This guide walks you through the process of planning a broadband development project in your community. Below you will find helpful information, sample materials, and frameworks that outline a concrete roadmap for your project. In recognition of the importance of planning well, ConnectME offers grants to fund each of the following steps.
Form a Committee
Creating a broadband working group, task force, or committee is a great way to bring in community members with diverse backgrounds, help spread out the work, and communicate to all segments of the community. In this way, working groups can help ensure that there’s community-wide support for resulting broadband projects.
Groups to Include
Municipal Officials, Educators, Community Networkers, Internet Users, Local Businesses
Roles to Fill | Island Institute Template Worksheet
Communicator, Financier, Community Energizer, Technical Expert, Visionary
Create a mission statement | Example Mission Statement
Set a regular meeting schedule (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc.)
Set a meeting agenda | Example Agenda
Name a Chair and a Secretary | Example Meeting Minutes
Track and share your progress | MBC Initiatives Tracking Map
Engage the Community
Engaging your community is critical to the success of your project. Committees that are not transparent and don't communicate with their fellow voters may struggle to garner the support they need for a pivotal vote or application. Here are some ways to engage:
Regional dialogues, speed testing, opinion surveys, public forums
A regional dialogue (link to recording) is an excellent way to test the waters in your locale and begin the process of informing your community about the benefits of building broadband. Here's how to make one happen:
Draft an agenda with MBC | Sample Agenda
Set a date and invite speakers | Potential Speakers
Send out an invitation letter | Sample Invitation
Speed Testing | MBC Speed Test
At-home speed tests serve a vital role by measuring the lived experience of your community. If enough tests are taken, a speed test map can demonstrate the average internet service that residents have access to. There is no better way to get people invested than by letting them see for themselves what they are getting for their money.
Opinion Surveys | How To Guide
Local surveys are an effective way to hear from local residents about their personal experiences with broadband service. While not usually sufficient for building a network they can serve as a call to action for town officials (see above for specifics). Surveys often revolve around any of three topics:
Availability of service to local residents | Sample
Affordability of monthly plans and equipment | Sample
Accessibility to the internet (the devices and skills needed to get online) | Sample
A great way to stay in touch with our communities is by allowing public comment and consistently providing project updates. These tools facilitate that relationship:
A Project Website, Local Mailings (Link to examples/funding?), Monthly Email Newsletters (Link to Examples)
The process of gathering data helps communities understand what their priorities are and take inventory of preexisting infrastructure in order to make informed steps towards a solution. Here are some examples of useful data gathering:
Gap analysis study, E-911 survey, ISP identification, census income summary
Gap Analysis Study | Example
These studies are useful for projecting potential costs of a project and for drafting a Request for Proposal (RFP) that is used to identify private internet companies who can help build your network. Typically, this work is done by a consultant or potential private partner (ConnectME list of consultants).
E-911 Survey | Example
E-911 forms the backbone of gap analysis studies, as this comprehensive list of addresses can be used to outline the number of potential subscribers in a new network. Certain towns have the capacity or willingness to gather this foundational data without needing to pay a consultant, which allows RFPs to be generated with little or no cost to the town.
You will have a more affordable project with better outcomes if you contact internet service providers (ISPs) before sending out your request for proposals (RFP). ISPs may already have plans to build out in your area, they may have different business models that they use, or they might be willing to chip in on your project. Before you dive into these conversations, make sure you contact MBC for advice on speaking with private internet companies.
Census Income Summary
Affordability is a key piece of any project. You need to get a sense for what people in your town can afford. A great way to get a handle on that is by locating census household income data for your community. This will tell you how many subscribers may need assistance or subsidized plans.
Define the Project
Before you are ready to discuss the final plan for funding a project you need to develop a clear picture of what your project hopes to accomplish. Using the information you have gathered from your community, you can answer the following questions:
What speeds do we need from our network?
What are fair prices that subscribers should pay?
Should subscribers bear the cost of equipment installation?
How should the network be owned and managed?
The RFP | Examples
Often, your town's answers to these questions will be codified in a request for proposal (RFP). RFPs are documents that outline what a community is looking for so that companies and public entities can bid on the rights to build a network that meets those requirements.
Once your project goals are established and you have sent out RFPs and are waiting or have received responses, you are ready to finalize your funding predictions. At this point you will know what your community is willing to invest, how much private companies will contribute, and the difference that remains. Continue on to our "Funding" page to learn more about the various options available to fund a project.