Strong Leadership And Effective Partnerships For Successful Municipal FTTP Projects
Access to affordable, high-speed Internet is essential for individuals, businesses, and government to function effectively in the 21st century. Many U.S. and European communities lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet. Communities have tried to address this issue by building municipally-owned fiber networks or by engaging the private sector in municipal efforts to expand access to affordable, high-speed Internet.
To help communities improve access to affordable, high-speed Internet, this research examined European municipalities that have undertaken such efforts. These were Umeå and Västerbotten County, Sweden; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Friesland Province, Netherlands. Based on insights from these communities, this paper establishes policy recommendations to support municipal efforts to improve access to affordable, high-speed Internet in their communities.
Recommendations: National Government
Provide Strong Leadership: Due to its status as the only actor with the clout to compel participation, the national government must lead efforts to create an intentional national broadband Internet ecosystem that balances the needs of all participants.
Set Measurable Goals, Create a Plan, and Allocate Money to Implement Goals: As part of creating an intentional broadband Internet ecosystem, participants must set measurable goals for high-speed Internet connectivity and create and fully fund an implementable plan.
Sweden’s national government did an exemplary job with these tasks, thereby paving the way for Umeå and Västerbotten County to launch successful municipal fiber to the premises deployments. On the other hand, the Netherlands has not completed these tasks. The lack of an intentional national broadband Internet ecosystem hindered efforts by Amsterdam and Friesland Province to launch municipal fiber to the premises deployments.
Recommendations: Municipal Government
Create Effective Partnerships: Municipalities must create partnerships with Internet service providers, national government, and consumers to create a workable plan within the framework of their nation’s broadband Internet ecosystem.
Secure Funding: The municipal government should allocate local money and pursue external funding to pay for fiber deployment.
Be Prepared to Address Technical Challenges: Municipalities will need to acquire staff — either by direct hiring or contract — who can address the many technical challenges associated with planning, building, operating, and maintaining a fiber network.
Be Prepared to Address Political Challenges: Municipal staff must be able to address the political challenges of a large infrastructure project. This will require managing the project through years of planning and design, environmental impact analysis, and construction. To manage stakeholder expectations about these activities and the entire process, staff must convey the fiber to the premises (FTTP) network’s expected costs and benefits, project complexity, level of effort, and anticipated timeline so stakeholders have realistic expectations about potential project obstacles. Project staff also must anticipate project opposition and create strategies to address the concerns of project opponents.
Umeå and Västerbotten County successfully secured expertise and funding to address the technical and political challenges of building a municipal FTTP network. These municipalities also attracted internet service providers (ISP) as partners to serve end-users via their networks. On the other hand, while Amsterdam and Friesland experienced success in securing funding and addressing technical challenges, both communities experienced challenges in creating effective partnerships and overcoming political challenges.
The first section of this policy discussion introduces the importance of high-speed broadband Internet and outlines common technologies used to provide wireline Internet; compares high-speed Internet access in select U.S., European, and Asian cities; and describes technical, financial, and political reasons why the United States lags in fiber deployment. Because there is abundant literature on these topics, this report does not go into detail.
The second section advocates for more government involvement in U.S. broadband expansion efforts to overcome the challenges discussed in the first section.
The third section provides a quick overview of U.S. federal efforts to encourage expanded access to broadband Internet and the mixed results achieved due to the slow implementation of strategies.
The fourth section discusses the reasons why U.S. municipalities are suited to be key players in efforts to ensure access to high-speed broadband Internet.
The fifth section provides a high-level overview of efforts to expand access to high-speed fiber Internet in four profiled European municipalities.
Umeå and Västerbotten County, Sweden: After successful fiber deployment to homes and businesses in urbanized areas (Umeå City and Umeå Municipality), Umeå’s network is adding smart city features. In surrounding Västerbotten County, the focus is on expanding fiber to the most remote areas.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Efforts to build a fiber network that was partly owned by both the city and by Internet service providers encountered many challenges and achieved mixed results. Amsterdam’s story offers lessons for other communities.
Friesland Province, Netherlands: The province utilized financial incentives to entice Internet service providers to deploy fiber to the most difficult to serve areas.
The following three sections detail how the profiled municipalities approached efforts to expand access to high-speed Internet via fiber deployment in their jurisdictions.
The final section shares insight and policy recommendations for both national and municipal governments based on the experiences of the profiled European municipalities.
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