Governments and businesses now have an easy way to turn buildings and other sites into revenue-generating broadband resources.

The Connected Nation Exchange (CNX) pairs property owners that have assets such as towers, utility poles, rooftops and Rights of Way with broadband providers that need additional locations to expand their networks. Owners add their assets to a digital map, which allows telecom companies to see what resources exist in a given area. The parties then negotiate for the rights to use those properties.

If you’ve ever used the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) when buying a home, the idea is similar. CNX aggregates assets, and then displays a GIS-based listing of each location or structure on an interactive map. The exchange is powered by Instalytics, CNX’s proprietary software. CNX is a spin-off venture of Connected Nation, a broadband mapping organization.

Brian Mefford, CEO of CNX and former head of Connected Nation, said the idea for an aggregation service for broadband assets really went into high gear when the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) — an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that is charged with creating a national broadband network — was established last year.

To build a successful interoperable national broadband network, Mefford explained, providers have said that telecom companies would need to identify and use publicly- and privately-owned structures and sites. But a void existed on how to find those available resources. CNX aims to close that gap.

How it Works

Local governments and other property owners that want to get their available sites and resources on the map can do so with a phased approach. The first step is contacting CNX for a questionnaire, which asks the location of the various assets, what power sources are nearby and if it’s a structure, the dimensions of it.

After the questionnaire is submitted, CNX will evaluate the information and respond with additional technical questions for the community or business’ technology director, emergency communications person or IT officer.

The service is free to use for listing assets. But for those communities that want CNX to architect a plan for them to rent structures and assets out to broadband providers, need support or facilitate a transaction, CNX would charge a fee based on the percentage of revenue from that asset. Cities or businesses can also broker their own transactions with telecom providers on their own, without incurring a fee.

The key to CNX is its software application. Mefford explained that CNX collaborated with more than 2,000 broadband service companies throughout the U.S. over the past few years — primarily to gain an understanding on what market data providers need to see to make the application a success.

CNX’s map and technology can be used as a decision support tool to help a telecom company make a decision on locations it wants to invest in. They’re also able to use the tool to evaluate the competitive landscape and determine what potential adoption rates for broadband might be in an area.

“They can be even more supported in their decision-making and encouraged in that particular location, and work through us to contact those asset owners and hammer [an agreement] out,” Mefford said. “So we’ve lain out what we think is a more streamlined and efficient approach, which ultimately should encourage investment.”

CNX’s listing service and the asset map has been beta tested by communities and providers for a few months. While it’s not available to the public yet, Mefford said the map would be unveiled in about a month.

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.