Community Anchor Institutions Served by Government and Non-Profit Fiber Networks


Local governments, research and education networks, and other non-profit providers have been serving anchor institutions for decades. Because of their non-profit status, these providers often focus on long- term and community-based goals and can pass through cost savings to their CAI customers. Key recommendations include expanding the availability of municipal and non-profit networks, promoting the use of shared networks to serve multiple CAI sectors, and allowing municipal and non-profit providers to build excess capacity for use by commercial companies.

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Recommendations for Action

To help community anchors obtain the high-capacity broadband they need, policymakers should consider the following options:

  • State and local governments should consider creating or upgrading their municipal or state non-profit networks to expand broadband service to anchor institutions. States and municipalities have successfully used anchor networks to control the cost of communications services for decades. While the success of such networks depends on wise financing decisions, quality engineering, and skilled operation, there is often a strong business case for local and state governments to invest in fiber infrastructure in order to serve local anchor institutions in a cost effective manner while benefiting the private sector as well.
  • State and local governments that deploy fiber optics for internal use, including to government and public safety facilities, should include the full range of anchor institution types in their plans, including education, health care, libraries, community centers, public media, and digital inclusion training sites.
  • The Federal Communications Commission should continue its successful policy of allowing municipal and non-profit networks to serve as eligible providers under the E-rate and Healthcare Connect Fund programs, thus enabling schools, libraries, and health care facilities to benefit from the competitive bids and services of public as well as private sector networks.
  • Federal and state broadband funding programs, including but not limited to those specifically designed to extend or improve services to anchor institutions, should include local governments and affiliated non-profits as eligible entities for funding.
  • Policymakers should encourage shared construction by multiple government agencies to deploy fiber conduit, lower their costs, and avoid deploying duplicate networks.
  • Municipal and non-profit networks should be encouraged to build excess capacity that they can lease to the private sector in order to promote competition by commercial service providers and generate revenue to pay for the operating costs of the network.

Examples/Case Studies

2016 Clackamas Broadband Express (CBX) - public fiber network Website
2016 ConnectArlington Fiber Network Website
2015 Government agencies in a rural Florida county cooperate to install fiber PDF
2014 Holly Spring, NC Municipal Network Article
2014 Martin County, FL Fiber Network expected to provide $30.3 million in savings Article
2014 Community Connectivity Consortium in and around Seattle PDF

About the Author

Joanne Hovis is president of CTC Technology & Energy, where she heads the firm’s work in network business planning, market analysis, financial modeling, policy, and strategy. Joanne advises cities and states regarding how to build strategy and opportunity for public–private  partnerships in broadband. She  led the  CTC teams that developed first-of-their-kind partnerships for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the City of Santa Cruz, and   the Champaign-Urbana Big Broadband consortium. Joanne is a former president of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) and serves on the boards of the Fiber to the Home Council, OneCommunity, and the Benton Foundation.

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Policy Papers

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Action Plan Authors

Amelia Bryne

Kelleigh Cole

Joanne Hovis

Tom Koutsky

Blair Levin

Christine Mullins

Angela Siefer

Gina Spade

John Windhausen


Steering Committee

Larra Clark, American Library Association

Adrianne Furniss, Benton Foundation

Kevin Taglang, Benton Foundation

Bob Collie, ENA

Lil Kellogg, ENA

Rex Miller, ENA

Susannah Spellman, Internet2/USUCAN