Johnston Identifies Broadband Connectivity


  • Local Governments


  • Broadband
  • Broadband Planning
  • Geospatial
  • GIS
  • Planning
  • Public


  • Johnston, Iowa

The City of Johnston, Iowa is one of the communities in the greater Des Moines area. Because of its proximity to Des Moines, the expectation was the city has good broadband connectivity. City leadership had heard from citizens and businesses that there are some areas of the city that were well connected, but there are other parts of the city that have broadband issues. Their challenge was the City leaders did not know the scope or locations of broadband concerns. They were also contacted by a broadband company that was interested in overbuilding the city with fiber. City leaders needed to know the scope of broadband concerns and whether another provider would be expected to solve the broadband issues or if they needed to take some action and what steps they could take would have the greatest impact.

To begin with, the City of Johnston needed data to better define connectivity in the community and to provide options for better broadband throughout the city. These steps included:

  1. Bringing their different sources of information together, including GIS data, ROW data, resident and business addresses, existing assets (including broadband infrastructure), institutional knowledge of city personnel
  2. Evaluating the data with city personnel to further refine the information
  3. Providing a survey for the community
  4. Evaluating policies and permitting processes
  5. Getting as much information as possible from broadband providers, including the company planning to overbuild

The data provided a clear broadband picture. Many parts of the city do have good broadband, but there are areas that do not and the survey data helped provide a definition of those areas. The provider planning to overbuild fiber was going to cover most of the city, but not all of it. HR Green clarified what will be covered with fiber and what areas would not.

The process of uncovering this data also brought to light certain road segments that are either already experiencing congested Right of Way (ROW) or are close to that point. This is important in broadband because further communications infrastructure either now or in the future (particularly related to 5G in the Greater Des Moines area) will only further complicate ROW congestion problems.

With this specific information, HR Green developed options for the City which included:

  1. Building some of their own infrastructure – they have a fiber ring, but there is no extra capacity for non-city use
  2. Working with the provider to overbuild the entire city (including areas they were not planning on covering currently)
  3. Working with other providers to cover what the overbuilding provider was not planning on reaching with fiber.

Regarding the ROW congestion concerns, HR Green worked with city staff to evaluate all road segments with ROW problems to identify them and document the causes of congestion.

Through meetings with staff and elected officials, HR Green presented findings and recommendations to help city leadership develop a vision for broadband in Johnston. City leadership now has the data, tools, and recommendations to take the steps that will help them move toward their broadband connectivity goals.

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