With the generous support of the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation and numerous others, the Stark County Broadband Task Team retained Magellan Advisors to conduct a feasibility study regarding broadband deployment and operation for Stark County.
Magellan Advisors completed this study and presented their findings to over 100 audience members at the Kent State Stark Conference Center on October 12th, 2016. Their presentation was divided into two sections. The first section, which dealt with the local economy, addressed business and workforces issues. Some key take-aways from this section were:
- Stark County has the opportunity to transition from lower wage jobs to higher wage jobs, based upon above average educational attainment.
- Traditional manufacturing jobs have gone down dramatically, but production is up. This trend indicates increased investment in automation by local businesses.
- Growth in healthcare, in both jobs and wages, represents both an aging population and higher intensity procedures being performed in Stark County
- Local expertise in advanced materials and athletic performance services could be a opportunity for business transformation if supported by digital connectivity.
The second section of Magellan's study focused on broadband deployment; what we have now, what we are missing, and what we do to position us for the future. The needs assessment concluded, after meeting with over 100 entities throughout Stark County, that we lack competition and are burdened by obsolete last-mile infrastructure. For Stark County to make progress on broadband deployment, Magellan suggested adopting three guiding principles for this investment. They are:
- Broadband is an Investment in Stark County's Future
- Broadband is Critical Infrastructure
- Broadband Development is a Long-Term Program
From these guiding principles, the suggested actions items are:
- Formalized Broadband-Friendly Policies and Standards
- Develop a Carrier-Neutral Middle-Mile Fiber-Optic Backbone
- Expand Connections to Regional Data Centers
- Equip Economic Development Areas with Fiber Connectivity
- Target Businesses in Close Proximity to Fiber Backbone
- Develop Last-Mile Investment Framework to Facilitate Development of Retail Residential and Business Services
The most physical embodiment of the action items would yield a 130 mile middle-mile, carrier-neutral fiber backbone at an approximate cost of $22.5 million dollars. The backbone is currently designed to connect 140 community anchors (libraries, schools, hospitals, government, large employers), plus put high-speed affordable fiber within 1,000 feet of over 8,000 businesses. With some conservative projections, the project could generate over $5 million in free cash flow in ten years, and $22 million by the end of its 20 year service life with no taxpayer support.
An additional benefit of the middle-mile fiber backbone, is that it would provide political sub-divisions the ability to develop their own fiber initiatives and use the backbone as their transport to a regional datacenter. A comprehensive county-wide Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) initiative was viewed as impractical given the many different governments and communities that are within Stark County. Instead a practical middle-mile project was viewed not only as a necessary foundation for a FTTH system, but as an enabler for multiple FTTH projects that can be tailored to each community's preference.
Video of Presentation
Stark County Broadband Task Team Feasibility Study presentation at Kent State Stark Conference Center on October 12th, 2016
Slide Presentation of Study Overview
Executive overview presentation delivered by representatives of Magellan Advisors on October 12th, 2016
Survey of Audience Members
Immediately after the presentation, Kent State Stark facilitated a survey of the audience members.