Craig Settles, President, courtesy of Craig Settles Craig Settles, President, Photo courtesy of Craig Settles

NTIA/RUS' eventual definitions of unserved or underserved are ideal partners to help your agency-appeal. The business community may top your list of partners that can help financially sustain the network once it's built. Companies tend to need a lot of broadband and will pay for premium (but fairly priced) services.

Two powerful county government partners are public works and public safety. Meeting their needs opens your grant options to additional federal agencies such as Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation and Energy. Public works projects allow you to reduce the cost of broadband infrastructure build-outs. Every road, bridge and public building project is an opportunity to install broadband infrastructure at a reduced cost.

K-12 schools, colleges and universities are viable partners. They have a huge need for broadband, which opens them to various grant opportunities. Higher learning institutions with access to many megs or gigs of Internet speed are eligible for large research grants that bring huge economic benefits to your community.

Finally, your pursuit of key partnerships extends to the vendors and service providers who make network infrastructure and often services possible. "You have to make sure they can make money," observed Franklin County, Va., IT Director Sandie Terry. "Our [wireless Internet service provider] has just a two-year [return on investment] because they're receiving space on vertical assets such as government buildings in exchange for charging local government lower rates."

Craig Settles  |  Contributing Writer

Craig Settles is an industry analyst, broadband strategy consultant and co-founder of Communities United for Broadband, which delivers on-site training to private- and public-sector organizations. Follow him on Twitter (@cjsettles) and his blog, Fighting the Next Good Fight.