Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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Marketing plays a pivotal role in the success of community broadband at every stage of the game: from helping build political will during the initial stages of a project, to driving strong early take rates, to maintaining momentum down the road. Thoughtful and cohesive marketing, outreach, and community education efforts go hand in hand, and help broadband initiatives and networks weather the inevitable challenges that go with major infrastructure projects.
On Episode 6 of Connect This!, Christopher and Travis Carter (CEO, US Internet) will be joined by Kim McKinley (Deputy Director and Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber) and Kyle Hollifield (VP of Business Development, Magellan Advisors), both veterans with years of experience. The group will talk about all that marketing entails, including what we can learn from those that do it right and what gets left on the table when it's not part of the discussion.
Join us Monday, February 8th, at 3:30pm CST on YouTube Live with this link, or watch below.
For those in research, policy, community support, and the host of interrelated spaces who are hard at work to make sure that everyone in the country who wants to get online can, expanding broadband is a two-fold problem: that of broadband availability, and that of broadband adoption.
The first of these relates to the problem of making sure that federal and state legislation and the policies that go with them work towards building the infrastructure and creating the competitive markets that result in reliable, low-cost, high-speed Internet access for all. The second of these — broadband adoption — relates to the collection of obstacles that keep people offline even after an Internet connection is available up to their door. Cost remains one of the most problematic, but there are others as well.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic this year has made overcoming these challenges more important and immediately pressing than ever, and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has initiated a program to help: one-on-one, phone-based support from locally trained people across a range of digital inclusion services call the Digital Navigator Model.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sudden, massive public need for trustworthy digital inclusion services. Millions of Americans need support from digital inclusion programs: to get connected with affordable home internet, find affordable computing devices, and learn basic digital skills. “Digital Navigators” is an adaptation of traditional digital inclusion programming to this new reality, providing one-to-one dedicated support via phone service.
If you’re reading this, you value the resources and research available at MuniNetworks.org. Perhaps you’ve benefited from our technical advice, or you rely on us to stay up to date on community broadband news. For a limited time we have a unique opportunity for support like you to boost the work we do within the Community Broadband Networks Initiative here at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).
Patagonia, a longtime foundation partner of ILSR, is matching all individual donations for a limited time. Individual donations are hugely important to us as an organization, and a match will allow you to make the biggest impact possible with your contribution.
Total funds from Patagonia are limited and the company is matching donations for a long list of great nonprofits like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, so we're asking that you make your donation sooner rather than later before funds run out.
Up to $10,000 for each individual donation will be matched. Donations must be made through the Patagonia Action Works web page here.
Every dollar you give helps ensure we can continue and expand our work. As a reminder, there is a limited pool of money available, so take advantage of this generous opportunity and donate today!
The year 2018 is almost behind us. We hope that you've learned a little from your time at MuniNetworks.org and will consider donating to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Your donation helps us continue the important work of raising the profile of broadband networks that bring fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to local communities, encouraging economic development, local savings, and a high quality of life. Go to ilsr.org/donate to help.
As he reflected on 2018, Christopher shared his thoughts:
As 2018 draws to a close, we are seeing the rising anti-monopoly movement gain strength and visibility. This is an exciting time as people turn toward local solutions and recognize the need to build local power to improve their lives.
We are seeing the increased threat of preemption - where states are limiting local authority - across the board. But on matters of broadband Internet access, our coalition has stopped new efforts to stop municipal networks and even rolled back minor barriers in California and Washington. We will be working to further restore local authority in the coming year but will undoubtedly face new threats to preserve the cable and big telco monopolies.
As I write this, I am staying with family in northern Minnesota... and though I am stuck on very slow DSL, I passed thousands of homes with fiber-optic service from cooperatives on the drive up here. Our team was among the first to recognize the power of cooperatives to build the high-quality networks rural America needs and we have elevated those efforts in local communities, state capitals, and DC.
One of the main differentiator's of community owned networks compared to the big cable and telephone companies is customer service. Being rooted in the community, vested in its success, and employing local residents just means better, more prompt service. A prominent Chattanoogan recently explained:
My last shout-out is to EPB Fiber Optics. This is not a paid commercial, just an opportunity for me to brag on some people who know what they’re doing. I am the first to go on social media and complain about whatever store or business is guilty of subpar service. It’s human nature, and it often makes for a good story. I started using EPB for my cable, internet and phone service about a month ago. I have encountered three problems during that time, none of them major, but all beyond my level of expertise. Each time, I called their help line. Each time, I spoke to local people who did not put me on hold for extended periods, nor did they force me to learn a new language. They always solved my problem within five minutes. My blood pressure thanks you, EPB. This is how it’s done.
We hear these stories frequently with community owned fiber networks. It is hard to do a national study that quantifies the benefits of better customer service, but if we could, we have no doubt the locally owned networks would bury the national cable and telephone companies.
“It stopped us from really building the system by about a year,” said Finance Director Tom Kelly, “which put our revenue collections about a year behind.