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What’s New in Civic Tech: NY Proposes Net Neutrality Guards

Plus, Los Angeles County unveils an interactive map aimed at addressing homelessness; Next Century Cities shares a toolkit to help communities support the 2020 Census; Detroit looks to expand its data team; and more!

Net neutrality protestors
New York leadership plans to introduce a proposal that would create the strongest statewide net neutrality protections in the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced.

The pathway to doing this involves the governor introducing legislation himself. The protections include preventing “the blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of online content” by providers that have long been concerns among advocates for an open Internet. In that same vein, the new legislation would also bar what advocates call zero-rating, which is the practice of penalizing customers who access content or apps that aren’t propagated or preferred by their Internet service providers. 

This is legislation that will codify into law an executive order issued by Cuomo in 2018 that mandated state government entities to not enter into any contracts with service providers until learning whether the providers follow net neutrality principals. 

Net neutrality at the state level has been an increasingly hot topic as of late in some parts of the country. In 2015, the federal government passed protections for net neutrality, but then in 2017, a new Federal Communications Commission decision that was largely enabled by a Trump administration appointee repealed them. As the governor’s office notes, this new state legislation would take steps beyond the initial 2015 protections that have since been repealed.

In addition to the measures above, these protections include empowering the New York State Department of Public Service to hold providers accountable. Service providers must also disclose network management practices to the public, and they must annually certify their compliance with the net neutrality rules. 

Los Angeles County Unveils Interactive Map to Address Homelessness

Los Angeles County has launched a new interactive online map that it hopes will be used to address homelessness there, according to an announcement by officials.

In technical terms, the map is a multilayered, interactive GIS planning tool that developers have built to guide efforts to stem homelessness as well as to support new housing that is being created with the same goal. In the release announcing the new map, developers also noted that part of the thinking is that the tool can help guide policymakers in Los Angeles County, too, as they make decisions aimed at increasing available counties within the 88 cities that make up their jurisdiction. 

Officials quoted in the press release described the map as “a powerful and transparent roadmap for how we should be moving forward to address this crisis.”

The map is made possible by data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s January 2019 Point in Time Count, which is a study that found nearly 59,000 people were experiencing homelessness in that jurisdiction, with more than 44,000 of that group being classified as unsheltered. 

With the map, users can view homeless population data visualized geographically. They can also add layers in order to see things like extant interim housing and new housing that is under development. Developers note that this current version of the map is intended to be a starting point for future work, with more data and other refinements slated to be added in the months to come.

Next Century Cities Shares 2020 Census Toolkit

Next Century Cities, which is a nonprofit organization that celebrates the success of municipal innovation related to gigabit Internet, has created a new toolkit aimed at helping local government, community groups and others support the 2020 U.S. Census.

This is a relevant and timely move on the part of Next Century Cities. City, state and county governments across the country are gearing up right now to help the federal U.S. Census Bureau as it works to count every last person in the entire country. These preparations will continue right on until the actual execution of the Census in April. The reason a toolkit from a tech-oriented group like Next Century Cities is so relevant is that this count stands as the country’s first primarily digital Census.

The official name of the toolkit here is the 2020 Census Kiosk Toolkit, and it’s definitely an apt one. To get more granular, the group describes this kit as “a guide and resource bank to help communities easily implement Census kiosk programs to ensure that everyone is counted.”

The toolkit includes entries and infographics that have information about a wide range of related topics, including how will this new primarily digital Census be a challenge, a timeline for the 2020 Census and more. In addition, there is a model for how local governments can leverage kiosks in their communities to spur a higher level of Census participation. 

As the Census approaches, supplementary toolkits and other digital initiatives seem likely to increase. In fact, just this month the U.S. Census Bureau hosted a demo day at its headquarters to share some similar resources

Detroit Looks to Expand its Data Team

The technology and innovation folks in Detroit City Hall are currently looking to expand the data team there, hiring for a trio of new positions. 

Interested parties can find out all about those jobs here. In short, Detroit is looking to hire a data engineer, a data librarian and a data visualization analyst. All three positions will be housed with the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology.  

Detroit is an interesting market for government technologists, given that the city’s ongoing revitalization has brought many new tech companies and other innovators to the area to both help and work on new use cases. The city government has also shown itself to be at the forefront of emerging trends within gov tech, with moves such as hiring a director of digital inclusion.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine