your constituents – how do I compare to my competition? What are other communities doing to better leverage broadband? What are the benefits of broadband should I be leveraging? In general, how am I doing?

SNG has recently announced our Digital Economy Index (DEi) – an assessment tool, an organization-specific “scorecard” that draws on information from eSolutions Benchmarking to assist small businesses and other organizations see where they stand. SNG’s DEi is a composite score of how organizations use Internet-enabled applications, or “e-solutions,” to drive productivity and competitiveness. By providing organizations’ with their DEi score, you are providing them insights into their utilization of e-solutions, how they compare to their peers, and where they can adjust to increase efficiencies, innovation, and profitability.

The Digital Economy Index helps organizations develop their own broadband adoption plan (and economic growth path). Which leads into the next step, awareness & adoption support (Step 5 of the Broadband Lifecycle, which we will discuss next month).

Broadband in a Down Economy

Across the globe the global downturn has had deep impacts. Many households are stretched thin, looking for ways to supplement lost income or to supplement declining or stagnant salaries. Recently SNG worked with the e-North Carolina Authority to conduct “eSolutions Benchmarking” across the state to understand how households are using broadband to tackle some of their challenges.

The study revealed the potential of broadband for competitiveness and economic opportunity:

  • Nearly a third (31%) of the State’s broadband households operate a business from their home;
  • The number of households either currently running (31%) or planning to run a business from their home in the next twelve months (14%) is nearly half (45%) of the State’s broadband households;
  • Even more broadband households are either now using (41%) or planning to use (24%) broadband to sell items online. That’s nearly two-thirds (65%) of broadband households using it to at least supplement their income;
  • Most (85%) of home-based businesses said that broadband was essential to their business. More than half (54%) said that they would not be in business if they did not have broadband while two in five (41%) would have to relocate if broadband was not available in their community.

For more information about these findings, please contact the e-North Carolina Authority who commissioned this work – see www.e-nc.org, or phone 1-866-627-8725.

In good times and in bad, broadband is critical for community members to earn income (and extra income).   But in bad times, research shows us that home-based businesses and sole proprietorships are more likely to sprout up.  More than ever, it is critical for states and communities that want to remain competitive – and even thrive – to have broadband’s platform for innovation and competitiveness in place.

Want to know how your state is doing to facilitate competitiveness trhough broadband? Contact SNG today. 

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