June 26, 2012
Amanda Schnieders, Kauffman Foundation
Tech Blogs Debate Ownership of Kansas City Broadband
Google’s most recent post, “The State of Broadband Internet Access in Kansas City”, on the Google Fiber blog sparked a discussion over the weekend as to who truly owns or should own the business of broadband in Kansas City.
On June 24, broadband strategist Craig Settles posted an article on GigaOM entitled “Does Kansas City own the business of broadband?”, providing a list of seven things that gauges whether a city is properly developing the broadband infrastructure, a process, he said, “by which communities use the technology as a tool to improve economic development, transform education and expedite healthcare delivery.” Settles’ list expands upon the following:
1. Have a broadband champion
2. Establish a single purpose
3. Do a thorough needs assessment
4. Determine how to financially sustain the network
5. Have a solid marketing plan
6. Own the relationship with private sector companies
7. Demand measurement and accountability
Settles continually comes back to one main point—a city must take control of the broadband initiative on a community level rather than turning it over to a private-sector company. It is to this point that Marc Canter, Broadband Mechanics CEO, made his own adjustments in a post, “New kinds of PPP- an open response to Craig Settles”, on his personal blog, Marc’s Voice. Canter applauds Settles for bringing the seven points to the conversation table, but says “rather than focusing on the broadband infrastructure, [the focus should be on] what you do with the broadband infrastructure.”
Canter explains there is a new public-private partnership on the horizon in which the government is merely a partner in a trio of government, business, and the people of the city. The important part of this new broadband is its ability to create jobs in what Canter calls the “digital economy ecosystem”. The city’s government and citizens can become active pursuants of new jobs in a growing digital market. He explains the reality of new jobs that can be completed from the home in categories besides programming, such as online researcher, video editor, event planner, and more. Canter addresses each of Settles’ points with a connection back to the group new broadband affects the most—the people.
Settles responded to Canter’s post on June 25, saying “I should have established up front that when I say “community,” I don’t mean it is always the local government that is the owner of the network.” He goes on to agree with Canter on the idea of a larger partnership between community members and city government in order to make sure the broadband network is of use to the people who can benefit the most from it.
Both articles bring to light the question of who should “own” and cultivate this business of broadband in order to make sure Kansas City doesn’t get left with dreams and hopes of an innovative future that never breaks ground.