Making the Most of Broadband: Think Small

[imgbelt img=threelakesfair530.jpg]Three Lakes, Wisconsin, generated competition to get affordable
broadband and now is maximizing its economic impact by drawing small
businesses to town.


Three Lakes Town Office

Three Lakes mustered competition for its IT customers. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of local broadband providers increased fro 2 to 6. All residents of the area now have options.

Today 88% of Three Lakes’ residents within the town’s 99 square miles receive service from one of the five wireline and wireless providers. 12 Mbps is currently the top speed and most residents and businesses consistently receive this speed. Prices for all subscribers, individuals and businesses, range from $29/month for 1.2 Mbps to $69 for 12.1Mbps. Individuals and businesses are offered the same service packages.

Ironically, Three Lakes broadband availability is a key element of the town’s marketing messages to persuade executives and small business owners to move there, but the marketing messages themselves are very low tech. Billboards on key points of Highway 45 leaving town ask “Why are you going back to the City when you can live here?” A radio campaign in Milwaukee drives people to the town’s website. Print materials in town co-brand the school, Three Lakes and their economic development plan, with the theme “Come to play, maybe to stay.”

Three Lakes’ story? Sometimes the problem isn’t that stakeholders fail to think big enough. It’s that they have to start thinking small enough. For small towns, it often doesn’t take a lot to make to make a big difference.

Craig Settles is an Internet-technology consultant in Oakland, California. He also hosts Gigabit Nation, a radio talk show that deals with broadband and community development.