Next Century Cities (NCC) has taken a leadership role in elevating the voices of mayors and local leaders who are working to bring 5G connectivity to their residents. NCC’s Executive Director Francella Ochillo participated in a roundtable discussion at the Smart City Expo Atlanta on September 11, 2019 with carriers, technology companies, and municipal representatives. They gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with small cell deployment. 

Deloitte opened the discussion with an overview of what resources would be required to deploy millions of miles of fiber and up to 800,000 new small cells in some of the most densely populated cities across the U.S. Mayor Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu, Hawaii, discussed general concerns about the permitting process as well as the importance of ensuring equitable deployment in underserved areas. 

Later that afternoon, Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga, Tenn., spoke on a panel, “Tech Talent, and Economic Mobility,” where he discussed the role that cities can play in supporting their citizens–equipping them with the skills, opportunities, and digital access required for economic empowerment. He shared insights on how Chattanooga has been transformed from a steel and foundry town to an economic powerhouse with the fastest, cheapest, most pervasive internet than any other city in the world. 

In Chattanooga, every home, business, and school has digital access. In Berke’s words, “Economic mobility means that I can change my fortune. I can change the class that I am in.” He echoed Mayor Caldwell’s concerns about inclusion, stating that, “We need to allow more people to feel like they are a part of digital opportunities rather than being on the outside while someone else enjoys it.”