PSC Outlines Strategies to Advance Broadband

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has released a new document designed to advance the spread of broadband across the state. Wisconsin’s Playbook for Broadband Progress presents several “plays” that policy makers, citizens, economic development agencies, planners, and broadband providers can use to explore ways of enhancing broadband availability, adoption, and use throughout the state.

The purpose of this Playbook is to highlight specific replicable initiatives and actions that (1) are realistic and possible within available resources; (2) have enough consensus to be successfully implemented; and (3) are consistent with the needs of Wisconsin. The audience for the state Playbook is Wisconsin leadership, whose actions or coordination is important to advancing state broadband initiatives. This includes legislators, the Governor’s office, educators, private providers, industry, business leaders, state agencies, economic development and regional planning organizations, municipal and county officials, trade associations, consumer interests and others. This document provides actionable ideas that can be implemented successfully in Wisconsin to improve broadband availability, adoption or application.

The Playbook suggests the following “plays” would work well in Wisconsin:

Leverage Existing Resources to Incent Private Investment

Play 1. Convene public agency leadership, provider representatives and other stakeholders as appropriate to:

  • Document barriers that prevent the efficient leasing of available space on government owned towers (state, county, municipal) to private providers.
  • Document barriers that prevent or inhibit access to other government owned facilities (e.g., poles, open trenches, etc.) by private broadband providers.
  • Develop workable options to streamline the process of accessing public assets for broadband build-out:
    • Identify and highlight best practice models (e.g., “build once” models to require road construction projects to incorporate conduit to ensure that roads and landscapes are not needlessly and repeatedly torn up.)
    • Identify possible legislation or practice changes to standardize terms and conditions across jurisdictions.
    • Coordinate with state agencies (for example the Department of Transportation or Department of Natural Resources) on right-of-way issues.
    • Review appropriateness of model legislation from other states.
    • Develop education and awareness outreach to government decision leaders.
  • Recommend legislative action or agency rule changes that may be needed to reduce time and cost of private provider access to towers, rights-of-way and other government resources that can improve broadband access.

Play 2. Create an information database to facilitate access to critical tower assets and right-of-way resources.

Play 3. Explore targeted tax incentives to encourage greater broadband availability, adoption and/or use such as:

  • Tax incentives for broadband-related telecommunications equipment and facilities deployed in areas without current broadband service.
  • Business tax incentive programs for implementation of qualified telecommuting or home agent initiatives in targeted areas.
  • Personal tax credits for broadband expenses incurred in working from or running a business from home.

Provide Forums to Encourage Collaborations that Advance Broadband Communications Access and Use

Play 4. Transform the LinkWISCONSIN/PSCW initiative to include a statewide advisory committee representative of key stakeholders to:

  • Advise on state policy as it affects broadband adoption, deployment and application.
  • Advise and coordinate advocacy on national issues where feasible.
  • Identify potential sources of funding, and assist and coordinate applicants to ensure the funding is applied for and used.

Play 5. Implement annual regional/state summits to bring diverse stakeholders together to:

  • Assess and communicate best practices.
  • Encourage consensus on statewide needs and actions to advance broadband objectives.
  • Promote opportunities for collaboration where appropriate.

Play 6. Create and maintain a statewide broadband information web-portal:

  • Assess options for ownership and sustainable operation of web-portal.
  • Identify and leverage existing on-line web resources (higher education, federal, state agencies, etc.) to avoid duplication of effort.
  • Assemble relevant web content and keep it updated to maximize usefulness.
  • Serve as a clearinghouse to connect information on unmet needs with providers and service options.
  • Provide a resource for businesses and individuals seeking to relocate to the state or to expand within Wisconsin.

Play 7. Convene governmental and private sector stakeholders to advocate collaboratively on issues such as, but not limited to:

  • Coordinating statewide access to federal D-Block spectrum4 to advance public safety and provide an additional resource to fill Wisconsin’s broadband gaps.
  • Maximizing Wisconsin’s use of available federal universal service5 resources where appropriate and desired – especially to assure affordable broadband access for disabled individuals and low-income households.
  • Expanding business access to adequate and affordable broadband.
  • Finding and exploiting opportunities to expand public computer and broadband access at libraries, schools and other identified public computer centers.
  • Assuring robust broadband public safety networks and services.

Promote Awareness of Shared Opportunities among Consumers, Governmental Leadership and Providers

Play 8. Promote the inclusion of broadband infrastructure within local economic development, comprehensive and capital improvements planning:

  • Communicate success stories and best practices.
  • Encourage engagement in broadband planning by regional planning commissions, local economic development councils, county/municipal government, and other existing leadership.
  • Develop a guidebook for incorporating broadband adoption into comprehensive planning for local governments.
  • Seek creative use of existing funding programs, such as the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs,
  • directed to localized broadband planning needs.
  • Explore opportunities to leverage county and municipal resources.

Play 9. Communicate available broadband options to consumers:

  • Maintain accurate public database/map of providers available by location at as granular a level as possible.
  • Identify the broadband options available to consumers, and the strengths and capabilities of the various options. Conduct outreach and education to help business, residential and other providers understand their options.

Play 10. Document and communicate unmet market opportunities to potential providers of service:

  • Provide local and regional teams with a survey resource to document unmet residential, business and other demands.
  • Facilitate partnerships with higher education to manage, analyze and organize data on unmet consumer demand.
  • Communicate unmet demands to providers with market incentive to address those needs.

Play 11. Facilitate partnerships to deliver broadband awareness/adoption education to government officials and consumers:

  • Encourage the pursuit and use of public and private grant monies to leverage the demand-enhancing opportunities of digital awareness and competency.
  • Coordinate and leverage existing assets and programs, such as:
    • Higher education (e.g., University of Wisconsin Extension).
    • Private providers (e.g., Connect to Compete or CenturyLink’s Internet Basics6).
    • Libraries and community partners (e.g., Connecting Milwaukee Communities).
  • Connect potential collaborators with new and existing ideas and projects.

Broadband planning will take center stage at the 2013 Broadband Planning Symposium on April 4-5, 2013 in Madison.

The Symposium, which is part of the LinkWISCONSIN initiative to make Wisconsin more competitive through improved availability, adoption and use of broadband technology, will bring together diverse stakeholders and provide an opportunity to build partnerships, explore various broadband planning efforts and facilitate future collaboration on additional steps that can be taken to work toward a common goal of enhancing broadband across the state.

The Symposium goals are to:
1. Bring together diverse stakeholders in the broadband planning process.
2. Explore action items in Wisconsin’s Broadband Playbook.
3. Consider strategies and timelines for moving forward with regional broadband plans.
4. Raise awareness about the LinkWISCONSIN initiative and the tools that can be used for broadband planning and policy making.

Additional information about the Symposium and registration information is available on this PSC webpage: