Helping communities access high-speed fiber broadband

In partnership with our sister organization, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc (RISI), we help communities plan and build fiber broadband networks that will ensure they can participate in and benefit from the growing digital economy. Leveraging our mapping and data analytics team, we build maps and visualizations that support our work and provide greater clarity and insights into what’s happening in this core area of infrastructure across rural America.

Why fiber broadband networks matter

Fixed wireless networks are often touted as a broadband solution — but in rural areas, where there are fewer customers per mile, more wireless transmitters are needed to reach each customer, making the cost of replacing this equipment even higher. Fiber networks that connect directly to a home or business premise have the fastest speeds, the highest quality connectivity, and often the lowest costs in the long run. From a quality and resilience standpoint, only fiber networks are considered “future proof.”

Fiber-to-the-premise networks are critical in allowing rural areas to close the opportunity gap. Fortunately, there are many proven models for how to get them built. Though they often need low-cost loans and/or outright subsidies to get started, once built, fiber broadband networks become strong, self-sustaining local businesses and community assets.

How we work

Planning a fiber broadband deployment is complex work, especially in a rural area. We help towns create actionable plans for fiber deployment, using a two-phase process:

Phase One: Feasibility assessment and partnership exploration

  • Align on goals for the community and engage a wide range of stakeholders
  • Review relevant state and local policies
  • Collect data on existing coverage and gaps by using a range of community surveys, desk surveys, and state and federal data as needed
  • Assess available funding sources and subsidies
  • Explore partnerships opportunities with private companies, local operators, telephone companies, electric utilities
  • Perform high-level analyses on expected construction costs, penetration rates, and other key projections
  • Work with community partners on next steps

Phase Two: Business plan and execution path

  • Negotiate clear partnership with chosen entities
  • Develop a detailed business plan based on partnership parameters, as well as more detailed construction estimates, penetration estimates, capital stack
  • Create a strategy to fund initial construction and deployment
  • Hand off the project with a complete business plan that demonstrates healthy and viable pro-forma projection, and includes execution path for all components from detailed engineering design through construction and first customer hook-ups