Avoiding Costs, Building Assets: “One Trench” and “One Tower” Investments Improve Government Performance

One Trench

Improving government performance is the FCC National Broadband Plan, National Need #5. It is closely linked with National Need #7, Public Safety (topic of the August 22 blog), and Increasing Civic Engagement, National Need #6. All of these are major responsibilities of state and local governments 

By utilizing common infrastructure, governments can facilitate faster, better, and less expensive Internet for their public works and community institutions, and private sector providers can do the same for residents and businesses. Such solutions include “one trench” and “one tower” investments for faster payback through lower costs.

Background: Civic Infrastructure in the Digital Age

With towns, cities, and counties facing budget shortfalls and the need for once-in-a-generation fiber-and-cell tower investments, the topics of cost and time savings in public works must be addressed. They were the topics of two recent Broadband 101 workshops for public officials and public works staff at the 2011 Illinois Municipal League annual meeting in Chicago. The first session presented the Benefits of Broadband for Your Community and included preparation for the explosion of Internet connected devices in the world from 1 billion in 2008 to 50 billion in 2020, and how best to train a new generation of entry-level workers for communication technology careers. 

Session One—Benefits of Broadband. 

Presentations were made by:

  1. CharlesWu of Convergence Technologies, on partnering with towns and counties in South Cook and Kankakee counties, and in NW Indiana on siting and using cell towers. 2011_-_0915_-_IML_ARRA_Presentation.pptx 
  2. Mark Latham, city manager of Highland, IL, a small town of 10,000 30 miles east of St. Louis and home of established companies that needed fiber if they were to stay or expand within Highland. Benefits of Broadband.pptx 
  3. Scott Koteski, Rochelle, Illinois (presentation given by Rochelle Mayor Chet Olson, also the panel moderator), a town of 10,000 in NW Illinois, which branched out from municipal power to become a telecommunications CLEC in 2003 and has been able to bring several job-creating data centers to town and to bring fiber to subdivisions. IML_Conference-Rochelle.pptx and IML_Conference_Rochelle.pdf

Session Two—Developing Broadband Strategy. 

Presentations by:

  1. Rex Duncan, pioneer in local leadership development for telecommunications and economic development in the twenty counties of Southern Illinois with traditionally limited communication investment. He discussed how to avoid major costs and reduce time to completion. First, “never let a hole go to waste” by filling up any public works or other construction site or right-of-way with “fiber conduit.” Second, “don’t be afraid of heights” in finding existing towers (such as on state park land) and getting cooperation from several towns and counties to share installation of wireless services; these can provide public safety wireless with plenty left over for low cost use by private companies with business or residential customers. IML Presentation 09.16.11.ppt
  2. Drew Clark, Executive Director of Partnership for a Connected Illinois, spoke about the role of business-community-public planning “eTeams” in bringing local stakeholders together to assist private Internet providers, coops, university and state agency cooperation to bring lower cost communications to spur economic development. PCI Broadband Presentation 9-16-11 Drew Clark.pptx 
  3. Lori Sorenson, Illinois Central Management Services, describing how municipalities can plug into the 55- county fiber network in Central Illinois, as an investment in world-competitive fiber. The network is financed through fast “payback” in bringing lower communication rates for 10 to 100 megabit to gigabit connections for municipal, school, library, health and public safety services and for making it available to private sector carriers serving job-creation developments. IBOP EC.pptx

What’s driving this conversation? State and local governments are making budget decisions to avoid costs. These include cooperation among units of government regarding design and construction of public works and transportation projects, and the reduction in time to completion for projects and services.

Examples for Illinois

The Illinois General Assembly has adopted and Governor Pat Quinn has signed a number of planning initiatives:

  1. Consolidate or coordinate local schools, including through distance learning initiatives. See School District Realignment Commission law signed August 23, 2011. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=1216&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=57174&SessionID=84 
  2. Substantially reduce the number of local government bodies, partially through multi-body digital government services. See Local Government Consolidation Commission act signed August 12, 2011. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=268&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=54939&SessionID=84 
  3. Coordinated freight transportation to speed up delivery times and reduce congestion and public-private transit-oriented development financing. See IDOT Freight Mobility Plan act signed into law June 28, 2011. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=1761&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=58944&SessionID=84Transportation Public Private Partnership act signed into law August 23, 2011. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=1091&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=56925&SessionID=84
  4. Coordination of Job Hiring, Skills, Small Business and Innovation Venture investments in community college and university areas as well as in tech parks and job creation nodes. See Innovative Venture Financing Account act signed August 12, 2011. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=107&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=54843&SessionID=84 Higher Education Technology Entrepreneurial Center Act signed August 12, 2011. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=84&GA=97&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=1876&GAID=11&LegID=59065&SpecSess=&Session
  5. Proposals for Smart Grid investments, with financing formulas yet to be determined; this is a possible topic during the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session starting October 25.
  6. Expand development and use of Regional Quality of Life Indicators, including data on broadband adoption and use, such as through Metro Pulse model developed by Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in cooperation with Chicago Community Trust. http://www.metropulsechicago.org/ 

