Next Century Cities - Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 121

This week, we helped to launch Next Century Cities, a collaborative effort of local governments that are making smart investments and partnerships to ensure their communities have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access. Deb Socia is the Executive Director of Next Century Cities, coming to it from a nonprofit organization she developed in Boston called Tech Goes Home that works to increase digital inclusion. 

Via my capacity at ILSR, I am the policy director for NCC, so I have been working with Deb behind the scenes to launch Next Century Cities. This week, we spend a few minutes talking about this new organization. Next Century Cities is an exciting collection of 32 founding community partners with incredible diversity. From large cities to small, right-leaning to left-leaning. Some are municipal networks and some have partnered with private companies. 

If you think your community would like to join, have the Mayor or a public official contact NCC. See the member cities here and watch the full launch event here. Follow Next Century Cities on Twitter - @nextcentcit

This show is 10 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Jessie Evans for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Is it Fire?"



Deb Socia:  ... communities must have self-determination -- that making decisions at the level of the community is where the best decisions get made. 


Lisa Gonzalez:  Hello there.  And welcome again to the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.  I'm Lisa Gonzalez. 

Once again, Chris is out on the road, and he's sharing his experiences with us.  This past week, Chris was in Santa Monica for the kickoff of the Next Century Cities.  The organization is a city-to-city collaboration advocating fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access for everyone.  As one of the organizers, Chris moderated a panel of CIOs from member communities.  While he was there, Chris also took a few moments to connect with Deb Socia, Executive Director of the organization.  In this interview, the two discuss the organization's membership, principles, and the role of they expect to play in improving Internet access across the U.S.  Video of the full event is available at .  It includes the mayors' panel discussion, moderated by Susan Crawford, in addition to the panel discussion moderated by Chris.  Here are Deb and Chris, discussing Next Century Cities, with info on how your community can join. 


Chris Mitchell:  Welcome to anther edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast.  This is another live edition.  This is Chris Mitchell.  And today I'm with Deb Socia, Executive Director of the newly-launched Next Century Cities.  Welcome to the show. 


Deb Socia:  Thank you.  Wonderful to be here. 


Chris:  You and I are working together on this Next Century Cities.  And we're speaking a day before it launches, and it will air a day after it launches. 


Deb:  Yeah. 


Chris:  So it's a -- you know, it'll be a little interesting to try and figure out how to phrase things properly.  But you're the Executive Director.  And I'm doing some policy work, as my title is Policy Director.  And that's within my capacity.  So people shouldn't be confused.  I'm still with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.  But we're going to do a lot of work to help Next Century Cities. 

So, let me start by asking you, what is Next Century Cities? 


Deb:  Next Century Cities is really an initiative to support city leaders -- mayors and cities around the country -- who are looking to figure out how to bring to their city fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. 


Chris:  Excellent.  And so, is this open to anyone?  Or is this invite-only?  How does that work? 


Deb:  It's actually open to any city who has -- any city that has an interest in next-generation broadband for their constituents, and who agrees to a set of six principles that we have outlined. 


Chris:  OK.  And we put those up on . 


Deb:  Yes, we did. 


Chris:  Right.  And you can actually catch the whole webcast.  If you didn't see it when it was aired live, we're going to have the whole webcast up there. 


Deb:  Yes. 


Chris:  So that's really exciting.  So, who are some of the cities that are involved with this? 


Deb:  Well, Raleigh, Kansas City, Boston, Lafayette, Chattanooga, Wilson.  And then some smaller cities, like Ammon, Idaho. 


Chris:  Everyone's favorite city to point out.  Yes. 


Deb:  Yes.  They really are **. 


Chris:  Yes.  No.  They're doing a wonderful project.  I've been following them for maybe five years now. 

And so I like -- I just love what an eclectic mix this is.  You know, we have some Google Fiber cities.  We've got some muni cities.  We've got some cities like Louisville, that are just sort of trying to figure out what they're doing, for the first time. 


Deb:  Right.  I really like that too.  I think that everybody has a lot to offer in this mix.  Each has a different pathway of getting there.  And that conversation, I think, makes for richer opportunities for learning. 


Chris:  So this has a number of different principles.  You mentioned there are six principles in specific.  And the first one is, obviously, faster, better Internet access.  What is there beyond that? 


Deb:  Well, one of the other ones that is interesting is that the Internet is nonpartisan.  Right?  So that it isn't a Democrat issue or a Republican issue.  It's a person issue.  Right?  And we need to resolve this for the people who in our cities.  And another one is for... 


Chris:  Well, for a lot of communities, it's a jobs issue, certainly. 


Deb:  Absolutely.  And public safety.  I mean, there -- education.  It impacts every aspect of community life.  And the other one that is interesting is: communities must have self-determination -- that making decisions at the level of the community is where the best decisions get made. 


