5 Steps for Economic Vitality – Broadband as Nervous System of the Body Politic

Better Internet is good business for everyone in Illinois.  Residents, businesses, Internet providers, community and public institutions benefit directly with reduced investment and operating costs, major time savings, and dividends in terms of skills and jobs, as well as through civic and financial productivity within today’s world economic environment everyday, and in times of emergency.

Economic opportunity – for all residents, businesses, communities and regions -- is National Need #2 in FCC National Broadband Plan.  See  www.broadband.gov and http://www.broadband.gov/plan/13-economic-opportunity/    Broadband, as part of civic infratructure (water, power, gas, communications, roads and parking), is the nervous system connecting "at nodes large and small" all parts of a healthy community's natural, built and people environment.

Introduction to business and network productivity

A topical example of the "network productivity" coming out of an integrated public-private communication approach:  On June 30, 2011 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced the creation of  a center to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs.  The Small Business Development Center, a partnership between DCEO and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, will offer help with planning, market research and guidance on accessing business financing, and accessing high speed Internet and digital government services, among other things.   The center is funded through a federal-state partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and DCEO.  The state said there are 367,660 small businesses in Illinois, employing 3.8 million.  http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-state-creates-new-small-business-center-20110630,0,1864634.story

 The US SBA’s Office of Advocacy has led the way on how small businesses can benefit from access to and improvement of basic and advanced Internet.  See study on The Impact of Broadband Speed and Price on Small Business http://www.sba.gov/content/impact-broadband-speed-and-price-small-business-1   A June 2011 example of SBA broadband outreach in Illinois is the distribution of Small Business Tech Equipment Packages to 65 libraries (linked with local SCORE and Small Business Development Centers often at community colleges)  through Illinois Secretary of State’s office   http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/press/2011/june/110621d1.pdf

This integrated public-private cooperation at the local, state and nation levels is designed to increase economic success and overall community productivity (standard of living) using “digital tools” and “data exchanges” to avoid or reduce costs, cut time and  provide more certainty in returns-on-investments of time, money and data sharing by residents, businesses, public agencies and civic institutions.    This is part of community improvement and charitable missions of many to lessen the burdens of government, including by tapping major investments of volunteer time and donated goods and services through charities, educational institutions, religious and service congregations and community improvement and chamber of commerce organizations.  http://www.irs.gov/publications/p557/ch03.html#en_US_2010_publink1000200094

Step 1.  Getting there! Starting with High Quality Baseline of Data on Internet connectivity to have good measurement metrics on returns-on-investment in Internet improvements

Partnership for a Connected Illinois’ investment -- during 2010 through mid-2011 -- in economic growth-supporting broadband for businesses, community anchor institutions and consumers began with Step 1: A detailed Baseline database on broadband availability (supply) and use (demand) data for such customers.  The study especially focused on unserved and underserved communities (less than 50% Internet threshold speed connectivity for residents)  has been developed by, and is periodically updated by,  Partnership for a Connected Illinois working with Internet service providers and other data providers.  The  baseline data on business, resident and community anchor institution investments (and returns in the forms of productivity, growth, job creation and community quality of life indicators) is based on leading “impact on economic growth” models and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Investment models to allow comparisons (and local responses)  over time, and among states and across International economic regional broadband and other ICT investment initiatives.   See recent OECD discussions of international comparisons of growth and innovation, and data on wireless Internet connections.


So, with the new Illinois broadband partnership initiative in mind, what are next steps of practical “things to do” to fully bring the power of basic and Gigabit Internet to improve the economic vitality of Illinois?   Several steps can enable businesses, civic institutions, public agencies, learning and health institutions to all reap the ‘network benefits” for all by increasing regular Internet availability and enabling “all to reach all,” along the lines of US Postal Service scenarios to achieve over 90% Internet connectivity in the next few years.

Based on a firm foundation of data to enable regional and local planning and adoption campaigns to have “dashboard tools” to help them understand the most effective and sustainable infrastructure and services strategies, below are 4 additional steps that  build on Broadband Illinois’s mission – as our state’s public-private broadband initiative – to map, build regional plans for and achieve the adoption and regular use of broadband by all.

