Broadband Champions Needed to Combat Barriers and Boost Public Funding, Panelists Say: Broadband Breakfast

May 6, 2022

Montana Economy

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HOUSTON, May 4, 2022 – Those considering using public funding opportunities should communicate with all levels of stakeholders and worthwhile partnerships to get the most out of the Infrastructure Investment Act funding and the ‘job.

Funding plans live or die by stakeholder involvement, said Tom CoverickCEO of Keybanc Capital Markets.

“Every project needs a champion,” he said during the Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment mini-conference at the Broadband Communities Summit on Monday. “We are looking at higher interest rates and [rising] labor costs. Without local champions, these local projects would have a hard time moving forward.

“The reality is that these champions in local regions will know everyone who needs to be involved, and if they don’t know, they’ll find out how it is pretty quickly,” Coverick said.

“Some communities are ahead of others,” said Illinois Broadband Office Manager matt schmit mentioned. “There are a lot of great role models across the country who have [created] community engagement and outreach programs.

Schmit used Illinois’ “Accelerate Illinois” partnership between the state and Heartland Forward. He explained how this program has helped guide communities who are committed to obtaining public funding for broadband, but who may not have concrete goals or a vision of how to achieve them.

“[These communities] haven’t had this inclusive conversation at the community level, or they may not know exactly how to prepare a grant application, or [how to] find the ideal private supplier partner.

Schmit also emphasized the importance of communication and emphasized a three-legged stool for access, adoption and use. “Be available [to community leaders – to that local champion –] is really important,” Schmit said. “It’s going to make or break a lot of our investment in the United States.”

CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund Sunne Wright McPeak said communication should be encouraged from all stakeholders, from top to bottom. She spoke in particular of state leaders informing local community leaders of the opportunities available to them through grants.

Part of this coordination helped generate intermediary investments to connect eligible communities, she said.

“It is essential to systematically contact the public bodies that must approve the projects and give the permits, and those who will develop the project and apply for the financing[essential”saidMcPeak[iscritical”McPeaksaid[estessentiel”adéclaréMcPeak[iscritical”McPeaksaid

“People who are really on the ground in adoption are what we call trusted messengers,” she added. “It’s the community organizations that can do outreach – in language and culture – and increase that turnout.”

“Where there is a will, there is a way”, said the CEO of UTOPIA Fiber Roger Timmerman. “If you have elected officials or community groups or leaders and you want to solve the broadband problem in your area, you need to organize that effort and find good partners.”

Information on the presentations made during the “Public Funding” panel is available on the Digital Infrastructure Investment page.