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Dec 18, 2023
3 min

How To Start Your Once-in-a-Generation Broadband Project: Conducting a Feasibility Study

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In the fast-paced world of digital connectivity, the decision to launch a new broadband network is no small feat. It requires meticulous planning, strategic foresight, and a comprehensive understanding of the landscape. One crucial step in this journey is the feasibility study—a compass that guides decision-makers through the complexities and rewards of bringing reliable, high-speed internet to their communities. 

At its core, a feasibility study is an analysis of the viability of a proposed project. The goal is to determine whether implementing such a network is not only possible, but also practical and economically viable. Not to mention, your feasibility study will also help determine an appropriate funding program to assist with your build-out. 

Once completed, a well-executed feasibility study provides a solid foundation for successful project planning, execution, and long-term sustainability.

What’s in a Typical Feasibility Study?

Market research and community needs: Research is often conducted through in-depth interviews, surveys, and general analysis of available public information. You’ll need to examine competition in the area, the gaps in service, and the specific community needs. If you’re planning to build a broadband network in an unserved or underserved area, this will be straightforward since the options will be limited, but it’s still important to understand the big picture in your service area. 

Existing infrastructure audit: If an audit doesn’t exist, you’ll need to complete one to understand what’s available in terms of physical cables, poles, and equipment, and how the infrastructure has been laid out in the area. A crucial factor to consider within this step is your right-of-way permits. Regardless of whether you will be building your own infrastructure, or using someone else's, you will need valid permits to do so.

Network design, technology, and costs: These costs should reflect the type of network you intend to build. For example, if you’re planning to build a fiber-optic network, you need to explain the technology and show what the network layout could look like. At this stage, it would be more of a conceptual design versus an in-depth blueprint. Additionally, timelines for the build are often included here.

Financial business case: You’ll need to develop a financial forecast that includes specific assumptions on your projected revenue and expenses. The information in this financial business case is important to understand the level of required investment and to demonstrate the viability of your plan. It usually includes everything from projected revenue to Capital Expenditures and ongoing insurance, legal, and maintenance fees. 

How to Get Started? 

It’s a good idea to get started by engaging with engineering firms and consultants. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge you can tap about developing fiber-based broadband networks. And of course, it’s always important to involve community members to find out their specific needs through surveys and meetings. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to educate them about the importance of broadband. 

Armed with this information, you will understand the level of funding you need and be equipped to start exploring options with confidence.

For the most up-to-date funding sources for broadband projects in the United States, their qualification criteria, and how to get started, download The Ultimate Guide to Broadband Funding 2023 eBook.

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