This chapter reveals the common theme three rural Minnesota communities used in their collaboration efforts in to install and deliver broadband Internet as a municipal utility. The author discovered that the reason for this broadband initiative was a municipal motivator, unique to each city and not related to economic development. It is hoped that other rural communities in search of high-speed Internet, after having digested the results of this study, might conduct their own research in order to determine their true, underlying motivation for delivering improved Internet service. By agreeing on the motivator for each community, local leaders are better able to collaborate on achieving this common goal.
With a lack of studies providing a theory on the dynamics contributing to rural municipalities’ development of broadband Internet, the constant comparative method of grounded theory was selected as a means for establishing which characteristics were dominant in assisting the subject municipalities to deliver broadband Internet. The constant comparative method produces “many categories, properties, and hypotheses about general problems” which when studied and analyzed provide an integrated theory arising from an “evolutionary body of knowledge” (Calloway, 1995, p. 1). Since no known theories exist regarding the characteristics of municipalities which have developed broadband Internet service, inductive research was used in an attempt to establish a new theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).
The interview method was chosen as the source-type because it allowed each person who had a key role in the project to express their own, unedited recollection of events (Hage, 1972). Through numerous interviews many voices were heard, analyzed, and categorized enabling a theory regarding the phenomenon of rural broadband Internet adoption to be constructed.
Cities selected for this study are located in rural Minnesota. Their broadband Internet experience was summarized in case studies generated by the Blandin Foundation of Minnesota (Blandin Foundation, 2004). Cities were selected based on four criteria. First, each community is located in rural Minnesota. Second, all of the cities have a long history of providing municipal utilities beyond the basic water and sewer services. Third, each community chose to develop their own high-speed Internet service without engaging any partners. Fourth, each municipality has a different method of providing broadband Internet. Windom provides Fiber To The Home (FTTH), Barnesville delivers Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) through their municipal telephone system, and Detroit Lakes offers wireless Internet.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Axial Coding: Items identified in the Open Coding phase are grouped into categories and subcategories.
Open Coding: Through repeated reading of sentences and paragraphs of data collected for the study, the researcher performs open coding through identification and categorization of responses found numerous times in the data.
Broadband Internet: Typically defined as speeds ranging from 3 Mbps to 5 Mbps, although the FCC continues to consider 200 Kbps as being high-speed Internet.
Municipal Motivators: Reasons why each of the communities in this study decided to install and deliver broadband Internet as a public utility.
Constant Comparative Method: Technique used in Grounded Theory to group data into numerous categories through repeated analysis of the text of recorded observations. Sometimes known as “Grounded Theory.”
Selective Coding: The choosing of one category as the core concept, around which the other categories from the Axial Coding phase are grouped for the purpose of explaining the phenomena which has been observed.
Grounded theory: A systematic qualitative research methodology in which theory rises from data being analyzed in the process of conducting research. The resulting theory is said to have been grounded in the data collected in the research.
CLEC: Competitive Local Exchange Carrier; largely formed following the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which authorized local exchange competition.
ILEC: Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier; a local telephone company which has existed since AT&T was broken up into Regional Bell Operating Companies.