Last week, Tina Nerat wrote about the upcoming Broadband Forum II, which I hope will provide a big boost in helping to get a redundant fiber line to our region (see this post) and better broadband coverage generally. I won’t go in to details about the event since her article covers it pretty well. And next week, Chris Crawford will cover the Forum and it’s topics again in the Times-Standard. We are trying to keep this vital subject in front of the public to try and move the region forward on telecommunications.

One idea that has not had much coverage, and I think deserves a real push is the need for regional telecommunications planning. Right now there are lots of jurisdictions from cities to counties each trying to figure out the future. Most of the these entities don’t really have the resources to research and understand the issues. And none of them really know what the other is doing.

One of the big lessons I learned on a trip to Blacksburg, VA (the original ‘electronic village’) was that the entire state of VA has planning committees devoted to telecommunications infrastructure, and these entities talk to each other.

It seemed like every city and berg had a committee (not of politicians, but of industry people) helping plan the future. And every county had a similar committee. And above that were committees that covered multiple jurisdictions which, given the nature of telecommunications, gave them a broader overview of planning, the ability to coordinate projects and develop projects that gave rural areas a larger footprint, and more leverage for dollars and attention.

I really believe a similar approach needs to be established here. After meeting with the City of Eureka about some wireless concepts, it was obvious, the different parts of the city did not have a clear idea of what the other parts wanted or were planning. And there was no facility for discussing similar ideas with other cities or with the county.

Whether it happens at the grassroots level with municipalities forming telecommunications planning committees, and connecting them together with other entities, or it starts at a regional level with mulitple counties forming a telecommunications committee that then communicates with their local costituents, I don’t care. But I think this kind of thinking and planning needs to happen right now or everyone will lose.

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