Next Century Cities Monthly Newsletter
April 2020
At a time when the coronavirus (COVID-19) maintains a stranglehold on our communities and shared resources, it would be easier for us to pull back on our efforts and wait for more certainty or a reality closer to the normal that we remember. But I see this as a moment for us to do our best work.
We are reaching out to policymakers, asking them to respond to calls for help from local officials nationwide. We are working to ensure that lawmakers know about the hard work and imagination that is fueling connectivity solutions for their constituents while highlighting unserved and underserved areas that are still in desperate need of support. And we are locking arms with allies and members of the press who push us to ask hard questions as they help us elevate the importance of digital infrastructure .
As you will see below, we have had a busy month. We have an all-star team that stays in relentless pursuit of our goal to connect every resident in every community. Thank you for being an integral part of our work.
Gratefully yours,


“Lessons from the Epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic: How the Digital Divide Has Become a Public Health Issue For Cities and Its Residents.” Oscar Lopez, Next Century Cities’ (NCC) Policy Fellow, wrote about the effect that coronavirus (COVID-19) has on the nation’s disconnected populations in an op-ed published on NCC’s website. Using New York City as a case study for what happens when municipalities do not have adequate broadband access, Lopez’s piece highlights the role that internet access plays in providing U.S. residents with real-time public health updates and how inability to access information online could have dire consequences. 
Next Century Cities files comments explaining how Lifeline supports local connectivity goals. NCC filed comments on behalf of our members and the American Library Association explaining why the FCC’s reclassification of broadband services under Title I could impact the stability of Lifeline. The filing also describes why the program eases the load for local officials who are working to ensure that low-income residents can get online. It includes statements from NCC members in New York and Michigan, two states hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. 

NCC joins allies in advocating for populations that continue to struggle with connectivity. NCC joined Broadband Connects America Coalition allies in an April 7th letter to the House and Senate Commerce and Energy Committees Chairs. The letter emphasizes that Americans who struggled with broadband access and affordability before the COVID-19 crisis will continue to face similar challenges long after it passes. 
Nationwide broadband deployment strategies require collaboration with local officials. On April 3rd, NCC sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging collaborations with local officials to connect Americans who are still unable to get online. This undertaking will require efforts to expand existing broadband networks in addition to installing new network infrastructure. Read a summary of our follow-up meetings with the Office of Chairman Ajit Pai here and the Office of Commissioner Geoffrey Starks here .

In April, Next Century Cities welcomed our newest member, Rochester, New York !

Rochester, NY: The city of Rochester signs master license agreement with Greenlight Networks . The City of Rochester reached an agreement with Greenlight Networks. During the announcement Mayor Lovely Warren expressed hope that the partnership with Greenlight would bring internet connection to the city’s underserved communities. The licensing agreement would allow Greenlight to expand its fiber optic network within the city and provide additional options for approximately 230,000 households over the next three years. The city council must sign off on the city’s agreement before the agreement goes into effect. 

Austin, TX: Education technology provider Kajeet funds Wi-Fi busses for the Austin Independent School District . Through a generous grant from Kajeet, an education technology provider, the Austin Independent School District was able to deploy 110 school busses equipped with Wi-Fi technology to sites around the City of Austin. Each bus has Wi-Fi capabilities that provide connectivity for a 300 foot radius. Students are able to connect to the Wi-Fi networks by using their district-issued laptops. Kajeet’s grant has provided AISD with the opportunity to deploy more than one hundred busses, and using the grant, the district has plans to equip upwards of 400 or more busses with Wi-Fi capabilities in the near future. 

Detroit, MI: 50,000 Detroit students will receive laptops and free internet service . A partnership between Detroit Public Schools, DTE Energy, Quicken Loans, General Motors, and the Skillman and Kellogg Foundations will bring laptops and internet to 50,000 students. Thanks to an aggressive fundraising campaign that raised $23 million in just three-week’s time, students from families with demonstrated financial need will receive iView computers and six months of free internet. After the six-month period, the school district will then work with providers to transition families into cost-effective service plans. 

Morristown, Jackson, Hendersonville & Chattanooga, TN: Tennessee funds $19.7M in broadband accessibility grants for underserved residents . Tennessee, home to four of our member municipalities, recently announced that it will fund $19.7 million in broadband accessibility grants to increase connectivity in rural areas statewide. Those accessibility grants are intended to fund disconnected rural areas. Grantees are required to match state funds to complete broadband expansion projects.    

The COVID-19 outbreak has brought attention to cracks in the country’s foundation, especially those related to broadband access. As the workforce, medical field, and educational institutions move online, we are constantly reminded that high-speed connectivity is essential. 

Students explain how lack of internet access exacerbates existing systemic issues. In a candid interview with Teen Vogue , high school students from around the country detailed how spotty or absent internet access has compounded other concerns that are weighing on their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. ( Teen Vogue

The digital learning divide. Students across the board have been forced into virtual learning spaces, including students in job training and adult education programs. However, not every student has the same level of digital literacy. This episode of the Skill America Podcast considers this aspect of the digital divide from the perspective of two individuals dealing with those challenges. ( The Skilled America Podcast

ADTRAN Partners with Huntsville Utilities to Bring
Wi-Fi Access to Thousands of Students
Like many school districts nationwide, the Huntsville City School District in Alabama was forced to move classrooms online as a result of COVID-19 social distancing measures. Transitioning student instruction and activities to the virtual space required swift action and strategic collaboration to ensure that students in the 37 schools across the district had access to reliable internet. 

Huntsville City School District contacted the Huntsville Committee of 100, a collective of CEOs and young professionals in the area, for suggested partners. The school district was then connected with ADTRAN, a networking and communications equipment provider, and it agreed to provide the equipment to connect Wi-Fi networks in the parking lots at schools. In turn, ADTRAN tapped Huntsville Utilities for help with the district-wide installation. 

Together with Huntsville Utilities, ADTRAN was able to install Wi-Fi in the 32 school parking lots that did not previously have Wi-Fi networks, aiding thousands of students in completing the academic school year. In addition to installing Wi-Fi connectivity in school parking lots, ADTRAN was also instrumental in installing Wi-Fi at Milton Frank Stadium, the local football arena where Huntsville highschool and middle school students play. The stadium’s large parking lot provides an additional location for students to connect to their internet classrooms and complete homework assignments. 

This is an example of a successful multi-stakeholder collaboration that can be replicated in other communities. ADTRAN has expanded their efforts to other states including California and Washington State, and they are open to helping bring internet connection to students and school districts nationwide. To learn more about ADTRAN and the work that they do, visit .  
Our Requests for You

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