- Policy Platforms
The Western Governors’ Association hosted the webinar, Community Anchor Institution Connectivity, on April 15.
The conversation highlighted federal programs that direct broadband investments to schools, libraries, hospitals, and community centers. These programs help provide much-needed connectivity to these crucial community hubs and can serve as the connectivity link for the surrounding area. The webinar explored creative strategies to leverage anchor institutions and federal programs to drive further broadband investment in rural and low-income areas.
Panelists also highlighted how community anchor institutions have been serving students and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlughts included:
John Windhausen, Executive Director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition: “A lot of (e-rate) rules are 20- to 40-years-old, and the marketplace was very different when they were adopted. You now have a lot of competition and wireless providers so the rules need to be adjusted so we can take advantage of these new opportunities.”
Tammy Lange, Vice President of Sales, FatBeam: “The anchor in a community will typically be a school district … once we provide those services, we build additional fiber to expand into the community where we deliver dedicated internet access, dark fiber point-to-points and wide-area networks. This will help increase the economic development within the community.”
Garry Lough, Director of Government Relations West, Education Networks of America: “When looking at ways to solve (poor connectivity), be agnostic to the different technologies that exist and to the different providers. Some of our best successes have been in partnerships with electric co-ops ... we have helped them pivot their services to those who need that level of connectivity.”
Andrew Moore, CIO, Boulder Valley School District: "My first message is don’t pass laws that restrict the ability to use assets to get internet, especially to those in need. The second is … when the intent of getting internet into places using e-rated facilities is to help students in need, we’ve got to find ways to get those laws adjusted so we can actually serve those in need.”
Alton Kimura, Senior Loan Specialist, USDA Rural Development: “We do require that you show reasonable repayment ability, but we are not like a bank that is just profit motivated -- we really try to see that we are helping communities grow.”
The webinar was part of a series in conjunction with the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative of WGA Chair and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. The Chairman’s Initiative is examining challenges and opportunities in rural economic development, including a strong focus on promoting digital connectivity to rural communities.