The term “P3” is a widely known acronym for public-private partnership, a cornerstone of the broadband development process that offers mutual benefit to partners by pooling resources in building fiber networks and other projects for the public good.
But when it comes to navigating the complex world of building broadband networks in 2023, we think it’s time to redefine what a P3 means. At Mears, we're rolling out a new P3 model that focuses on people, partnerships and preparation.
People are the Foundation of our Success
People have always been at the center of what we do and are the cornerstone of our success. Taking that philosophy forward, our goal for 2023 is to continue to partner with subcontractors across the nation who can bring local market experience to the table. We collaborate with contractors to provide the resources needed to run local business and get broadband projects built successfully. People also means recruiting and cultivating the industry's best talent at Mears. Utilizing the resources of our parent company, Quanta Services, like Northwest Lineman College and The Quanta Advanced Training Center at Lazy Q Ranch, we have access to the most rigorous training operations in the industry. The Lazy Q Ranch offers our Broadband workforce training under the strictest safety measures and by the best talent available.
Big Challenges Require the Right Partners
Building world-class broadband infrastructure across rural and underserved America is a sophisticated team sport. From engineering to laying fiber optic cables to obtaining sufficient high-quality equipment for deployment, advanced skills, experience, and commitment from an array of reputable partners is mission critical.
Our long-standing partnerships with the industry’s top telecom and construction suppliers have served our clients well by mitigating supply chain disruptions and managing costs. Our engineering and technology partners bring cutting edge capabilities and resources, like machine learning to ensure the most accurate and accelerated design and deployment of fiber broadband, and advanced construction management software enables Mears to bring unparalleled transparency and efficiencies to clients through every phase of the broadband construction process.
In 2023, we will continue to focus on these and other new partnerships to improve our operations and recruitment, including collaborations with organizations that create opportunities for Mears to hire veterans returning to the private sector from recent active duty.
Preparation: Early Planning and Collaboration Create Value
Prior to applying for a single grant, approaching a single vendor, or discussing the potential of bringing an all-fiber network to your community, you will need to get organized and develop a plan of action. This plan must entail four major components:
- Ensure community and local government leadership and support. There should be a single leader who is committed to developing and implementing the broadband plan and ensuring that all stakeholders are included in that effort. Within the plan, the community should define how they want their end product to look and service its citizens, including who will own and control the network.
- Understand what approvals for deployment will be required and who will need to make those approvals. This includes expeditious permitting and inspection, as well as any construction requirements.
- Catalog existing assets within the community to offset any necessary infrastructure. Is there fiber deployment for civic use, conduits already in the streets? How can the community coordinate any make ready requirements?
- Finally, take steps now to improve any existing infrastructure, such as ensuring there is space on any municipally owned poles, conduit in the street, and that building codes are fiber friendly.
Having your Mears construction team at the table from the project’s onset will create valuable efficiencies. For starters, we can confirm engineering plans with local knowledge to advise if plans are truly feasible or if alternate construction methodologies are required to deliver projects on time and on budget. One of the ways we’re preparing to slow rising broadband material costs is to invest in standardization. Having standardized processes, bills of materials, and equipment on hand can curb costs without impacting quality.
Most recently, Mears helped internet service provider Bluepeak to expand its high-speed broadband service to communities in Oklahoma and Wyoming. Bluepeak’s original goal was to build 5 to 7 communities a year, passing 23-30K homes. Because Mears was brought into the planning process early, we were able to help Bluepeak to scale the project significantly. We increased the speed of the implementation, which brought fiber broadband to 18 communities, passing 70,000 homes in just a few months.
When Mears is brought into the early planning stages of a project, we can work together with communities to develop a communications plan outlining critical points of construction to manage potential disruption and inconvenience. In doing so, residents, businesses, elected officials, utility companies, and other important stakeholders are well-informed at both the outset and as the project unfolds ensuring buy-in is preserved.
Having your contractor at the table at the beginning of the project can have significant influence on the success of the overall project.
Putting the New P3 into Action
Over the past four years, our Broadband capabilities have grown from an idea to hundreds of millions of dollars of projects under our belt. We’ve been steadily filling the broadband infrastructure gap in underserved markets that are both on and off the needs map in states like Arizona, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Our expertise, commitment to safety and dedication to doing the job right, on-time and on budget gives communities peace of mind long before the shovel hits the dirt.