Identifying areas of demand and aggregating that demand can help build the financial case for expanding broadband service. Without better understanding the location of and demand for service, the supply of broadband cannot be expanded. Community teams should begin by leveraging relationships of the ISPs that are either on your team, or whom you’ve identified through the data gathering process. Discuss with providers if there are areas that they’d like to expand their services, but are reluctant to, because of the unknown viability of offering service. Having a general cost model for deployment, a provider may find it cost prohibitive to even begin the process of qualifying an area for potential buildout or expansion. Individually or combined, sparse populations, challenging terrain, and low likelihood to subscribe, all contribute to areas and markets that can cost too much to explore.
The team can begin to work in the areas where providers have been reluctant by gathering information from the residents and businesses in those areas that would help a provider make more informed decisions on service deployment. This same information can be gathered in areas where it’s known that service is desired.
The information being collected in these areas can be collected in what is essentially an expanded petition for service survey:
Number of people in your home:
How many connected devices:
Does anyone in your household telework?
How many students are in your home?
Do you currently have broadband service?
What level of service would you subscribe to if it were available?
If a local provider would provide you service at 25 Mbps or 10 Mbps would you subscribe?
What is the highest amount you would pay per month for that service?
The team can take this information to the local ISPs to help demonstrate to the real need and willingness of the residents and businesses to subscribe and utilize broadband service should it be deployment in their area. In areas not identified by providers, but by the community, the information will likely bring awareness to providers of areas that they would not have considered previously. By gathering demand data, the team is helping to reduce the cost of entry into unserved markets for ISPs.
By engaging both the local community and the providers, both parties are drawn closer to one another. Local residents have the ability to then impact the services to be offered, and the process is supported with local information needed to give providers the confidence to deploy service in an area that may otherwise have been ignored.
Guide to demand aggregation and sample survey: https://www.ncbroadband.gov/playbook/broadband-planning-committees/demand-aggregation/
A sample residential survey from Connected Nation can be found here: http://connectmycommunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Sample-residential-survey_071318.pdf.
Contact Name and Information:
In February of this year, the Upton County Broadband Committee released its Technology Action Plan. It took six months of work to develop. Once complete it provided a comprehensive look at broadband and its related technologies across the county—including in McCamey, Texas. “It was an eye-opener on what our community really needed. We actually now know the technology landscape instead of just guessing like we were before,” said Alicia Sanchez, Executive Director of McCamey Economic Development Corporation.
“Shortly after we released the Technology Action Plan, this young man walked into our offices who does contracting and lays down fiber lines,” Sanchez said. “I told him about the survey and that we had learned most residents felt they needed high-speed internet and were underserved. There was a market for a company who would upgrade everyone’s service.”
That man was Clayton Walker, who then bought a local cable/internet company that was going-out-of-business—changing the name to C&J Cable, LLC. He moved the business into McCamey’s incubator offices and began working to upgrade the internet and cable systems across the area. “He’s replacing everything—the whole system in McCamey,” Sanchez said. “I think the survey results were a big push for him to decide to open the business. Now, many of our residents are switching to C&J because they get high-speed internet and cable.”
It’s an important shift for the entire county of Upton. Especially when you consider the importance of broadband access, adoption, and use for not only residents but also business owners in the rural West Texas county.