The market penetration of high speed broadband access to the home is increasing worldwide driven not only by convenience but by absolute necessity. Consumers are looking to keep pace with high bandwidth Internet applications and home entertainment options such as high definition video on demand. What’s more, this ongoing transformation to high speed broadband networks is now a matter of strategic national importance, particularly as other countries in Asia and Europe proceed toward wiring up their communities with high-bandwidth fiber. Few people understand this better than civic leaders in many of America’s outlying cities and towns, where access to the information highway can mean the difference between a future of robust economic development and one of community decline.
Accordingly, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan along with other elected officials have taken it upon themselves to call for the building of high-speed broadband networks – much in the way that they have previously built maritime ports, roads, bridges, parking garages and water/sewer systems – as a means of ensuring that the City of Albany residents have access to necessary services, in this case, Internet connectivity for the 21st Century. As is the case in Albany, municipal deployments are usually undertaken after private service providers have declined to upgrade their networks or build such systems. Municipal broadband networks represent an important aspect of national high-speed broadband deployment, namely, the option and opportunity for local elected officials and civic leaders to upgrade local connectivity - when private enterprise will not take on the job. It is in local as well as national interest that higher-speed networks proliferate quickly and to the greatest extent possible and that special measures be taken to ensure that these networks can be accessed by people who live beyond the major metropolitan areas.
Realizing that high-speed broadband is a powerful economic development tool that supports education, healthcare, government and bridges the digital divide among low income residents of the City, Mayor Sheehan called for a study to determine concept feasibility and to provide the information and recommendations upon which the citizens, businesses and elected officials can reach a consensus on how to proceed in a responsible and prudent manner to provide this essential service in the City of Albany. In doing this the Mayor first assembled a partnership comprised of the Albany Community Development Agency, the Central Avenue and Downtown Business Improvement Districts, and the Capitalize Albany Corporation to underwrite the cost of this study at no cost to the taxpayers. A broadband committee was then empaneled comprised of representatives of city government, The City of Albany School District, the business community, the Albany Housing Authority, University at Albany and the Albany Public Library and various at-large subject matter experts – collectively referred to herein as the Broadband Team. The Broadband Team initially developed an RFP to competitively select a consultant to undertake the study. Millennium Strategies was ultimately selected to conduct the study.