Broadband infrastructure analysis has two primary goals: 1. figure out what’s available now and whether it meets needs, and 2. identify and evaluate options for further development. Last year, Tellus Venture Associates created the Star Rating tool to assess broadband infrastructure in industrial and commercial areas.
It takes into account available service and existing infrastructure, and compares it to a range of benchmarks, including commodity business-level broadband, enhanced “megabit” and “gigabit” class service, and dark fiber. It’s flexible enough to accomodate a diverse range of data sources, including standard California Public Utilities Commission broadband availability reports, system diagrams provided by small Internet service providers, and local agency records, such as conduit maps, and zoning and business license information.
We initially developed it to simply determine whether current industrial and commercial infrastructure and service matched up with local economic development objectives. In the Broadband Infrastructure Assessment and Action Plan we recently completed for the City of West Sacramento, we turned it into a forward looking tool, and used it to predict the outcomes of different broadband development scenarios.
The currently available commercial/industrial broadband service in West Sacramento rates one-half Star overall, with some census blocks in the 2 Star and 3 Star range. But there are several under-utilised fiber routes that pass through West Sacramento, and the city owns an extensive conduit system, including shadow conduit prospectively installed during public works and major private developments. We ran two more scenarios to evaluate how those assets could be put to use, and assess the economic development impact of doing so.
The results were dramatic. Just by putting existing, commercially available fiber to use, West Sacramento’s overall rating rose to a full 1 Star. When city conduit was factored in, it jumped to 2 Stars, with some census blocks earning 4 Stars and 5 Stars.
The overall rating is interesting, but it’s the specific parcel and census block evaluations that are now truly useful. The city, commercial/industrial real estate owners, and businesses and tenants now have, as West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon put it, a “dashboard” to drive decisions and implement specific projects.