P3 Partnerships Guide

The Benton Foundation has published “The Emerging World of Broadband Public–Private Partnerships: A Business Strategy and Legal Guide” (guide on public-private-partnerships)

Balancing Risk, Benefit, and Control in Broadband Public–Private Partnerships

Local governments increasingly see before them exciting new opportunities to develop next-generation broadband in their communities—and to reap the many benefits that broadband will deliver to their residents and businesses.

Many localities are likely aware of Google Fiber and municipal fiber success stories—but emerging public–private partnership models present an alternative for the many communities that lack the capital or expertise to deploy and operate fiber networks, or to act as Internet service providers (ISP), on their own. These models include

● Private investment, public facilitation – The model focuses not on a public sector investment, but on modest measures the public sector can take to enable or encourage greater private sector investment. Google Fiber is the most prominent example, but there is significant interest among smaller companies such as Ting Internet.

● Private execution, public funding – This model, which involves a substantial amount of public investment, is a variation on the traditional municipal ownership model for broadband infrastructure— but with private rather than public sector execution. The model removes significant logistical barriers from large-scale public broadband projects. While the field is constantly changing, at least three companies have emerged with fully articulated business propositions for localities.

● Shared investment and risk – In this model, localities and private partners find creative ways to share the capital, operating, and maintenance costs of a broadband network. The City of Westminster, Maryland, partnered with Ting Internet in the most prominent example of this approach. (The City of Santa Cruz, California, has replicated the Westminster model, and we expect other communities to do the same.)

As localities evaluate broadband public–private partnerships, they should consider both the opportunities and potential pitfalls, and pay particular attention to three interwoven issues:1 Risk 2 Benefit 3 Control

These factors are the key considerations not only for state and local governments, but also for private sector network operators and service providers. A successful partnership must align each side’s needs, and will inevitably involve trade-offs within this framework.

Download the guide