City leaders in Anacortes, Washington identified an opportunity to bring community-owned high-speed broadband access to their city. To understand the interest and support from their residents for building a community owned network, they turned to NoaNet for support. Through this partnership, they launched a city-wide demand aggregation campaign, utilizing the built-in survey functionality in COS Service Zones to determine which neighborhoods had the greatest need for better broadband and get a pulse for the general attitude for a city owned network. After only the first weeks the results are overwhelmingly positive.
Anacortes, WA – Anacortes, a city of about 7,500 households lies beautifully located on Fidalgo Island, Northwest of Seattle. Despite the presence of incumbent carriers that are providing broadband services to parts of the area, many parts of the Island are lacking access to affordable high-speed broadband services. The city is installing fiber-optics for their water and waste-water telemetry system and has been exploring the idea of expanding this fiber backbone to facilitate a network for use by residents and businesses. In September 2017 they decided to evaluate the interest in the community for a community owned network. NoaNet (Northwest Open Access Network) is a non-profit municipal corporation which operates an extensive open-access fiber network and is present in every county of Washington State. With NoaNet’s regional presence and expertise in fiber broadband and open-access networks, it was a natural fit for the city to leverage them as a resource as they explored the possibility of creating their own community network. The recently announced partnership between NoaNet and COS Systems opened up the possibility to utilize the demand aggregation platform COS Services Zones combined with NoaNet’s expertise in demand aggregation campaigns to run a city-wide neighborhood based survey.
The campaign is centered around Anacortes’ online COS Service Zones portal which is where residents are directed to show their interest level in the proposed project and share their current Internet satisfaction levels by taking the survey. The two persons managing the system and the campaign are Emily Schuh, Director of Administrative Services at the City of Anacortes and Claire Ward, Marketing and Communications Associate at NoaNet.
“The first few weeks we focused on setting up the customer facing portal with local pictures and texts as well as creating flyers and other marketing materials. With our experience from other campaigns in Washington State we had material we could replicate and a good idea about what outreach tactics would work,” says Ward.
“When we launched the portal on October 9th we had a well-defined plan on how to spread the awareness. Upon launch, Mayor Gere sent a personalized email to key City stakeholders and staff with a link to the portal encouraging them to take the survey and spread the word to their friends and family. We also hosted a Champion orientation where we invited community members who had expressed interest in learning more about this project to an information session. We prepared binders for them with information they could take with them when they went to discuss the project with neighbors, as well as stocked them up with printed flyers, tear sheets, and promotional items with the survey URL printed on them. After that champion orientation, we had ten more champions sign up in the Service Zones platform in just a few days. We also sent out an envelope printed with the survey URL on the city’s utility bill mailout.” says Schuh.
Multiple local newspapers and publications have also run articles on the city’s survey, further bringing it to the attention of the community. In less than two weeks from launch more than 1000 positive survey responses were received through the platform, which is about 15% of all households in the city. The neighborhoods with the highest response were already at 50% positive response or higher. Now the focus of managing the campaign has shifted from getting the word out to interacting with residents directly.
“The city is engaging with community members directly through Facebook, answering questions and concerns that are commented on. We’ve also spent a great deal of effort on promptly responding to emails we’ve been receiving”, says Ward.
“Anacortes is a very involved and organized community. The tremendous sense of pride and responsibility residents feel for their community is evident by how engaged they have been throughout this process so far. We have received excellent questions from residents, which of course puts pressure on the city to provide thoughtful answers. I think responsiveness has been key in Anacortes. With an engaged community, they are eager to learn as much as they can about how this project could be an asset to their community. Timely and thoughtful responses to questions, holding community meetings and engaging face to face, through social media, or via phone have all reinforced that this is a community project, which by definition belongs to the community. With a community of engaged citizens, this has thus far been a recipe for excellent response rates,” concludes Schuh.
The next step for Anacortes is another Champion meeting on November 16th to engage with new Champions signed up through the COS Service Zones platform, update all Champions on survey progress and initial results, as well as talk about the possibilities moving forward.
“As providers of the demand aggregation platform used by the City of Anacortes it’s really rewarding to see a campaign take off like this. We’re impressed by the speed at which NoaNet and the City prepared the launch of the campaign both in setting up the customer facing portal, but also the off-line marketing material. But what sticks out the most in the Anacortes project is that they have the best Champions group that we have ever seen in any project in the USA. One local Champion, Bryan Klein of the Flounder Bay Zone has referred over 90 neighbors to take the survey in just two weeks. That’s truly amazing. Now we at COS are crossing our fingers that demand proves to be good enough for the city to move forward and build the fiber infrastructure that we believe is as critical as water, electricity and roads in our modern digital world.” Says Isak Finer, CMO at COS Systems
About City of Anacortes
The City of Anacortes is located in Skagit County, WA on beautiful Fidalgo Island. It has about 16,500 residents and is the gateway to the San Juan Islands. The city currently operates water and wastewater utility services. For more information on Anacortes visit https://www.cityofanacortes.org. For the COS Services broadband survey platform, visit cityofanacortes.servicezones.net.
Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) is a non-profit wholesale only telecommunications network owner and provider which operates a fiber network spanning thousands of miles throughout the State of Washington. NoaNet engages their mission to serve Washington State by consistently looking for new opportunities to expand in meaningful ways that bridge the digital divide. For additional information, see http://www.noanet.net.
About COS Systems
COS SYSTEMS is a leading provider of software to plan, deploy and manage modern broadband networks that support services from one or more providers, using a powerful yet simple self-service interface. COS Systems takes customer needs and delivers innovative software solutions that streamline operations, accelerate revenue and deliver more satisfied subscribers. Learn more about COS Systems on www.cossystems.com.
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