Two years ago this month, we brought together 32 mayors to launch Next Century Cities with the goal of connecting city leaders and lifting up the importance of access to fast, affordable, and reliable broadband nationwide.
Now, just two years later, we have more than 150 members across the country, representing nearly 30 million Americans. And we’re still growing!
Take a look at some of our exciting accomplishments in the past two years:
Elevating Mayors in the National Broadband Conversation
One of the reasons Next Century Cities was established is to give mayors and city leaders a platform to be heard on broadband issues. Over the past two years, Next Century Cities has elevated the voices of local leaders and the importance of communities in the national broadband debate.
Through high-profile events, media opportunities, and direct engagement with federal agencies and policymakers, Next Century Cities is ensuring that local communities are playing a key role in shaping America’s broadband future. Here are some exciting highlights from our two years:
- Regional Broadband Summits – Over the last year, Next Century Cities has held major broadband events in New England and the Pacific Northwest, lifting up local leaders and connecting them with state and federal policymakers. We look forward continuing these regional summits in the year to come!
- Digital Northwest: A Summit for Regional Broadband Leaders: In March, 2016 Next Century Cities hosted this event in partnership with National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Seattle, WA. The full day summit had over 200 attendees and featured national, state, and local policymakers, as well as leaders in the nonprofit and private sectors, who discussed real-world broadband successes in the Pacific Northwest and a regional approach to building critical 21st century broadband infrastructure.
- Digital New England: A Regional Summit for Broadband Leaders: In September 2015, Next Century Cities partnered with NTIA and Senator Angus King (I-ME) to host this event in Portland, ME. The two-day summit brought together state, local and federal officials, industry representatives, community leaders and other key stakeholders, who shared real-world broadband success stories and lessons learned from across the region. The event also examined the gaps that remain and strategized on what still needs to be done to expand access to and adoption of high-speed internet services for the benefit of all citizens.
- NCC Presence at Major Events Nationwide – Many mayors who are a part of Next Century Cities, as well as Executive Director Deb Socia and other Next Century Cities leadership have participated in dozens of events and conferences over the last two years, inserting the success stories and needs at the city-level in the broadband conversation. Notable events include:
- Panel During the DNC: Executive Director Deb Socia was invited to participate in a “Democratizing Access to the Internet” Panel hosted by Business Forward during the Democratic National Convention, alongside representatives from Google Fiber, Fiber-to-the-Home Council North America, and New America’s Open Technology Institute, as well as Sara Solow, Policy Adviser for Hillary for America.
- Participation at Broadband Communities Conferences: Next Century Cities hosted and participated in several panels at Broadband Communities Magazine’s events in the last two years. Most recently, at the economic development conference, “Fiber for the New Economy” in Minneapolis, MN, we hosted a main stage panel of Next Century Cities mayors and officials, as well as a kickoff “experts” panel, both moderated by Executive Director Deb Socia. We have done previous mayoral panels and also held a half-day convening on broadband financing during another Broadband Communities conference in 2015.
- United States Conference of Mayors Best Practice Panel: Next Century Cities sponsored a Best Practices panel at the United States Conference of Mayors annual meeting, entitled “Building Out Broadband and Creating the Fiber Future.” The panel was moderated by Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga, and panelists included Mayor Sylvester “Sly” James Jr. of Kansas City, and Mayor Kevin McKeown of Santa Monica, as well as NCC’s Executive Director. All participating Mayors are members of NCC.
- Multiple Mayoral Letters to Elevate Issues: Next Century Cities has drafted several letters to give a platform to mayors in national broadband conversations. This includes a letter supporting the FCC’s Lifeline Modernization proposal, signed by 44 Next Century Cities mayors and sent to the FCC in December 2015. Before the 6th Circuit Court decision on the FCC’s ruling on local choice, 38 mayors and city leaders signed a letter urging federal policymakers to respect the importance of local choice to successful broadband Internet networks. When the ruling was overturned, more than 40 mayors and city leaders signed a letter sent to Mayor Berke of Chattanooga, TN and Mayor Rose of Wilson, NC, standing in solidarity with the two mayors and advocating for local self-determination on broadband solutions.