Chris:  Um-hum.  When we're looking at the level of the community making decisions, this is a group that is really focused on mayors.  Why not state legislatures?  Why mayors in particular? 


Deb:  Well, I think, in part, mayors are where the stuff happens.  Right?  They are boots on the ground.  They're really -- they are listening to their constituents.  They hear the issues.  And they can make the solutions occur.  And they're the ones that just are getting it done. 


Chris:  Yes.  I like -- I like that in particular: they're getting it done. 


Deb:  Right. 


Chris:  Right.  And then, to some extent, I think that really highlights that we're not really trying to create something new.  We're really jumping onto a moving -- you know, a moving event.  A moving platform. 


Deb:  Absolutely.  These are folks who have been doing this, in some cases, for ten years.  Right? 


Chris:  Right. 


Deb:  So, we're looking at what's happened, and what's been successful.  And, in fact, it's always been local impetus that's gone from -- you know, there's a problem, here's a solution, we're going to make it happen.  And then finding ways around any barriers that happen to come in the way.  And getting it done, because they knew they had to. 


Chris:  So, some of the things that Next Century Cities is going to be doing is helping communities to get over those barriers.  What are some of the ways that we're going to do that? 


Deb:  I think, you know, part of it is, what, you know -- even just beginning.  What is an RFI?  What's a good RFI look like?  And how do we write one?  Well, lots of our folks have done them.  And we ought to leverage that knowledge base, to help folks who are coming along now.  And then, also, just elevating the really good stories in the press, to give all of these folks an opportunity to see good stories happening, so that they can aspire to have the same thing happen.  Or, you know, we'll provide tool kits.  And we'll do calls, and provide experts at gatherings so that we can all learn from each other. 


Chris:  Experts?  Where are we going to find experts? 


Deb:  Ah, maybe sitting next to me. 


Chris:  No, I -- I just can't resist.  I feel -- you know, it's fun to be talking about this.  But I'm playing both the role of the interviewer and the person who cares a lot about this organization succeeding. 


Deb:  Right. 


Chris:  So -- yeah, I'm incredibly excited.  I think that one of the things that I hope we can do is to -- when there's been an event in a town, maybe, is maybe try to have an event before or after it, that tries to bring together people in the region.  And, you know -- and just make it easier for some of the events that already happened to draw a bigger audience, to get a little bit more out of them perhaps. 


Deb:  And I've heard a lot from different cities around the country that they wish there was more of a regional organization and a regional conversation about this effort.  And there are lots of ways they could connect with each other and really help one another, with their own internal networks.  And so, I'd really love to be able to see that happen. 


Chris:  One of the questions that pops into my mind is, a lot of our founding members, they've already done great things.  Now if you're popping in to the head of a Kansas City or Chattanooga, you know, a Santa Monica -- or, you know, you mentioned some of these cities have been doing it for ten years.  Santa Monica has been doing it for 15.  And so has Mount Vernon, right?  I mean, they've been around for a very long time.  What do you think they're going to get out of this? 


Deb:  Well, I hope that they get the opportunity to stand together with a group of people who are like-minded, and make a statement, and have that be a powerful statement.  I also hope we're able to give them some of the recognition that they deserve, and really ought to have, that sort of public opportunity to make a positive statement about the story.  I mean, the fact that Santa Monica has got 100 gigs, ... 


Chris:  Right. 


Deb:  ... I mean, that's a story that I think many people don't realize.  And I think it's important for us to be publicizing that. 


Chris:  Right.  And I was just out walking along the sidewalks, and I was -- 100 gigs was pulsating -- you know, mostly under my feet, but occasionally up in the space on the poles, as I understand it.  So, it's really quite remarkable here.  


Deb:  Right. 


Chris:  Just as we wrap up, then -- I'm a city, and I'm thinking, this sounds great.  Where do I go to learn more, and what's the process for me to take an active role in this? 


Deb: Great question.  So, you can choose to contact us through our website, .  Or my e-mail, .  Let me know your interest.  I will send you information.   Take a look at our principles on our website.  And a city that agrees to those principles, and indicates so to me, can become a part of the organization. 


Chris:  Well, thank you so much. 


Deb:  Thank you. 


Lisa:  Check out for more on the organization, including the member cities, the latest news, and a library of helpful resources.  You can sign up for regular updates and have your community leaders contact Deb Socia to join.  We'll also keep you informed of Next Century Cities events on . 

Send us your ideas for the show.  E-mail us at .  Follow us on Twitter.  Our handle is @communitynets .  This week, we want to thank Jessie Evans for the song, "Is it Fire?" licensed through Creative Commons.  Thanks for listening, and have a great day.