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I believe that the single most important thing that can be done to facilitate the modernization of the global telecommunications infrastructure is to realize the plans of James Hettrick for a global Connected Communities Association. (CCA) and here.

I had a chat with James this morning in which I asked him to summarize briefly what he is trying to accomplish. The crux of the chat follows.

James plans an announcement at the Broadband Properties Summit in Dallas on September 11. The Association will, if possible, launch as a global organization. Broader corporate sponsorship is being sought. The paragraphs that follow explain why it is needed.

We would appreciate any and all help in spreading the ideas far and wide. We welcome strategy discussion and suggestions.

The Macro Need

We need Connected communities because the silo effect of being separated by vendors into pools of cable subscribers and telephone company subscribers –it doesn’t matter if it is fiber or wireless or if it is T-Mobile or WiMax by Sprint or whom ever — is that ultimately they all have to be merged back together to become something capable of bringing a community or society back together that is both representative of the nature of the group and geographically sensitive to the strengths of the group.

In the past the Internet brought different groups together around the world but in doing so, it also splintered local groups to the point where people felt they could find their social and significant relationships outside their immediate neighbors.

We are saying that the reason that these connected communities are so important is because the geographical nature of the business and opportunities within a community needs an easier transition so the local community has an opportunity to compete in a global economy. Instead of 2 or 3 people who have figured out how to do it on their own, now the whole community gets to leverage that power for what they are strong in. For example in Loma Linda’s case bio-medical and telemedicine. In Santa Barbara’s case it could be something along the lines of movie production. It depends on community strengths. But now you can leverage whole communities. In doing this you can enable them to succeed in areas where they are already strong.

The Micro Need

The Connected Communities association will make it possible for people to find readily available justifiable models that give them authority to spend the kind of dollars that it takes which will be millions to make the transition at some level over time.

You can make this transition in many ways. That is key. I know of six or seven methods by which they can figure out

1. how to get the dollars
2. how to justify the dollars and
3. how to use those justifications to make the kind of changes the need to over time.

The CCA will do more facilitation than education. It will facilitate their understanding of the opportunity that is there. There are many many different methods. You are preparing people with enough information so that when they go forward to policy makers however that be in a community they will have a justification for every single decision that they have made and will be making in relationship to these net works. This is what is necessary to move forward.

The idea is that they have to understand why it is important for them to do it. When they get some sense of local understand and cooperation with the idea that they want to move forward and get a connected community running and get a network in that transcends all of the connectivity that is there and integrates everything together. Now you have a problem because you have a group of people with different backgrounds from the telecommunications side, from an IT side, from an enterprise operations side and none of them has all the answers to all the questions.

Facilitation Through Structured information Sharing

Therefore the CCA is not only about helping to share all the reasons and then who has done what where. How they have done it. Which vendors have been successful in assisting and also pulling together the leaders of those communities as resources. The vendors have to have the understanding that they are not the only ones involved in economic development interests around the country. Everyone has to be willing to share the lessons they learned and share their successes with other people.

This requires two major ingredients. One is the huge leverage effect that can be derived from a collaborative software piece that makes these interactions tangible and significant - not just a disconnected isolated forum or web list. We want our corporate sponsors to be able to engage not in marketing campaigns but in conversations with CCA members once these members feel they are up to speed on the choices that face them.

The tangible significance of an Apple, a Google, a Microsoft, a Sony or any one who would recognize that by supporting the formation of Connected communities that they get to leverage not only the media world back into this data world. They get the ability to have up close and personal conversations with the communities most interested in building advanced connectivity. By means of these conversations they will see where possible customer relationships are moving before their competitors. They will be made more agile by the feedback process of these conversations

For Vendors a Chance to Engage in Conversations with Potential Customers

This web portal, that facilitates true collaboration and that we will build, has to be able to scale. Why we are looking for partnerships with larger companies is that we need them to understand that they can leverage several things. One is the commercial interests within the local community. In pockets of 20 to 30,000 people when you can know with great specificity what the local interests are within that community you can leverage local advertising very effectively.

Google is now literally deciding that they can figure out a methodology to partner for local ads rather than only national or regional. They will be able to know how to market to very specific individual community needs because all the data collection you have been talking about along with the ways in which people are going to mine the Internet traffic data all comes to play here.

They other reason that they should jump in – an here I am thinking Google, Microsoft, and Apple specifically is that there is a role for them in the media center world for these kinds of communities and there is also a role for them to take over where the public access TV channels left off. With state and national franchises probably replacing local franchises, companies like Google, and Microsoft in cooperation with the Connected Communities Association can enable these solutions to grow in community after community and then they have the ability to leverage that for public advertising and public benefit where currently the franchise agreements that are going to go away are going to leave holes in local community discussions on TV. They are powerful influencers of local politics.

Local Communications Issues

There is no clear replacement on the horizon for loss of the PEG channel access. Where they have franchises there is a group that controls content on the public access channels. As the franchise agreements go away the money to pay for those slots goes away and when that happens there is no more local content. How do local leaders make up for lack off access to their constituencies? They don’t make that up very easily. A new method for dissemination must be found. The funding for that channel is going to go away. The connected communities that we will build will offer a mean of replacing this. It will give local groups a platform to get their message out to the rest of the community. These groups will be able to get their whole message out and do so in a more interactive and dynamic way..

Now you have these corporate sponsors able to jump in and enable communication throughout a community with a connected community interface. The national amalgamation of media is creating new opportunity for unserved local needs that include things like streaming medical media content from one facility to another. They are asking me to pull together teams to do these kinds of things. I would like to be able to pull together a team representing players who are stabile and long term.

We need to get connected communities formed to pull together the significant events that are occurring and share those stories with everyone else who is in spots like mine where they don’t have all the answers because they are being faced with political decisions everyday. I have seen instances occur where people are too technically focused and get mired in that where with a group effort they could get answers faster and wind up with better development platform and I have seen them get so mired in the politics that they can’t even look at the technical side of things and because they can’t, they will fail. These are the kind of things that CCA will get to evaluate leverage and bring back to the table to look at. It is this coordinated information sharing that is really the important piece. Local people can find the whole universe of what others have done and will have others embers experience to guide them.

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