Next Century Cities
Next Century Cities has selected a new executive director: Francella Ochillo. Most recently the Vice President of Policy and General Counsel for the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Ochillo is a digital rights advocate who is committed to expanding access for underserved and unserved communities. She earned a BS in Marketing from Morgan State University and a JD from John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.
A guide for communities that are seeking solutions to connect residents to broadband. The toolkit acts as a comprehensive first-stop resource for community leaders by outlining the most important considerations and action steps for communities beginning broadband expansion projects. These “building blocks” for a successful project are broken down into clear, concise sections that are presented in chronological order, with the most fundamental ingredients first and more nuanced considerations later.
On September 5, the Federal Communications Commission released the text of an order in its ongoing proceeding to streamline the rollout of infrastructure for broadband services, including small cells for 5G wireless service. The order is expected to be adopted at the FCC’s September 26th meeting. The order is a blatant effort by the FCC to strengthen the hand of carriers in negotiations with local governments over small cell deployment and to limit the ability of local governments to negotiate in the public interest around small cells.
Next Century Cities released its 2017 Emerging Issues Policy Agenda, offering policy recommendations that support the expansion of high-quality, affordable broadband access to all. The agenda also explores some of the latest challenges to expanding next-generation internet access and innovations to tackle such barriers.
Next Century Cities communities are leading the way in implementing these policies and practices across the country. The policy agenda includes information and recommendations on issues such as local municipal authority, competition in multiple dwelling units, high-quality access for low-income households, small cell deployment, and One Touch Make Ready policies. For each policy issue, this new resource gives examples of local innovation and success, as well as policy recommendations to drive better competition and increased broadband access locally. The policy agenda also explores principles for government when developing legislation and undertaking broadband infrastructure investments, which is timely given the interest in Congress and at the state level for new investments in broadband.
Over 60 Mayors and Municipal Leaders Send Letter Calling on Congress to Include Broadband in Infrastructure Plans
Mayors and other city and county leaders from sixty-two Next Century Cities member communities, representing nearly 16 million Americans, sent a letter to President Donald Trump, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on the importance of including broadband in any infrastructure plan.
The letter asserts that broadband internet access is necessary infrastructure, and a key to prosperity. It has the power to expand entrepreneurship and economic growth, arm teachers and students for success in the classroom, and give citizens a voice on a both a local and national level. It was sent on the same day the United States Senate held a hearing on “Improving Access the Infrastructure,” focusing on transportation and information networks. The letter recommends three key broadband priorities for any federal infrastructure plan: access, affordability, and local solutions for connectivity. It also emphasizes that the internet is nonpartisan, and that federal leaders should work together across party lines to promote the deployment of next-generation broadband.
“Today’s letter, signed by representatives from sixty-one cities and counties across the country, shows significant support for the inclusion of broadband in any infrastructure bill,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “This letter, signed by cities large and small, serves as a reminder to state and federal lawmakers that there is widespread, bipartisan support for the deployment of high-speed, reliable internet access.”
The Federal Communication Commission established the Lifeline program (Lifeline) in 1985 under President Reagan as a means of ensuring that low-income individuals had access to essential telecommunications services. Lifeline has been in place for 30 years, working to eliminate the telephone divide, and with the implementation of the 2016 Modernization Order, it will work to close the digital divide as well. The program provides a discount of $9.25 per month per household to low-income individuals for telecommunication services. Beginning December 2, 2016, where available, recipients of the Lifeline program will be able to apply their benefit to either broadband or telephone service.
Next Century Cities Announces Three Winning Cities of the Benton Awards for Next Generation Engagement
Next Century Cities announced the three winning cities of the inaugural Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Awards: Raleigh (NC), Austin (TX), and Louisville (KY). The three cities were selected for proposing innovative programs that will use high-speed broadband to improve civic engagement and democratic participation.
The Benton Awards were given by Next Century Cities, a nonprofit membership organization of over 145 mayors and city leaders nationwide committed to ensuring access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet access for their citizens. The three municipal governments that won for harnessing high-speed internet to enhance civic engagement were each awarded $30,000 and will receive hands-on technical assistance for the next year to help drive their projects forward. In Raleigh, a team will develop InVision Raleigh, an immersive online tool that makes it easier for citizens to get involved in visioning and planning with local government. In Austin, a program called Smart Work, Learn, Play will engage public housing residents near two public transportation hubs to increase citizen access to and use of online public services. Finally, city officials in Louisville plan to wire an existing community center in West Louisville with gigabit connectivity, creating a Gigabit Experience Center which will serve as a hub for this underserved community, providing access to digital training, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement opportunities. The Benton Award is primarily supported by the Democracy Fund, with additional support from the Benton Foundation.