Kelleigh Cole

Broadband Needs Assessment and Planning for Community Anchor Institutions

[Commentary] Broadband needs assessment and planning for community anchor institutions (CAIs) is one of the most critical steps that state and local governments can take to improve broadband connectivity and promote economic growth in their regions. Conducting an inventory of the locations and speeds of existing broadband services for CAIs – and identifying the gaps in broadband coverage – can help attract new funding and target investments to the areas with the most need. Conducting an inventory among all CAIs can also facilitate meaningful partnerships and strategies to ensure that the entire community has adequate broadband connectivity. Developing and implementing a broadband plan is time-consuming, but absolutely essential. Failing to conduct a needs assessment of CAIs’ present and future broadband services can lead to missed opportunities, unmet needs, or wasteful investment. Failing to include all stakeholders, including the broadband providers, in the planning process can make the difference between a long-lasting, sustainable project and a project that results in stranded assets. Perhaps the most important recommendation is for planners to gather detailed, granular data about the broadband assets in an area. They shouldn’t rely on generalized descriptions of whether an area is served, unserved, or underserved, especially because CAIs’ broadband needs are very different from residential and business needs.