Broadband Access

COVID-19 unceremoniously revealed that municipalities of all sizes continue to struggle with bringing broadband within their reach for each of their residents. Network access is of particular concern for hard-to-reach populations. Accordingly, NCC works with local officials and community leaders to articulate infrastructure needs. Our partnerships help municipalities to remove barriers, access resources, and identify connectivity solutions  that meet their community’s needs.

Infusing Local Perspectives Into Federal Policymaking. Without insights from local officials and community leaders, federal broadband deployment strategies will remain deficient. Still, local input is rarely solicited to inform federal broadband deployment and funding strategies. NCC provides opportunities for local officials to share community-level impact and learnings into federal proceedings that involve the Federal Communications Commission, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and U.S. Congress.

For example, local officials shared the need for inclusive grant funding programs that provide communities with options to address unique deployment challenges. The persistent use of inaccurate mapping data continues to exclude communities in need of  limited federal funds. And as the nation invests in 5G technologies, the success of 5G networks depends on its proximity to fiber which is absent in many of the communities most impacted by the digital divide. NCC continues to document these local insights and others which are easily overlooked in the federal policymaking process.

Building Bridges Between Local & State Leadership. At the state level, NCC conducts outreach and develops opportunities for local officials to engage with state leadership. At a time when anywhere from approximately 20 to over 100 million people still do not have access to minimum broadband speeds, local governments are battling prohibitions or crippling restrictions on municipal broadband projects in 22 states. Building bridges between local governments and state broadband officers is critical to eliminating unnecessary barriers and, importantly, identifying much-needed resources for possible broadband solutions, including municipal broadband technology. .

Local economies are directly impacted by and local officials ultimately responsible for addressing gaps in connectivity. In many states, municipal governments can only operate within the confines of explicit state laws. This form of state governance can often rule out effective solutions before they are tested for success. However, when local leaders have opportunities to share their insights and community needs with state officials, it facilitates collaboration and pilot-driven experimentation, which is key to expanding broadband initiatives across counties, districts, and states. Those conversations bring the far-reaching impact of the digital divide to life and mobilize interests in improving access. 

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Build a Community Movement

Posted September 04, 2020

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Community interest in and support of high-speed internet is imperative when attempting to attract investment and competition, and is critical to the long-term sustainability of local projects. Hosting events, engaging the community in conversation, and maintaining high transparency can bolster constituent engagement.

Charlotte, North Carolina began a grassroots campaign called Charlotte Hearts Gigabit when Google Fiber announced that they were considering expanding to the city. Community members were concerned that there wasn’t enough citizen interest in high-speed internet, so Charlotte Hearts Gigabit was formed to begin a conversation in the hopes that it would help attract Google.

Charlotte Hearts Gigabit engaged citizens by talking about how gigabit internet would positively impact individuals and the community. The group discussed specific use cases and hosted in-person events and hands-on demonstrations of applications and technology powered by high-speed internet.

Not only did Google Fiber decide to invest in Charlotte, but AT&T announced plans to offer fiber service in the city, and Time Warner Cable increased its speeds. The robust community interest in high-speed internet encouraged investment in the city and eventually led to a more competitive local market. The initiative has since expanded into a statewide effort – NC Hearts Gigabit – to attract, support, and champion the universal availability of broadband in North Carolina.

Next Century Cities is a non-profit membership organization of over 190 communities, founded to support communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet access. Next Century Cities celebrates broadband successes in communities, demonstrates their value, and helps other cities to realize the full power of truly high-speed, affordable, and accessible broadband. For more information, visit www.nextcenturycities.org .

Even if a project isn’t yet underway, maintaining transparency through consistent updates helps maintain interest and trust. For example, Larimer County, Colorado created a newsletter to share updates about broadband projects. While Fort Collins was considering building a network, the city launched an interactive map on which residents could drop pins where they wanted fiber built, in addition to a broadband project website that could be visited for updates and information. The city also hosted several public outreach sessions to engage citizens.

A grassroots group was also formed in Fort Collins to keep the momentum going. The group Broadband & Beers is a self-described “independent, public outreach group founded… to inform residents and educate decision-makers about bringing municipal gigabit internet service to communities across the country.” The group hosted frequent events at breweries to talk about the city’s path to municipal broadband, and also led a social media campaign that organically reached tens of thousands of voters.

YOUR DONATION MAKE HELP US

YOUR DONATION MAKE HELP US

YOUR DONATION MAKE HELP US

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