Broadband Needs Assessment and Planning for Community Anchor Institutions


Conducting an inventory of the locations and speeds of existing broadband networks for CAIs – and identifying gaps in broadband coverage – can help target investments to areas most in need. This paper urges policymakers to gather detailed, granular information about the availability and use of high-capacity broadband services needed by CAIs, rather than relying on outdated or generic claims that an area is already served by existing providers.

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Recommendations for Action

To develop a broadband plan, federal, state, and local policymakers should:

  • Allocate funding to states and local governments to help engage in broadband mapping of networks available to and used by CAIs.
  • Gather information in a consistent manner to help state-by-state comparisons of results.
  • Establish national standards and a national repository for state and local broadband assessment data to ensure data consistency and avoid duplicative efforts.

State and local governments should:

  • Gather local, granular information about the availability and use of broadband services by CAIs, rather than relying on general industry claims.
  • Identify the CAIs in their region
  • Survey CAIs about their broadband needs and level of satisfaction with existing broadband services
  • Evaluate the broadband services available to their local CAIs from existing broadband service providers
  • Establish a reasonable timeline for serving the CAIs that are most in need of additional broadband investment
  • Work with partners and all stakeholders to consider aggregate solutions to maximize the efficiencies of shared networks and community needs;
  • Work with private sector broadband providers to understand where they plan to expand and how they can facilitate the broadband plan
  • Develop a broadband plan that includes financial models, a review of government and regulatory requirements, testing, and timelines for sustainability.

Examples/Case Studies

2016 Baltimore Smarter City Task Force Report PDF
2016 Utah Education and Telehealth Network WAN, Wi-Fi, Security and Content Filtering Roadmap PDF
2016 Utah School Technology Inventory PDF
2014 CENIC, California State Library, and Califa Survey PDF
2012 Northern Illinois University (NIU)Anchor Institution Survey PDF

Additional Resources

Several organizations have produced planning materials that may help communities evaluate their needs. Plans from these organizations can serve as a model for other communities.


About the Author

Kelleigh Cole is the Director of the Utah Broadband Outreach Center in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. In her current position, she leads an effort to work with broadband providers and other stakeholders across Utah to develop strategies to increase Internet access for all Utahns. She was the principal author of the state’s first broadband plan and works with communities statewide to help them improve services. In 2011, she helped organize the Utah Broadband Advisory Council.

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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