Yesterday, Next Century Cities hosted a masterclass at Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, California. The masterclass, entitled “Broadband 101: Infrastructure for the Next Century City,” focused on the building blocks a city must have in place in order to pursue smart city technologies, including fast, affordable, reliable broadband and collaborative 5G permitting processes.


Next Century Cities members spoke at the masterclass, offering unique perspectives and critical advice for other municipalities hoping to pursue smart city applications.



The first panel, Broadband 101, explored the variety of models for broadband deployment, such as open access networks, public-private partnerships, incremental builds, institutional networks, municipal networks, and more. The panel was moderated by Next Century Cities’ Policy Director Christopher Mitchell, and featured Tony Batalla, Information Technology Manager for the City of San Leandro, Calif.; Kate Garman, Smart City Coordinator for the City of Seattle, Wash.; Christy Batts, Broadband Division Director for the City of Clarksville, Tenn.; and Tom Mullin, Chief Data Officer for Riverside County, CA.


Panelists discussed the importance of taking small steps to ready a city for deployment. “We should not discount incremental steps toward a solution,” said Batalla. “We should ask ourselves – what are the small changes we can make that over time lead to significant outcomes?” For example, Riverside County implemented a dig once policy to encourage investment, said Mullin. Garman also brought up the importance of encouraging digital literacy across entire communities. 

The panelists all emphasized the importance of partnerships — Batts specifically addressed the value of collaborating with utilities.



The next panel discussed how cities can best prepare for 5G networks and small cell deployments. The panel was moderated by Next Century Cities’ Executive Director Deb Socia, and included insights from Courtney Violette, Chief Operating Officer, Magellan Advisors; Mayor Jill Boudreau of Mount Vernon, Wash.; Rebecca Hunter, External Affairs and Strategic Communications, Corporate Development and Strategy, Crown Castle; and Zach Friend, County Supervisor for Santa Cruz County, Calif.


Each panelist offered next steps for communities hoping to pursue 5G deployments:


“This is both a challenge and an opportunity,” said Violette. “Reach out to your peers; they have a lot to share.”

“Keep an eye on what Next Century Cities is working on,” said Mayor Boudreau. “And develop relationships with your state legislators, so that they clearly understand the impact of their decisions on local communities.”

Hunter offered four specific recommendations: “Know what assets you have as a municipality. Convene a working group within your city, because this involves everyone. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are already things working – find them. Finally, know your state laws.”

“Define what your needs and wants are first,” said Friend. “Then work to create something together to address them.”


Next Century Cities was pleased to have the opportunity to bring together community leaders to explore how municipalities can prepare for smart city opportunities. Read more about Smart Cities Week Silicon Valley here.