- Recognition in the National Media: Next Century Cities has received widespread press attention for its efforts to ensure access to fast, affordable, and reliable broadband internet, resulting in hundreds of press mentions in our first two years. Next Century Cities has been mentioned and quoted in The New York Times on multiple occasions and Bloomberg and was included in an Al-Jazeera series on the state of broadband internet in the United States.
- Recognition by National Political Leaders: We were honored to be commended by President Obama in his announcement of the Administration’s broadband plan in February 2015. During his speech, the president agreed with Next Century Cities that the stakes of next-generation broadband access are high, observing that, “This is about helping local businesses grow and prosper and compete in a global economy.”
Driving Policy Change for Local Broadband Success
- Testimony at Two Hearings before the House of Representatives – Executive Director Deb Socia has testified twice before the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. First, on broadband investment as critical infrastructure, and second on barriers to broadband deployment.
- Founding Partner with Bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus: Next Century Cities was a founding partner of the bipartisan United States Senate Broadband Caucus, announced in July. The organization worked closely with Senator King’s staff in the development of the Broadband Caucus, and will continue to work with co-chair staff members to be involved in appropriate caucus events.
- Partnering with the Obama Administration on Broadband Connectivity: In April 2016, Next Century Cities collaborated with NTIA for the new Connectivity Initiative, aimed at creating a comprehensive online assessment tool to assist community leaders and provide a framework of benchmarks and indicators of access, adoption, policies, and community usage. Back in September 2015, Next Century Cities Executive Director Deb Socia and Policy Director Chris Mitchell participated in a roundtable discussion at the White House on broadband connectivity, hosted by the White House National Economic Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
- Release of “Connecting 21st Century Communities: A Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders.” From encouraging broadband-friendly municipal codes, to urging federal policy reform, to outlining the role of philanthropy and citizens in broadband projects, this toolkit provides a roadmap of steps multiple partners can take to move communities in the direction of next-generation Internet access for all. Expanding high quality internet access in a community, whether large or small, can yield a multitude of benefits for residents—from improved health services, to new opportunities for small businesses, to higher property values, to a stronger local economy.
- Production of High-Level Report on RS Fiber: In April, 2015 Next Century Cities jointly released a report with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), titled “RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative.” This report documented a groundbreaking new model for rural communities to provide internet access for their residents. Using South Central Minnesota as a case study, the report outlines how the area’s model can be replicated in the thousands of cities and counties that have been refused service by big cable and telecom corporations.
Supporting Member Communities Nationwide
Since our founding two years ago, Next Century Cities has also provided direct assistance to communities to support best practices in broadband planning and deployment.
Support for local practice has included regular members’ webinars on important topics, a policy agenda with best practices from communities across the country, and awards programs to recognize leading practitioners. Examples from the last two years include:
- Two Next Century Cities-Supported Community Awards: In 2015, the Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards, also supported by the National League of Cities and Google Fiber, recognized leading practitioners and promising newcomers in the field of digital inclusion. The 2016 Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Awards, are rewarding and funding innovative three winning communities, announced in August, with plans to use next-generation internet access to bolster citizen’s democratic and civic participation.
- Regular Members’ Webinars: a series of members’ webinars, held each month, focused on important topics in broadband network practice, such as FCC Special Access Rules, Protecting Public Wi-Fi, and Digital Inclusion.
- Ongoing Connections: we provide a “Weekly Download” email to all members, which includes updates on Next Century Cities’ work, lifts up our member cities’ success stories, and highlights important broadband issues in the news. Additionally, Next Century Cities continues to focus on individually connecting communities to one another and to experts, making sure our members get the support they need to to move their broadband goals forward.
It has been an incredible two years for Next Century Cities, and we are eager to continue to elevate, inform, and support our mayors and member communities in the years to come!