City leaders want to expand opportunity within their communities. They want to strengthen citizen engagement, enhance academic achievement, and increase the efficient use of resources. Leaders hope to improve the efficacy of and outcomes associated with health care, encourage the growth of small businesses, and ensure public safety.
In the past, solutions within these areas of growth lacked a common denominator. Now, however, as we have seen in city after city, truly high-speed broadband can impact all facets of a citizen’s quality of life. Innovative city leaders from all over the country are beginning to work toward improving their cities by seeking reliable, affordable, and fast Internet.
This is not a simple equation for cities. The caliber of Internet networks required for cities to compete, grow, and thrive in the 21st century will largely not be achieved through the copper wire networks of the 20th century. Cities and their leaders recognize that the present and the future will be based on fiber-optic, gigabit networks that can deliver speeds at hundreds of times the current national average.
Out of these concerns, Next Century Cities emerged. In 2013, a group of innovative leaders joined in a series of conversations about their need for and their efforts to obtain next generation broadband. As we heard from cities all over the country, we realized the stories had common themes.
The first was the depth of the challenge. Getting from 20th century networks to 21st century, next-generation networks is a daunting task for many communities. Building new infrastructure – no matter how essential – is time-consuming, expensive, and requires input and participation from many different stakeholders.
There are also outside factors that impact the ability for cities to succeed. Towns and communities struggle with limited budgets, laws that restrict their opportunity to build/support a network that fits their needs, and even market pressures.
But the second theme was one of optimism, because so many have persevered.
Dozens of cities across the country have succeeded (or are on the path to success). Some of these cities have municipally-owned networks providing Internet to businesses, hospitals, schools, and even homes. Others are working with private companies to meet their needs.
And a growing number of cities have yet to achieve their goals, but they are beginning to put next-generation broadband at the top of the list of community priorities, rather than burying it at the bottom.
When asked what resources or opportunities would contribute to their success, there was consensus that leaders needed to share their learning, to find ways to connect with like-minded leaders, and to stand together as a team in seeking solutions.
They wanted to bring the national conversation around high-speed Internet back to where it belongs: focused on the needs of the people who live and work in their cities.
The leaders whose communities participate in Next Century Cities know that reliable, affordable, and fast Internet is no longer a luxury. Like electricity and plumbing, it is now essential infrastructure.
To support these cities, Next Century Cities will serve as a dedicated point of collaboration. Our organization will provide a forum for cities to communicate and share knowledge, arm cities with tools to help them succeed, and offer a platform for city leaders to participate in – and drive – the national conversation.
We are at a crossroads. Too few communities have the Internet infrastructure to deliver on the promise of America. Too few commentators and policymakers recognize that truly next-generation Internet is indispensable in the 21st century.
Next Century Cities wants to work with every town and city that recognizes that next-generation broadband is a necessary part of the future. If you are a city equipped with gigabit infrastructure, join us. If you want this infrastructure but face difficulty in attaining it, join us. If you want to be part of a movement of cities and leaders who believe that next-generation Internet infrastructure will be a decisive factor for America’s cities in the decades to come, join us.
Together, we can help every city become a next century city.