Community Demand for Broadband


We launched a demand campaign in three communities to accelerate open-access broadband in the United States.

The Problem

In late 2018, Neighborly had decided to pivot away from its traditional business of selling municipal bonds to citizens. The company began focusing on raising private equity to build a new class of broadband networks, ones that targeted rural and underserved markets using an Open Access model.

The company would raise capital to build the network, then recruit multiple providers to provide services like internet access and entertainment. The ultimate goal was to create a competitive marketplace that allowed subscribers to choose providers with ease, driving competition and innovation.


Neighborly's would use demand aggregation campaigns to gain intelligence on where potential subscribers were. As the demand grew, they'd use that data to raise capital, entice local internet service providers, and to inform network design. The company divided into three resource groups: product, network operations, and fundraising.


The product group would create all software, marketing, and design, mainly defining the majority of the company vision. Our task was to drive as much interest as possible, but without construction plans, pricing, or a marketing budget.


  • Engage and signup 500 residents across three markets
  • Convert 25% of signups to give $30 as a refundable pre-order
  • Establish a group of advocates in each market to push signups
  • Host a series of local events to spread the word


  • Local campaigns across three communities
  • A tiny marketing budget for exposure (Under $10,000)
  • Less than a year of company runway without more funding
  • A product team of twelve including designers, engineers, and community managers

My Role in the Project

Coty Beasley - Designer
Coty Beasley (Me)
VP of Product

My role was holistic, managing the efforts of the design, product, marketing, data, and engineering teams. I drove the vision and direction of all on-the-ground campaigns, all platform product features, and all data intelligence for the company.

Other Notable Team Members

I split the product team into two groups focusing on software and community engagement. The software team would create digital solutions to aid the campaigns, including marketing sites, referral systems, address verification, and signup flows. The community team would focus on direct community interactions, including physical materials, local events, education, advocacy coordination, and political strategy.

Initial Research

Through the efforts of a broadband accelerator program we had run in late 2018, we began to connect with communities that had established broadband advocacy groups. From the 35 participants that signed up, we started to identify common characteristics that these communities shared as a way to choose the first markets we'd target.

In the end, we chose three communities: Stockton CA, The Katahdin Region in ME, and South Portland ME. Our decisions were somewhat based on data but primarily based on the personal connections of our executive team. With the short runway of the company, they felt that the markets in Maine especially would have a lower risk of completion and pushed the team to begin entering the market.

We began by identifying influencers within these communities: folks that were civically motivated and well-connected. We found many had already created local campaigns around improving broadband access, and we quickly partnered with them to figure out where we could help.

I worked diligently to instill the team with a philosophy of facilitation instead of imposition. Both practically as well as ethically, I believed that these influencers knew their communities better than we'd ever hope to, and would be the key to unlocking these communities.

Quantitative Data:

Empirically, each of these communities had significant challenges. 

Having been in Kansas City during Google Fiber's campaigns, I knew how easy it was to entrench digital divides rather than dissolve them.

In Maine, we had similar issues, but from a rural perspective. The average download speed of the area is 3.7 Mbps and over 50% of the population are in blue-collar industries. The average age is 51.8 years old. While there was an active broadband coalition in place, daily life in the community was still very analog. Most digital marketing would go unnoticed.

Qualitative Data:

As we began to establish relationships with members of the community as digital proxies, we realized how much of an undertaking these markets would be. We held regular meetings with advocates to hear their stories - who were they talking with? What was a day-to-day activity like in the community?

We surfaced issues consistently that challenged our assumptions. For example, we found a significant number of the community didn't even have email addresses - that certainly changed the way we approached things.

These weekly catchups became critical to our understanding and strategies.

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Early Explorations + Planning

The two teams would work in parallel: the community group would spread the word, and the software group would build the platform to sign up users.

For the Community Group:

Before we could do anything, we needed to define how our users would activate the community. We started with a spectrum that identified each tier of engagement and how we could facilitate it. We also knew that we'd need to work more closely with advocates that could sign up multiple people. A chart started to come together.

From this definition, we knew that we'd need to build a referral system for low-touch engagement and then invest in educational materials and regular meetings with advocates on the ground.

For the Software Group:

The software group needed to build the marketing site and, more importantly, the signup flow. There were several challenges from a technical perspective, including building an address database for validation. Intelligence around single-unit and multi-unit buildings would also be critical.

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Production Designs + Interactions

Advocacy Support:

From various conversations with advocates, I determined it would be helpful to see a map of where folks had signed up. I worked with the data team to extract census block information, paired it with the bounds of the network, and then extracted address data from our signup database.

Local Events:

On several occasions, we hosted small events in the community. It was an opportunity to sign folks up as well as answer questions and engage with our current advocates.

Broadband and Beers event with the mayor of Stockton, CA

Branded Community Pages:

Each of our markets had a unique URL, so we created a design system for each community to be programmatically generated.

Design System Inheritance Diagram

Community Site | Brand System

Platform UI Designs:

The platform also included full account signup with address verification, profile management, community updates, and a network status page.

Account Signup + Address Verification
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After ten months of momentum, we failed to gain the funding that would unlock the ability for us to take Pre-Orders. However, we got very close to meeting our goal of 500 signups across the network. With another couple of months (and funding), I'm confident we could have hit our full goal without much issue.

Data as of October 1, 2019:


Katahdin, ME Stats:

  • 145 Signups
  • 22 Volunteers

South Portland, ME Stats:

  • 121 Signups
  • 25 Volunteers

Stockton, CA Stats:

  • 180 Signups
  • 35 Volunteers



  • 446 Signups (89% of Goal)
  • 82 Volunteers (No Goal)
  • 0 Pre-Orders (Required Funding)