With some 30 percent of Angelenos not having access to broadband Internet, city officials on Monday launched an effort to ask the private sector for ideas on how to connect the entire city.
Under the proposal from Councilman Bob Blumenfield, the city issued a request for information over the next seven weeks on a proposed program that would provide high-speed Internet access, either through wi-fi or wired connections, to every residence and business.
Blumenfield called it “one of the most important steps the city will take during this generation.”
“It is vital we move forward, just as accessibility to roads, highways and bridges is important to our residents,” Blumenfield said.
Blumenfield said the city is not locked in to whether the service will be wired or wireless, but that something needs to be done to help the 30 percent of the city that doesn’t have Internet access.
Mayor Eric Garcetti fully supports the plan, Deputy Mayor Rick Cole said.
“Mayor Garcetti believes the single most important factor to be competitive in the global economy and for our residents to be successful is that we have universal high-speed broadband access,” Cole said. “We are looking at a suite of solutions of different technology that no single company can provide.”
Blumenfield said the request for proposals is expected to be prepared in the next six months.
Also, he said, the city is looking to avoid any direct costs in the project, leaving it up to the Internet companies to cover the costs, in exchange for benefits from the city such as expanded access to infrastructure.
Several other cities have undertaken similar efforts, including Chattanooga and Houston.
Peter Marx, chief information and technology officer for Garcetti, said the city needs to keep up with the rapidly changing technology world.
“The only universal constant is that there is greater and greater demand for bandwidth,” Marx said.
Norma Fernandez, technology adoption manager of Everyone On, a nonprofit which helps provide Internet access to the poor, said there is an “opportunity divide” when millions of residents have no access to the Internet.
“We hear these stories everywhere we go,” Fernandez said. “Last week, I met a student from Los Angeles City College who said she had to do her research on her cell phone because she doesn’t have Internet access at her home because she can’t afford it.”
Information can be provided to the city until June 30 online through the Information Technology Agency link at www.labavn.org.
©2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)