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Economic Opportunity


Develop Publicly-Led Broadband Initiatives

As access to fiber optic networks becomes more important to economic development, health care and education, more and more municipal and state governments have taken the lead in implementing ultra-fast networks in communities.

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Tool Information


  1. Entrepreneurship
  2. Education
  3. Health


Description of Tool

Access to affordable high speed internet is necessary infrastructure in today’s connected world.  Residents need high speed internet to access employment opportunities, goods and services, health care, and educational resources.  Rural towns need access to broadband internet to attract businesses and jobs. Businesses need internet to compete and to collaborate.  When the infrastructure for broadband does not extend into more rural areas, State and local government can adopt policies and initiate public-private partnerships to bring broadband networks to rural areas. 


Municipally-led Broadband

Municipalities can construct their own fiber networks or facilitate a nonprofit or corporation in development of a network through a variety of policies and projects.  For example some communities develop a ‘dig-once’ policy that require installation of fiber optic conduits whenever a public construction project requires digging in the right of way.  Others work with utility pole owners (usually phone or electric companies) to develop access agreements and to make the poles ready to receive cable.  Anything a local municipality can do to facilitate the construction process through expedited access to GIS information or by documenting where there is need or fiber ready access will help to make the construction process more efficient and appealing to providers.  Some municipalities make codes or incentives for developers to include pathways for cable in their projects.  In some cases, simply collaborating with local fiber optic cable providers to understand their needs and schedules is enough to discover the best ways to facilitate the process and reduce the cost of installing infrastructure.  Joining a support network, such as Next Century Cities can help towns and cities learn from each other about what is working.  Because a broadband network is a significant cost, private-public partnerships and collaborations are becoming an increasingly popular approach to broadband projects. 


State-led Broadband

The State Broadband Initiative (SBI) can help communities develop the much needed "last mile" of infrastructure to support a 21st Century Economy. Currently, Kansas ranks last in funding under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and SBI, with just over $7 Million awarded through the two programs.


The State Broadband Initiative grantees support the efficient and creative use of broadband technology to improve competition.  Some assist small businesses and community institutions in using the technology more effectively.

Mother Earth News


The 'digital divide' is leaving many parts of rural America behind as more and more business and personal development is being conducted online.  Income, race, gender, and geographic location play increasingly important roles in determining the “haves” and “have-nots.”  Disparity in technology impacts how children and small businesses can compete in the 21st Century economy.  The internet assists families with important household management issues from retrieving documents, to rapid communications and distance learning opportunities.  It allows for personal or professional development and access to support networks.  Internet broadens access to various career choices, allows access to markets.  It is increasingly important for all citizens to be able to participate in the global society and economy that is accessible only through the internet. 


Some facts*:

Those with a college degree are 8 times more likely to have a computer and 16 times more likely to have internet access

A high-income family in urban areas is 20 times more likely to have internet access than rural, low-income households. 

Caucasian families are three to four times more likely to have internet access than African American or Hispanic families

Wealthy Asian/Pacific Islander families are 13 times more likely to have internet than a poor African American family. 


*Source:  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:JOMS.0000023301.09308.d9#page-2

Additional Information

Next Century Cities: http://nextcenturycities.org/


CTC Technology and Energy. Gigabit Communities: Technical Strategies for Facilitating Public or Private Broadband Construction in Your Community



State Broadband Initiative: http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/SBDD


Broadband USA:  An introduction to effective public-private partnerships for broadband investments http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia_ppp_010515.pdf

Implementation Strategy

Champions and Partners

Local Telecom Companies

Local Municipalities

Oklahoma Office of State Finance

Kansas Department of Commerce


Long (8+ years)



Cost Details

  • Land acquisition
  • Installation of Fiber Optics
  • Administrative costs to facilitate partnerships
  • Maintenance of networks

Funding Sources

  • State Broadband Initiative Grants
  • Lease payments
  • Synergies with other utility and right-of-way projects happening simultaneously

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

Steps for implementing include:

Join a support network, such as Next Century Cities

  • Enact policies that enable the gradual build out of fiber network assets.

Case Study

Ponca City, OK

Ponca City, Oklahoma a city within the Flint Hills Frontiers project area that is also one of the inaugural members of the next century cities initiative. 

According to Mayor Homer Nicholson, “Ponca City has installed over 360 miles of fiber that is used by businesses, schools, medical professionals, government, and provides the back haul as well for its 17,500 daily wireless Internet users, for free. Anytime, anywhere. Currently Ponca City is designing the next phase of technology for its residents. Ponca City has won many awards over the last few years on its various networks.”


Ponca City proves that publicly led broadband initiatives can work in Flint Hills communities.