Update on broadband: Do not hold your breath

Posted on January 29, 2010

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Wednesday night a whole lot of people made the trek through blowing snow to the Old Town Hall in Elk Rapids to hear about building broadband. (The background is in Monday’s post.)  The ad hoc leadership group did a great job of delineating the reasons the community should embrace full broadband deployment. However, the community is already past all that, and is looking for practical proposals that will actually, you know, provide the service. The presentation was very, very short on practical proposals.

Where they are in Elk Rapids right now: The leadership group is trying to raise funds—$20,000—to pay for technical services in support of a grant proposal. The deadline for the next round of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) broadband grants is March 15. So far the kitty holds $2,000, with another $2,000 pledged on Wednesday that I know about and maybe more that I don’t know about. The technical consultants would be Tim Maylone, of Cherry Capital Connections, and his associates; Tim has been heavily involved in the process to date, and was at the meeting.

In my view, the primary reason that the project has not taken off is that there is no action plan.  What geographic area would it serve? What services would be provided, with what features? What would it cost to implement the plan, and who would pay?  (When I asked what the match would be if the grant were obtained, the first answer was “there is no match requirement.”  It quickly transpired that there is a 25% match requirement, part of which can be “in-kind.”)  What could consumers expect to pay for services when they’re finally rolled out?  And when would that happy day arrive?

Well, that’s a lot of questions.  I hope the Elk Rapids leadership group can come up with the answers in time to apply for the ARRA grant.  If there’s something we can do to help by providing data or feedback, we’ll do it.  If the answers make sense, we’ll do more. 

Right now, I feel like the kid with her nose pressed to the window at the candy store—the kid who’s been invited to a meeting to hear all about how good the candy would taste, and how many flavors she could try . . . if only she were allowed to enter the store.

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