July 2010: Broadband Lifecycle… and Getting Smart

“Awareness, adoption, impacts, and outcomes”

This month we finish our three-part series covering the steps of the broadband lifecycle. In May we covered demand analysis and pre-planning while June’s discussion centered on strategy, investing, and building the network.

The last steps of the process to create a “platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” via broadband are both simple and complex, and the most critical step in the journey – driving usage.

Step 5: Awareness & Adoption Support
Upon the complex building or expansion of the network, we turn to the basics, in this case Marketing 101.  Even the world’s best product or service has no chance without consumers learning about its availability. Likewise, if it is difficult or confusing to get their hands on your product/service, its most likely that consumers will just continue the status quo, never to adapt your offering, no matter how life-changing.

Your message should always focus on life changing the benefits of broadband – avoid a “features” discussion.  No matter the product or service, consumers “buy” benefits.  They want to know why and what will change in their lives… not how. Once your marketing has convinced consumers and businesses that they need/want the social and economic benefits of broadband, the “how” to get connected naturally follows.   

SNG can help you drive utilization and with it, the effectiveness of your network and how do you get businesses and households to leverage the power of broadband. And with connections to broadband and e-solutions – your region reaps the rewards.

Step 6: Monitor Impacts and Outcomes
Critical to the ongoing success, sustainability, and funding for your expanding broadband network and efforts is measuring the direct community benefits.  It is step six that validates the broadband investment decisions and the direct and indirect positive impacts.  And with this validation comes compelling reasons for further investment in network expansion and upgrades and/ or additional adoption and awareness campaigns to increase benefits from a broader base of users. At the same time, measuring outcomes serves as a model for businesses and citizens to utilize broadband.

SNG can help you measure the impacts of your investment, its use, and the direct/indirect economic benefits. Make sure your investment is being used, promoting economic development – and where and how you can increase adoption.


Step “7”: Back to the Start
As your broadband network is an evolving asset, the Broadband Lifecycle begins again as you adjust your strategies to meet evolving needs. SNG helps identify and shore-up any gaps, resulting in continuing development, effectiveness, and impact.

The “Broadband Lifecycle” is SNG’s unique approach to each and every broadband initiative. Keeping it in focus will result in creating a platform for productivity, competitiveness and innovation” for your region rather than a network that may or may not be used.

Broadband Lifecycle in Action: Virginia

The project is a follow-up to a successful 2007 SNG study in which the small town of Bristol (17,000 residents) reported big benefits just 12 months after BVU’s initial fiber investment.  SNG’s study found that for local businesses, fiber meant operational and sales efficiencies, cost savings, and employment opportunities. Bristol’s newly installed “platform for innovation” had created:

  • Dozens of businesses reporting a total increase of $2.7 million in annual sales
  • Two-thirds of businesses reporting cost-savings due to fiber use
  • Nearly 300 new jobs, including a 10% increase in employment from organizations reporting an increase in sales as a result of the fiber network  

Today, the Economic impact study of e‐solutions in the Bristol area is a core project component, quantifying the impacts of implementing e‐solutions from BVU OptiNet’s deployment.  In conjunction with the state-wide initiative, SNG is again collecting data in Bristol that will serve as benchmarks for the rest of Virginia, helping identify the most significant and immediate economic and social benefits from e‐solutions. This will help guide Virginia as it makes decisions for what solutions are needed, and where, throughout the Commonwealth.

Findings from the Bristol test bed will be used to take effective awareness and adoption strategies for education, workforce, economic growth, healthcare and community.  Learnings will also help prioritize planning activities, workshops, awareness campaigns, training on e‐solutions that will sustain and grow broadband.

Get Smart

Before we wrap up this issue of Bandwidth, a few words about smart grids. Before you tune out from this seemingly over-hyped and over-discussed topic, we’re with you – smart grids are not exactly the most exciting topic. While touting the need for smart grids, there seems to be a lack of discussion of the benefits.

Proponents of smart grids need to convey the benefits to drive awareness and adoption among businesses and households. Just like any broadband-enabled application, in order to drive adoption, change agents need to tell people why they should care and/or change their behavior – a “so what.” Smart grids are here, they are great… so what does that mean to me?

Driving awareness and adoption (Step 5 of the Broadband Lifecycle) seems to be a missing component in many of the early smart grid initiatives.  And while finding the benefits that resonate for your audience is key to driving adoption – let’s not forget the first step – awareness. SNG’s recent studies show that the number of business owners and homeowners even aware of a “smart grid” falls under 5% of the population.


For those who do know the story of smart grids, the narrative seems to be closer to that of 1984’s “Big Brother” than 2010’s BP Oil Spill, creating more support than ever for the need for energy conservation and responsibility.  So taking a look at smart grids from a perspective of a broadband-enabled application, how do we drive adoption among our different audiences? 

The Pragmatist
There are a lot of reasons a pragmatist will like smart grids. Outages can be prevented through monitoring and proactive maintenance/repair of equipment as well as diverting energy to areas of need during peak demand. 

The Environmentalist
Smart grids help reduce community carbon footprints – and help individuals spread out their energy consumption for conservation.

The Thrifty Consumer
Recently Baltimore Gas and Electric estimated that the average home owner will save $115/year by using a smart meter and effectively controlling the way that energy is being utilized. Many utilities are giving households the opportunity to earn “Negawatts” – which serve as credits that translate to refunds.

The Business Owner
Business owners for any size business can work with their utility to create a control for the disbursement of energy to their facilities and drive down costs. At the same time, by implementing smart grids community-wide, costly power outages like the one in Washington DC this week can be avoided.

So let’s get smart about smart grids, remember that just like all e-solutions, you need to drive awareness and adoption (even if government regulation forces adoption).  At the end of the day, environmentalists and pragmatists alike will find smart grids a benefit to the community, with broadband once again enabling cost savings and – in this case – conservation.

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