At OTELCO, we know how frustrating sub-par broadband can be. Many of our employees live in rural areas, with slow speeds and unreliable connections. As everyday citizens, we understand how frustrating it can be to wait on your community or local provider to provide better Internet, which is why this week we want to give some information about what individual citizens can do to help facilitate municipal broadband in their community.
Talk to Your Neighbors
You will first want to gauge the broadband need in your community. Start by talking to the people in your immediate neighborhood. Are you all having issues with your Internet, or is it just a few houses here and there? From there, talk to the community around you. Is this a town-wide issue? Do you see that the center of town is well connected, but the surrounding rural areas are not? Once you have a better idea on the broadband issues facing your community it is time to move on to step two.
Hint: It never hurts to keep a record of whom you talked to and what they said. Some signatures never hurt either.
Talk to Your Provider
Once you have a better idea about the broadband need in your community, you should reach out to your current Internet service provider (ISP). Your current provider may already have plans to build in your area or may even be aware of some municipal work already going on in your community. If they don’t have any plans, providing them with information on where there is a need and community interest in better broadband infrastructure might get the ball rolling a little faster.
Hint: Often, your best bet is an email or online contact form, because it is more likely that an email will get forwarded to the right place than a phone call transferred up the line.
Talk to Your Municipal Leaders
If you don’t make any progress with your ISP, or if their current build schedule does not fit your needs, move on to town hall. As the need for universal broadband becomes more evident, municipalities are getting more and more involved. It is unlikely that your municipal leaders haven’t at least heard of a successful collaborative broadband project similar to the OTELCO project underway in Alton, ME. Show your municipality that you have done your leg work by talking to community members and reaching out to the local ISP.
The first step to any successful municipal broadband project is finding a community advocate and getting them on a broadband committee. Talk to your municipal leaders about forming a Broadband Committee to explore options and perhaps spearhead a planning initiative.
Hint: The best municipal leaders to talk to about this will be your town manager, town planner, or a selectman.
Do Your Research
Broadband planning and deployment is by no means simple. Luckily, there are a lot of great resources out there; USDA, Broadband Communities Magazine, and providers like OTELCO.
We have years written an all-inclusive guide on the subject. OTELCO’s municipal broadband primer is a great place to start your research. Download it today!