On Oct. 20, mayors and executives from 32 cities – including Boston; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Raleigh, N.C.; Lafayette, La.; and San Antonio – gathered in Santa Monica, Calif., to discuss the importance of high-speed Internet and what worked in building networks in their cities. The event signaled the launch of a new cross-city partnership called Next Century Cities, a support structure for city leaders who are focused on providing their citizens with fast and affordable Internet access.
Through Next Century Cities, leaders will gain opportunities to work with partner cities, share knowledge and assist in development of next-generation broadband networks.
In a pre-recorded video appearance, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said he was excited to see how the bi-partisan effort might generate competition in the broadband market, stimulate economic growth, and improve health care and education while building self-sufficiency among cities and counties.
“This demonstrates the increasing grassroots consumer recognition, the vital importance, of broadband for our daily lives and well-being,” Wheeler said. “As we all know, broadband is the essential infrastructure for the 21st century. … Competition drives broadband. It’s that simple.”
Santa Monica, Calif., Mayor Pam O’Connor welcomed guests to the event, noting that as city leaders, each attendee knows that cities are the networks of places -- and places are where people live, work and thrive.
“The tech and Internet revolution means that people can live anywhere and everywhere and still reach throughout the world, but every one of those people – every one of them – lives somewhere," she said. "And most live in our nation’s cities. So we come here together today to pursue our common goal that all have access to fast, affordable and reliable Internet services throughout next generation broadband in those communities where they live.”
Lafayette Mayor Joey Durel addressed the crowd, citing the many reasons why broadband access is important to cities, including the benefits to health care, education and the digital divide.
“But in the end, in my opinion, it really is about economic development," he noted. "It’s about economic development for the people we educate. What’s the point of getting a good education if they can’t support their families?”
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke spoke about the benefits his city’s gigabit network has brought.
“We live in the innovation century,” he said. “Everything that can be done by computers or robots in the future, will be done by computers or robots, so what we have to add as humans is creativity and knowledge, and that critical word: innovation.”
Additional mayors and city officials joined the conversation for a group discussion centered on the potential of gigabit Internet for American cities.
Cities partnering in the project include: Ammon, Idaho; Auburn, Ind.; Austin, Texas; Boston; Centennial, Colo.; Champaign, Ill.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Clarksville, Tenn.; Jackson, Tenn.; Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; Lafayette, La.; Lexington, Ky.; Leverett, Mass.; Louisville, Ky.; Montrose, Colo.,; Morristown, Tenn.; Mount Vernon, Wash.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Ponca City, Okla.; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, N.C.; Rockport, Maine; San Antonio; Sandy, Ore.; Santa Cruz County, Calif.; Santa Monica, Calif.; South Portland, Maine; Urbana, Ill.; Westminster, Md.; Wilson, N.C.; and Winthrop, Minn.
Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.