Local governments are trying to make public-private agreements so that everyone in the South Bay has access to high-speed internet.
At a technology innovation meeting put on by Comcast, tech and government leaders got together to talk about how big companies can work with cities to make internet services faster and make sure coverage is more fair and easy to get.
At the forum, which was led by San José Spotlight, panelists included Elad Nafshi, Comcast’s Chief Networking Officer, Rob Lloyd, San Jose’s Deputy City Manager, and David Witkowski, executive director of civic technology projects at Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
Nafshi talked about Comcast’s new 10G network, which went live in February and gives customers broadband that is seven to ten times faster without big infrastructure changes. This replaces in-ground cable upgrades with software-powered networking technologies and a cloud-based platform to speed up current cable connections.
Nafshi said, “We need a network that lets us keep adding capacity and new services, but also really takes advantage of the best technology as technology keeps getting better so that we can give people the best-connected experiences.”
In the last five years, the company has spent $20 billion on building a faster network that will cover the whole country by 2025. To do this, Comcast wants to work with local governments to help more people get internet services. The internet service giant has already made deals with governments across the country worth $700 million, and officials like Fremont Mayor Lily Mei have said they want to make a deal at the meeting.
Witkowski said that the number of public-private agreements will only go up. Many towns and counties are making broadband strategies right now. This is especially true as they work on their housing elements, which is a plan that shows where hundreds of housing units will be built in the next eight years.
Witkowski said, “Cities are telling us, ‘We know we’re going to put a lot of housing in this area, but we also know that area has no infrastructure at all.'” “How can we relate to what’s going on?”
Witkowski said that the answer is to work with different groups and use different grants to make entry easier for more people. For example, he said that towns will have to use their share of the $62 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Act, which is meant to help local governments improve connectivity, wisely.
“Broadband will make it possible for the next wave of innovation to happen. “When there’s a new technology that brings people together, businesses will use it to offer services that help people in their everyday lives,” Witkowski said. “But that brings up the question of how to get it to everyone.”
Lloyd said that broadband internet access is “the country’s most unequal infrastructure.” And the internet is more important than ever in Silicon Valley, where tech is king.
He said that San Jose was a great example of how to make a city more connected. In 2016, the city started its first inclusion broadband strategy. It found that 1/10 of San Jose didn’t have 1.5 megabits per second or faster connections, which meant that thousands of people couldn’t stream, share documents, or join online meetings. As of 2019, the American Community Survey showed that more than 100,000 people in San Jose did not have broadband internet service.
Through the Digital Inclusion Expenditure Plan, San Jose put a lot of money into growing digital services. The hotspot agreement with AT&T cost about $3.5 million. The city also spent a lot of money to connect more than 160,000 people to Wi-Fi in school areas like East Side Union High School District.
Nafshi said, “We’re starting to see a model where this kind of partnership is really starting to form.” “We look forward to keeping these relationships going. It’s a lot of fun.”