A roadmap to better broadband.

Author:Soda, Deb
Position:Commentary - Reprint

Communities face a lot of challenges in improving Internet access. The key is engaging stakeholders in a collaborative process.

High-speed Internet access is essential. It is as simple as that. What is genuinely complicated is making it happen at the ground level. We face a range of technological, economic, and political challenges in solving this problem. These issues range from existing providers that don't welcome new competition, to state barriers and regulations, to obstacles at the federal level for communities trying to find a creative, local solution to their lack of high-quality access.

More and more, local governments find themselves in alien territory, potentially having to decide between investing in their own municipal networks and working with the private sector for modern telecommunications infrastructure.

For more than 100 years, telecommunications services have been something largely left to the private sector, with consumers protected by state and federal regulations. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has been pushing for greater competition among broadband providers, and a White House Broadband Opportunities Council has been formed to remove barriers to local-government investment. This is an exciting time--a time for imaginative policies to usher in a new generation of innovation as the Internet continues to transform all aspects of our society.

That's why Next Century Cities recently released a comprehensive policy agenda (available at nextcenturycities.org) identifying concrete steps that all broadband stakeholders--government officials, community members, and the "civil society" of nongovernmental organizations and institutions --can take to help achieve fast, reliable, and affordable Internet access.

Next Century Cities, representing 100 cities, towns, and counties across the country, is focused on expediting the expansion of the country's broadband infrastructure to ensure access for all. That access allows for improvements in economic development, e-government, education, transportation, public safety, participatory democracy and much more.

Each stakeholder has a role to play. NCC's policy agenda is a way to help navigate the process--sharing suggestions and examples of excellence for each group. It can be used as a map to guide the way, giving communities across the country a real sense of how all levels of government and civil society can work together to make tangible progress in the effort...

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