Partnerships, Sharing, and Community Anchor Institution Broadband


Aggregating the buying power of different types of CAIs through statewide or regional procurement is a tested best practice that can enable anchor institutions to achieve lower per unit pricing, higher bandwidth, and better service quality. Broadband policies and programs should promote, rather than limit, cross-sector, aggregated purchase of high-capacity broadband.

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Recommendations for Action

Federal, state and local policymakers should take the following steps to promote collaboration and aggregation of purchasing of broadband services for anchor institutions:

  • Local anchors, including school districts and library systems, should be encouraged to work collectively or take initiative to reach out to other CAIs to create partnerships. Many anchors are not accustomed to working in large consortia, but state and local policymakers should work extensively to build stakeholder support for this strategy because the benefits of consortium buying are so significant.
  • States and local governments should create a “Broadband Purchasing Coordinator” position, or task the state CIO to serve this role, to encourage collaboration, thereby maximizing benefits to stakeholders.
  • Government officials should engage in joint procurement of broadband services for urban and rural schools, libraries, health, government offices, and other anchor institutions to maximize the opportunities for cost savings and to give greater incentives to the private sector to build out new facilities in hard-to-reach areas.
  • States should support anchor institutions’ efforts to leverage buying power and navigate such federal funding programs as the E-rate and Rural Health Care Program. A state investment in planning, organization, and guidance – as well as centralized navigation of the federal funding programs – would not only enable remote and smaller anchors to achieve better broadband outcomes, but would also ensure lower per-unit pricing and bring greater federal funding to their states.
  • The FCC and USAC should follow through on the stated policy of prioritizing consortium funding requests and should encourage and incentivize consortium bidding in every way possible.
  • Policymakers should consider awarding contracts to managed service providers that work with a variety of facilities-based providers simultaneously and can centrally manage the provision and upgrade of service to CAIs.
  • States should consider asking for E-rate bids for both lit fiber and dark fiber and consider how aggregate acquisition of shared dark fiber networks (i.e. self-provisioning) compares with the rates for lit fiber services.

Examples/Case Studies

2016 Iowa unveils public-private partnership to improve broadband access Article
2016 Tackling the 'Homework Gap': Maryland County to Expand FiberNet Infrastructure, Forge Public-Private Partnerships Article
2016 OneNet Provides Internet to Shawnee Consortium Article
2016 Seattle Technology Matching Funds Article
2016 Madison, WI Tests Public-Private Partnerships to Reduce Digital Divide Article
2016 Alabama State Department of Education 's K‐12 (IT) Joint Purchasing Program   PDF
2015 New Jersey Department of Education Initiative Press Releas
2015 Network Nebraska-Education Article
2006 North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Study 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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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