The stimulus won’t actually change the business of providing internet service, but it did demonstrate what the current administration would like ISPs to be doing. Those that got funded were, for the most part, already deeply involved in their community. Many projects were already in the planning stages or had even been partially implemented before they received stimulus funds.
An example is the OpenCape project, which I wrote about here. Planning for it began years ago. It involved local emergency services, educational instutions, and the local small business association.
ISPs should already be working these institutions (if they are reasonable as customers).
Here’s the list of what the stimulus defined as critical community institutions:
• Schools (K-12)
• Medical and Healthcare Providers
• Public Safety Entities
• Public Housing
• Institutions of Higher Education
• Community Support Organization
• Government Facilities
Serving any of these institutions can help an ISP obtain positive publicity and possibly also an anchor customer for the network. Each will have positives and negatives as a customer. There’s no need to serve everyone on this list, but as a member of your community, you’re likely to find at least one of them amenable and a useful partner.
Here’s a famous example in the WISP industry: Marlon Schafer’s police deployment.
First Step Internet won an award in round one (easygrants ID: 643). Here’s their about page. It’s a good example of how to be both businesslike and a good citizen as an ISP.
The goal of the stimulus (and, possibly, future FCC policy) was to make the ISP industry a local service provider. More than just a business, it too would become a critical community institution, an anchor for rural communities that are losing their working age population.
This is a possible future for the wireless ISPs. They could become local protected institutions with a mandate that exists for only as long as they serve and help their rural communities. It would be a local utility. It would be influenced by an idealization of the rural community that may never have existed in the past, but which could be a part of our connected future.