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U.S.: A Guide to Treating Internet Access Like Critical Infrastructure (Because It Is)
Source: routefifty.com
Source Date: Wednesday, July 08, 2015
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Citizen Engagement
Country: United States
Created: Jul 13, 2015

Next Century Cities has developed a policy agenda for state and local officials promoting its lone goal: high-quality broadband networks for everyone.

The non-profit coalition of local governments, which advocates for the expansion of high-speed broadband Internet networks, launched in October 2014 with 32 cities, but has since grown to include 100 communities. Its membership roster that includes a larger cities like Boston, Kansas City and Charlotte; county governments like Montgomery County, Maryland, and Medina County, Ohio; and smaller- to medium-sized cities like Ammon, Idaho, Hays, Kansas, and Roanoke, Virginia.

“Connecting 21st Century Communities: A Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders” stresses cross-sector collaboration involving philanthropies and key citizen leaders when crafting municipal codes, reforming federal laws and starting fast, public Wi-Fi projects.

Improvements in health services, small business climates and property values have been seen in jurisdictions of all sizes that made high-quality broadband available to residents.

“In the 21st century, Internet access has emerged as more than just an information superhighway—it has become critical infrastructure—connecting citizens, businesses, and communities alike to new opportunities,” said Deb Socia, Next Century Cities executive director, in the announcement. (Read Deb Socia’s June 2 Route Fifty guest article on community wireless networks.)

The agenda recommends local governments plan broadband projects the same way they do transportation projects, as investments in infrastructure—streamlining permitting and adopting “dig once” policies benefiting internet service providers (ISPs).

More accurate national data collection on broadband adoption, service availability, costs, and low-income access is necessary to prevent residents from being misled into buying homes they think have high-speed Internet already.

Aside from funding and advocacy, philanthropies are well-placed to share broadband best practices and fund high-impact research like the Open Technology Institute at New America is doing on deployment models and costs.

Engaging communities via libraries, schools, places of worship, and other “anchor institutions” will educate them on broadband and generate the necessary political support, so long as state and local officials are honest about the level of service they can provide low-income resident and when.

(BY DAVE NYCZEPIR)
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