Over 400 communities across the United States have some form of municipal network--where the town or city is involved, whole or in part, in providing internet service. Cities like Chattanooga and Lafayette already have fiber-to-the-home available to their whole community (though not having a 100% take rate, of course). Others, like Davenport, Iowa, or Centennial, Colorado, are still in the initial stages of building out their network.

All communities, however, that embark upon this journey, whether decades ago, or just within this past year, generally start in the same place: they bring in a consultant to study the viability of a network in their region.

This is an essential first step. The assets, resources, and challenges that exist in a community must be studied and mapped out as data sets--where is the usable infrastructure such as private sector gas, electric, and telecomm conduits; where is there dark fiber and existing fiber conduits/counts; and where are the build-out areas--to truly get an idea of where and how a network is possible. Different stakeholders must be engaged. Various city departments need to be... well, consulted.

Back in March, the Buffalo Common Council seemed like it was on the right track by passing a resolution that called for funding a consultant. And yet the money, somewhere around $80,000, is missing from the Mayor's proposed 2015-2016 budget. The Common Council voted to begin this process, and then apparently didn't do any follow-up.

Does this mean a consultant will have to wait another full year before the money is allocated in next year's budget? Advocates for better broadband in Buffalo would be chagrined to know that they'd have to wait until May of 2016 before the process even gets under way.

Thankfully, though, the Council can still make good on its ambitions by recommending changes to the budget before they vote to approve it.

And this means the public can have its say, as well:

- Councilmember Smith took the lead on the resolution. He should be the one to call for allocating the money for the consultancy. His office phone number is 851-5145.

- Residents can voice their concerns on Thursday the 7th at 5pm in Council Chambers (13th floor in City Hall).

- Letters to the editor of newspapers go a long way, as well, in getting the attention of city officials.