WHAT IS CROWDFIBER?
CrowdFiber is an online marketplace where service providers, local governments, utilities, community organizations, interested citizens, consumers and businesses can organize around the goal of building, investing in and sustaining Gigabit communities.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
If you’re a consumer or business who wants to find out if advanced broadband services are coming to your community, you will be able to visit CrowdFiber.com and search for your address. If there’s an active CrowdFiber campaign underway in your area, you’ll have the option of “joining the crowd” by pledging to that campaign. If not, you’ll have the option of starting a new “greenfield” campaign!
If you’re a service provider, you’ll be able to create and manage “edge out” campaigns to aggregate demand in areas near your existing infrastructure. This will help you prioritize expansion of your network into areas where demand is the highest – thereby reducing risk at the same time you are building community support.
If you’re a community organization, local government, utility or even an interested citizen, you’ll be able to start a new greenfield campaign in your area. To do this, you’ll draw your geographic zones on a map (which might coincide with neighborhood boundaries), set goals for the amount of money you need to raise or backers you need to secure, define pledge levels, raise funds and aggregate everyone’s demand. Your CrowdFiber campaign can then be used to attract service provider investments and other resources, or to finance you becoming your own community-based service provider!
WHO’S BEHIND CROWDFIBER?
CrowdFiber is a project of Civitium, LLC — a consulting firm that has planned, engineered and managed the construction of innovative broadband networks around the world for more than a decade. For more information, visit Civitium’s website.
WHY IS CROWDFIBER NEEDED?
Our customers needed a way to evaluate markets, aggregate demand, spread risk, organize community resources and improve sustainability. They also wanted to take advantage of crowdfunding trends to open new avenues for financing fiber networks.Mainstream crowdfunding sites lacked the support needed in areas like web mapping, network architecture, subscription/recurring revenue, and organizing multiple stakeholders We developed CrowdFiber to help them, and we hope others can now use it too.
Coming up with a scalable, repeatable, sustainable model for Gigabit communities has been difficult:
- Incumbent phone companies have launched fiber networks in communities around the U.S., but they have prioritized more affluent urban and suburban markets where the density of subscribers was higher. This has left many areas without the same access to Gigabit networks.
- Municipally-owned electric utilities in a few cities like Chattanooga (TN) and Lafayette (LA) have paved the way by building communitywide fiber networks and launching Gigabit services. But, the vast majority of cities and towns are served by private, investor-owned utilities who have shown very little interest in this area.
- In 2009 Congress allocated more than $7 billion in stimulus funding to build advanced networks in unserved and underserved areas around the country. But much of this funding went to construct so-called “middle mile” fiber to connect schools, libraries and other community facilities. These networks stopped short of reaching the home in most cases. And even $7 billion isn’t enough to address the need everywhere. The cost of deploying fiber to ever home in America has been estimated as high as $140 billion.
- Google is working with a handful of communities around the U.S. to build ultra-fast Gigabit networks to the home, but there aren’t enough Googles to go around. More than one thousand communities responded to Google’s RFP to select its first cities, and only two in Kansas and Missouri were chosen. So, the vast majority of communities have continued to pursue other options.
If there’s so much interest in these advanced networks, why don’t we all live in a Gigabit community already? Because these networks are expensive to build and manage. Service providers must consider the up-front cost to construct the network, the ongoing cost to manage it, the number of consumers and businesses who will subscribe to it, the amount they will be willing to pay, the degree of competition that exists, and many other factors. And to get subscription costs low enough to be attractive, a large percentage of subscribers need to commit.
CrowdFiber can help the various stakeholders work together to make advanced networks a reality. Consumers, businesses and other organizations are asking for affordable Gigabit services. Service providers are trying to build them in areas where they can get a reasonable return on investment. Policy makers are promoting the expansion of fiber networks. Local governments are trying to attract companies to invest in them. Utilities are exploring how to use them to support smart-energy systems.
WHAT MAKES CROWDFIBER SPECIAL?
CrowdFiber goes beyond just fiber, tapping into the power of other networks:
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have grown from being platforms for staying in touch with friends and family and sharing information into platforms for community-organizing and democratic finance. CrowdFiber exploits social networks to support the kind of intense collective action required for community broadband projects to succeed.
Payment networks like Amazon.com, Google Wallet, Paypal and others have grown from being platforms for purchasing goods and services into platforms for streamlining shared contributions and supporting worthwhile causes. CrowdFiber exploits the ubiquity of these payment networks to raise and distribute capital for its campaign owners.
Grass roots networks exist in every community. They are made up of people and organizations motivated to work together to improve the quality of its infrastructure, local economy and quality of life. CrowdFiber helps communities organize the various stakeholders and focus its energy and assets.
HOW DO I JOIN THE CROWD?
Patience, grasshopper. We’re working as fast as we can. We’re currently in private beta with a few select communities to develop and refine the product. We’re shooting for a broader public beta beginning in June, 2013. In the meantime, go to CrowdFiber.com and fill out the splash page contact form. We’ll be in touch with updates, and you’ll be the first to know when we’re open for business. You can also follow us on Twitter @CrowdFiber.