Connecting Communities Local Leader FAQ

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1. Why is this important?

A study by The Digital Impact Group and Corporation estimated that the lack of connectivity in the United States is conservatively costing us more than $55 billion per year. In addition, over 90% of surveyed economic development professionals across the country indicated that the government-recommended goals of 4 Mbps for rural areas is inadequate for impacting economic development outcomes. Over 55% believe speeds of 100 Mbps (the FCC's goal for mostly urban and suburban households) or more are needed, but within three years, not 10 as some Federal agencies support. In addition, there are mounting pressures being placed on public and civic organizations to become more efficient and reduce costs. There is great potential to collectively pool both financial and human capital to plan and manage better broadband connectivity that will save money and deliver improved community services. These improved services in the areas of e-government, distance learning, economic development, telehealth, and others could have dramatic impacts on the quality of life within our communities and their ability to attract and retain employers, workers, and residents. There are also new opportunities to become more proactive in providing needed broadband services rather than simply waiting for those services to be delivered in a timely and cost effective manner by the existing private providers of broadband services.
2. What exactly are we trying to connect to?

The foundation of the nation's broadband connectivity is the "Internet backbone," a network of large, high-bandwidth fiber optic cables that span the country and the globe. To get broadband service to the homes and businesses within our communities, we need internet service providers such as telephone, cable, and wireless companies to connect their local networks known as the "last mile", to the Internet backbone. In some cases these services are also provided by public providers (municipalities). We also need improved "middle mile" connections which connect between the Internet backbone and the last-mile local networks. The federal recovery act investments in broadband were also designed to use middle mile connections to directly connect community anchor institutions, providing them with immediate high capacity Internet access and improving the critical services they provide to the community. The following illustration from NTIA illustrates these connections well.

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3. I thought we already had access to the Internet/Broadband?

Connecting communities isn't just about getting broadband access. Broadband is not something that is either "available" or "unavailable". It's really about whether or not the institutions, businesses and individuals have the level of connectivity needed to run their applications without being restricted by the existing broadband capacity. It's really more about whether or not the community is getting the level of bandwidth/speed that they need at an affordable rate!
4. How do I get started?

Start by going through the "Information for Decision Making" section to help you learn about the steps to take to become a connected community and the advantages of having and using broadband technology. In the "Jump Into Action" section, you'll begin to think about your community and who might be a good champion for leading the community through the process.
5. Can I team with others?

Absolutely. A really great team might include a person who knows about technology and a person who is a good community facilitator.
6. Who should be invited to be on the core team?

Community members with enthusiasm about the Internet are key players. Consider inviting a different group of people than the same ones that get asked to help with every other project. Try connecting with youth and older adults, educators, non-profits groups, places of worship or the volunteer fire department. Be inclusive and make sure that all segments of the communities' population are represented.
7. What is a suggested timeline for doing a Connecting Communities project?

Start with a small project that your community can accomplish in a few months. Even if your community goal is to increase the broadband infrastructure in the community, you'll need to start by introducing residents to the benefits first. Offering some demonstrations or classes, or facilitating individuals and groups sharing how they are using technology with each other is an important first step to getting more technology in the community.
8. What types of projects might a Connected Communities team take on?

There may be a need for projects/efforts in three areas – awareness (relevance, potential uses, etc.), access (helping secure needed infrastructure, equipment, etc.) and adoption (which may require training and the provision of low cost/public access options so people purchase and use Broadband). The "Jump Into Action" section has useful resources for identifying projects.
9. What if I don't know enough about the technology?

You don't have to be the expert. Learn the basics through the online guide and presentation materials on the website and then find others who are knowledgeable and can work with you to help others learn.
10. Is there a minimum or maximum size of a community to work in?

You need a critical mass of people in the community to be interested enough to show up for events and discussions. A very small community may not have enough people to be able to change their current infrastructure situation. Large metropolitan areas probably have pretty good Internet infrastructure overall, but maybe the Internet is not being used much in a given neighborhood. These 'pockets' might benefit from some of education and content creation projects.
11. Can a community be a region, or a community of interest?

Yes. Small adjacent communities may benefit from joining together to get a greater number of participants. You could also work with groups from a specific neighborhood, ethnic background, age group, etc., although you will most likely work with education and content creation projects or possibly creating community technology centers for these groups.
12. Why is Extension involved?

Extension has always aimed to create better homes, better citizens, better communities, better rural living. Knowledge and use of broadband service has become a necessary infrastructure for economic and community development in the 21st Century global economy. Extension's past history of helping build community capacity to address current needs is well suited to the expansion of broadband.
13. What is expected of an Extension Educator?

Get the conversation started. Find a team of people and invite the community to start thinking about their future. Find a local champion who can carry the community discussions and projects forward. An Extension Educator is not expected to be the person to oversee all the community projects that get designed.
14. What results do you expect from this?

Communities include the Internet as part of their visioning and economic development processes; and broadband is considered necessary infrastructure in the same sense as roads, water and sewer.

2010 "The Economic Impact of Digital Exclusion", The Digital Impact Group and Corporation, Econsult
2010 "Community Broadband Snapshot Report™: Broadband's Impact on Economic Development: The Real Deal", Craig Settles,,