September 12, 2013
The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) Board of Directors last week announced the recipients of its annual Community Broadband Awards. (NATOA has also sponsored several events in the last week touting the benefits of government-owned broadband networks, or GONs.) Among the honorees were:
At least NATOA didn’t choose the Provo, Utah or the Groton, Conn. networks, which were sold for $1 and at $30 million-plus losses; or UTOPIA in Utah, which has resulted in tax increases for local residents; or the North Florida Broadband Authority, which has lost multiple participants due to worries about unfair competition with the private sector, for its awards. But CNE still doesn’t think the two networks are above are yet worthy of any award.
NATOA should instead look at the type of public-private partnerships highlighted by Charles Davidson and Michael Santorelli in their report on community broadband efforts. Davidson and Santorelli argue, “Local and state governments do have critical roles to play in this space, but owning and operating a broadband network is not at the top of the list … We argue that local and state government should instead focus on reforming policies impacting both the supply-side – like modernizing zoning and right-of-way policies – and the demand-side – including supporting digital literacy initiatives and training programs – of the broadband connectivity equation.”
At a NATOA meeting on Sept. 9, Will Aycock, general manager of the city of Wilson, N.C. said the goals for his city’s networks “were to support the economics of the community, improve city services, and enhance quality of life for citizens, he said. Also, the network has to be completely self-sustaining …”
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