4 min read

Giving Broadband the Green Light Part 3: Your Path to a Plan (or Study)

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Welcome to part three in our nine-part broadband-deployment series. We’ll explain why you need a roadmap for closing the digital divide in your community and how you can make it happen. You’ve got two basic methods for creating your broadband roadmap: a feasibility study or a master plan.

To study or plan; that is the question

A feasibility study determines whether a broadband network is financially viable in a given location. It looks at how much the project will cost to build and estimates when it will see a return on investment. The feasibility study aligns community goals with the dollars and cents. You’ll find out if the project is commercially viable or if it will need to be subsidized. You’ll be able to determine your target take rate (how much of the market you’ll need to capture) and when the project will see a return on investment.

A master plan provides a strategy and goals for closing the digital divide. It establishes a vision for the community’s future and provides a conceptual guide for broadband deployment and growth. A master plan sets a foundation for the next five, 10, or 20 years, helping your community decide what it wants and the steps it’ll take to get there. You’ll define the project’s goals, costs, scale, and timeline so everybody’s driving toward the same destination.

Whether you decide to conduct a feasibility study or a master plan, you want to follow these tips.

Follow the data

You can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are now. Data helps you paint the present-day picture so you can re-envision it for a better tomorrow. You’ll want to collect geospatial data on parcels or addresses (which premises are connected), the locations of power and telephone poles and their span from buildings (aerial span data) as well as the scale of the new or upgraded network. If you’ve fallen into a bad data orbit, there’s hope.

Don’t forget data on the people of your community. What do they think of the existing internet service provider (ISP), if there is one in the community? Who is connected and who isn’t? Who has access but is priced out? Leverage your data to tell a story, not about poles or parcels, but about people. Make it concrete. Be specific. Find one person’s story that can stand in for the bigger challenges and opportunities your community faces.

Timing is everything

Warren Buffet once said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Broadband networks are like trees. It takes a while for the seed to take root. Your master plan or feasibility study is your seed. Give yourself a minimum of two to three months to collect all the information, strategize and develop the plan/study.

Future forward

Our headquarters are in Denver, Colorado. If you’ve ever driven through the historic neighborhoods in Capitol Hill or Lower Highlands, you know the city planners of the past didn’t think a world with cars parked on both sides of the street and two-way traffic would be necessary. They couldn’t imagine a future, unlike the present. Don’t let your broadband deployment project succumb to the same faulty logic.

Demand will only increase

The truth is Internet consumption is only going to go up with the Internet of Things and more of our lives transferring online for work, school, health, and play. You need to design your network for maximum usage. Imagine the craziest amount of usage–make it a stupid crazy amount. That’s what you should design for.

Make access and equity a top principle

Use a blanket approach that covers the entire area rather than adding one address at a time. You’ll create a more accessible, equitable network from the start. Build for those areas with the greatest needs, whether that’s access or affordability, upfront.

Think simple and standard

Make simplified construction and end-to-end processes a goal. Develop constructability rules with the construction team upfront, as changes to the design after construction has started can cause major delays, even halting the project altogether. Be sure to use algorithmic design (a machine-assisted, human-led approach to network design) to iterate high-level designs as fast as possible. Then, verify those designs in the field using digital tools and software. 

Standardize the equipment and materials you plan to use to increase efficiencies during construction and operations. Fiber is the gold standard. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. There’s nothing like fiber in terms of reliability and speed, including 5G, which falls flat when tall buildings and trees come into play. With climate-change concerns, buried fiber might be the cheaper route in the end. Of course, you’ve got to determine the best solution for your specific location.

Be sure to account for supply chain delays and skilled-labor shortages with creative solutions.

Innovate across silos

You know what silos are good for? Storing grain. Not solving critical or complex problems for the next generation. Get all the parties to show up at the table to talk shop, collaborate, and dream big. Chances are, the person downstream will have just the solution to solve that upstream hurdle. At Biarri, we call this radical transparency. And we believe it can save telecom from itself.

Partner wisely

Maybe you’re the independent type. But broadband deployments get achieved by teams. Be sure the one you assemble is up to par. Look for a key partner who can guide you through the process from end to end: community outreach, planning, design, construction, operations and growth. Connect with those who’s past projects and clients can confirm their promises are legit.

Leave the digital divide in the rearview

You can’t predict the future or plan for everything that may happen. But you can be as prepared as possible. You can set your community up for success with a little elbow grease and a path forward. Let your feasibility study or master plan be your ultimate roadmap to universal connectivity.

Hankering for more broadband thoughts and solutions? Keep trucking.

Ready to get in touch? Contact us.

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