Step  2.  Create a statewide Broadband Awareness Program  involving leadership from all sectors of community, business, education, health, media and public agencies and offices.  Under the leadership of Gov. Quinn and important private sector leaders, such a program would develop a formal public service announcement program to build understanding of the value of and comfort in using digital tools to carry out daily tasks “better, faster, cheaper” and the importance in our world economy and the vitality of of over 360,000 Illinois small businesses to have over 90 percent  of citizens connected through regular Internet addresses.    Today, depending on the data reviewed, and in the research of US Postal Service a number of awareness and customer-engagement activities will be needed to reach 80% or 90% regular Internet use in homes and businesses.  http://www.usps.com/strategicplanning/_pdf/BCG_Narrative.pdf#search='Broadband study' 

   On place to begin on awareness is to build on the work of the DCEO Advisory Committee on the Elimination of the Digital Divide and its outreach activities.  In past years, these efforts have included linkingwith communication companies to provide inserts in telephone bills.   There are also many consumer-friendly graphics and local newspaper supplement publications, developed through the KeyPad Kid Project, based on a statewide mascot for better use of telephones (pioneered by California Public Utilities Commission in 2006).  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-KeyPad-Kid-Project/75815548937

 3.  Create a Community Dashboard Initiative for all local public officials (including state and Congressional representatives) to have access by computer display in their offices to regular data (including  top priority “overnight data” available from government and private databases) about the health, safety, economic and environmental condition, transportation and public works, and time-in-line in filing for government approvals or other transactions.    Such data will not only enable staff of public officials to better respond to constituent residents, businesses and community institutions, such data (when organized on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis) can  provide informed and valid information for “regional indicators” and for discussion about service quality and community investments in public works.  Such “transparent data” can appropriately be made available to community improvement organizations and chambers of commerce to help in making local plans based on understanding of community areas.   See CTA Bus Tracker data http://www.ctabustracker.com/bustime/home.jsp  and New York City analysis of 311 data as samples of information useful both citywide and in specific neighborhoods.  http//www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/ff/311new york/ (Wired Magazine, November 2010)

4.  Create a Community Anchor Institution initiative in each community college area (48 districts in Illinois, including 7 in Chicago with additional extension centers), library area districts and local chamber of commerce and public works and utility-watershed areas, as the best way to enable the bringing together of human, business and capital investment and government network-strengthening and assisting individuals to adapt to new career transitions and to build strong local businesses, including on a parttime basis.  This can be done by working with Broadband Illinois and its mapping of Community Anchor Institutions, as defined in Federal broadband legislation, and working with city, county and regional planning agencies, state and regional libraries and the Illinois Community College Board.  Such Community Anchor Institution areas can share “best practices,” such as the holding of annual Community Applications Expos, along the line of those developed in Ft. Wayne in its 2007 Killer App Expo linked with its public-private partnership with Verizon to bring fiber to public facilities, business and homes. http://www.killerappexpo.com/summit_ftwayne.php


5.Create a Broadband and Utility Planning assistance program to enable local community areas, municipalities, counties and regions to better plan their economies and civic improvements in ways which avoid costs, reduce time for both ;private and public sector parties (spurring investment) and  reducing the costs of government and to taxpayers.   This can be done by having public officials and other key parties endorse Federal proposals to allow “broadband and utility planning” to be considered “allowable costs” in Federal planning mandates for land use and transportation.   Such a modification could be included in currently-proposed Federal surface transportation legislation.  As well, this can be done by having DCEO, IDOT and others provide assistance to county and local governments in adopting Illinois statewide legislation and guidelines for “common trenching” to install fiber conduit in transportation and public works projects and “pole and tower sharing” rules for wireless communication.   DCEO can assist in this process through its many economic development initiatives, including identifying the availability of fiber or other high speed capacity at properties for sale in this state, and working with other Midwest states on their Gigabit Economic Development strategies, such as in Google Fiber installation programs 2011-2012 in Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri. http://www.google.com/fiber/kansascity/index.html   Over 60 cities and counties in Illinois expressed interest in 2010 in comprehensive fiber installation linked with the national Google Fiber initiative.

 In the future, we’ll explore in more detail strategies for reaching residents and businesses (including through analysis of extensive mapping data on home, business and community anchor institution broadband connectivity) and for local and regional economic development (including through cooperative right of way and cell tower public works to reduce costs for all).   We look forward to strategies being developed by Governor Pat Quinn’s Broadband Deployment Council on these approaches.

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Partnership for a Connected Illinois 1337 Wabash Ave. Springfield, IL 62704 Phone: (217) 886-4228 Fax: (217) 718-4546 info@broadbandillinois.org