CCT’s Terry Mazany has recommended to the Chicago Federal Reserve to use such regular data for monthly and other Standard of Living and Civic Productivity reports (like monthly Employment, Housing Stability and Consumer Confidence indicators) as important tools to assist in rapid understanding and response to social conditions and to spur productive investment from public and private sectors. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-0918-confidential-fed-20110919,0,2738669.column

Examples for Federal government capital and human productivity initiatives

Three recent Illinois Congressional proposals are examples of public-private investment in job-creation and infrastructure improvement while avoiding costs. They involve public-private funding and public works cooperation, transparent accounting, and public oversight. 

Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act proposed by Sen. Mark Kirk. http://kirk.senate.gov/?p=issue&id=42

Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act by Rep. Jan Schakowsky. http://schakowsky.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2976:schakowsky-announces-bill-to-create-22-million-jobs&catid=22:2011-press-releases

Cost Savings through Transparency and Accountability measures proposed by Rep. Mike Quigley and members of the bipartisan Transparency Caucus. http://quigley.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=62

Example of Faster, Better, Cheaper Internet initiatives 

Such examples include FCC initiatives to expand internet access through the Universal Service Fund, which includes combining incentives for rural communication providers to provide both POTS (plain old telephone service) and internet at affordable rates in high cost rural areas. The FCC Universal Service Fund modernization program will have a pilot program for Lifeline Link Up services for low income families, with applications expected in fall 2011. See FCC Universal Service Fund and Broadband modernization. http://www.fcc.gov/topic/universal-service-fund 

As well, Comcast and other providers have announced programs to greatly expand affordable internet access. In May 2011 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a $10 price point monthly internet service by Comcast for Chicago Public School students who qualify based on family income. http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2011/may_2011/mayor_emanuel_announcespublic-privatepartnershiptoexpandinternet.html

What do all these Items have in common? They require finding new ways to lessen the costs of government and improve government, civic and private sector productivity. 

Possible Next Steps

  1. Municipalities and counties can adoption “one trench” and “one tower” ordinances, and undertake Broadband 101 training for public officials, public works staff and community and business leaders.
  2. Regional planning agencies and economic development organizations can develop model ordinances and training curriculum, and conduct training and consultation on best practices (most savings in time, money, best results in terms of costs and public-private investment). See Illinois Association of Regional Councils. http://www.ilarconline.org/
  3. Regional and statewide organizations, including Partnership for a Connected Illinois and its eTeams, and broadband providers can work with local agencies to map public works infrastructure for all utilities (water, power, gas, communications) and transportation.
  4. Research universities and software development companies can develop “common platforms” to integrate virtual civic infrastructure networks, including planning, financing, engineering, systems management, outcome tracking and response assembly activities, and research and analysis.
  5. Community anchor institutions (community, public, business, post office, congregations, health care providers) and providers can cooperate in Local Area Application plans in mapping and validating data on Community Anchor Assets in local area plans in each municipality, county, library district, community college district, public safety and healthcare district, with the assistance of PCI mapping tools, eTeam outreach, regional planning and GIS organizations, economic development organizations and real estate developers. 
  6. The Governor and Illinois Broadband Deployment Council can implement an Illinois Broadband Awareness Program (theme of Better Broadband, Better Lives --Faster, Better, Cheaper for All), including though statewide online photo-story-based newsletter of PCI and cooperating parties. Plus, support other Sustainable Broadband Adoption, digital literacy, and technology corps and civic engagement programs.
  7. All parties can take part in groundbreaking celebrations for “one trench” and “one tower” projects, and share local news coverage with others in the state, including through the PCI website and newsletter.

All of these steps will be considered by Illinois Broadband Deployment Council on October 13th during the October 12-13 Regional Broadband Summit in Champaign. http://broadbandillinois.org/calendar/1


LAYTON E. OLSON is of counsel to the law firm of Howe & Hutton, Ltd.  He has over 35 years of experience in representation of charitable groups and businesses and consulting firms which work with charities. He also has a general law practice. Layton facilitates legislative and regulatory initiatives in education, health care, transportation, and community technologies in Washington, D.C., Springfield, and Chicago. He is a recognized and published leader in start up and regulation of nonprofit institutions in Illinois. He served as Chair of the Trade and Professional Associations Law Committee of the Chicago Bar Association and was a founder of the Exempt Organizations Committee of the CBA. He graduated from Pomona College, University of California, Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall), and is licensed in Illinois and California. Layton is also a manager with over 15 years of experience as chief executive of nonprofit organizations and project manager with a focus on public-private for urban and community revitalization. He has managed initiatives for the improvement of economically distressed areas of Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana, including in brownfield revitalization and telecommunication infrastructure, and has led resource development for Illinois state wide consortium for digital, literary and technology access.

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