Benton Foundation Updates Guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable, Next Generation Broadband

Benton Foundation Updates Guide for Community Leaders Seeking
Affordable, Next Generation Broadband

Today, the Benton Foundation published a handbook for city officials seeking the affordable, abundant bandwidth their communities will need to thrive in the decades ahead. Designed for local decision makers, The Next Generation Network Connectivity Handbook: A Guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable, Abundant Bandwidth reviews the current landscape of broadband networks, including next generation, gigabit capable networks, outlines best practices, summarizes existing models, and presents a framework through which community leaders might begin preliminary project steps given their city’s specific strengths and circumstances.

“Our purpose,” said co-author Blair Levin, “is to lower the initial, daunting information barrier that exists between cities already immersed in these Internet infrastructure issues and those just beginning to navigate them.” From 2009-2010, Levin oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan while at the Federal Communications Commission. Now Levin is as a non-resident Senior Fellow of the Metropolitan Policy Project of the Brookings Institute and the Executive Director of Gig.U: The Next Generation Network Innovation Project, an initiative of three dozen leading research university communities seeking to accelerate the deployment of next generation networks. The Handbook is an outgrowth of the many discussions between Gig.U and others deeply knowledgeable on municipal issues, in which it became clear that cities would benefit from a guide to stimulate new investments in 21st century information infrastructure.

A key insight offered by city officials is the important linkages between deploying next generation information networks and other municipal policies, including those affecting construction, transportation, housing, and economic development. As a result, the Handbook identifies two critical and related tasks for cities: understanding how its practices affect the economics of deploying and operating next generation networks, and organizing its assets, practices and people to improve its ability to negotiate with third party providers or deploy these networks themselves.

“Many communities are tackling 21st Century information infrastructure challenges themselves, regionally, or with private partners. We have a lot to learn from their approaches.” said co-author Denise Linn, Program Analyst for the Smart Chicago Collaborative. “In the second edition of the Handbook, we’ve incorporated new cases and resources from 2016. This field is a moving target with emerging best practices and shifting players — tracking new broadband initiatives has never been more important.”

“While cities have led in the efforts to date,” said Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss, “most still have not yet started down this path. As they do, we hope this Handbook helps them, and in turn, that their collective experiences will improve this resource, and ultimately bring all closer to affordable, abundant bandwidth now and for generations to come.”

The Benton Foundation works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy. It pursues this mission by: 1) seeking policy solutions that support the values of access, diversity and equity; 2) demonstrating the value of media and telecommunications for improving the quality of life for all; and 3) providing information resources to policymakers and advocates to inform communications policy debates. For more information, visit