20 More Cities Are Looking for Ways to Get Gigabit Internet Speeds

When finalized, more than 50 American cities will have joined a coalition dedicated to bringing fast, reliable internet to residents.

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Oct 27 2014, 2:20pm

Next Century Cities launch event. Image: Deb Socia/Flickr

At least 20 additional American cities have expressed a formal interest in joining a coalition that's dedicated to bringing gigabit internet speeds to their residents by any means necessary—even if it means building the infrastructure themselves.

The Next Centuries Cities coalition launched last week with an impressive list of 32 cities in 19 states who recognize that fast internet speeds are necessary to keep residents and businesses happy.

The group includes cities that have built their own municipal broadband networks, cities that want to build their own, and cities that have worked with companies such as Google to bring fiber, gigabit-speed internet to their residents—the idea being that cities that don't have ultrafast internet can learn how to jump through legislative and logistical hoops from those who have been there before.

One of our principles is that communities must enjoy self determination

The group's launch event was so successful that Deb Socia, the group's executive director, says at least 20 more cities have already asked to join, and that she expects the coalition to grow "substantially" in the next couple months.

"It's already generated a lot of interest in other cities, so it justifies what we've been thinking all along—that people really want this," she told me in a phone interview. "Over the next month or two we'll formalize it. I think we'll increase our numbers pretty substantially."

Socia wouldn't tell me what cities have expressed interest, because they haven't formally joined yet.

These new cities would join others such as Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina—two cities that have built their own broadband networks but are hoping to expand them to neighboring communities despite state laws being on the books that prevent them from legally doing so. To circumvent that problem, both cities have filed petitions with the Federal Communications Commission to override state restrictions.

"One of our principles is that communities must enjoy self determination," she said. "Even if you're in a city with an anti [municipal broadband] law, we think that decisions are made best when they're made close to the people who are impacted."

Socia said she believes that over the last several years, cities have really begun recognizing that if they are unable to offer their residents fast, reliable internet (or if big telecom is unwilling to), their growth and economic prosperity will stagnate.

"It's frustrating for cities in general and it's frustrating for residents. There are a lot of folks who now understand that fast internet is a part of your work experience and it's hard to survive without it. It's certainly impossible to work from home without it," she said. "I think if most people had a choice, they'd pick a place to live that has really good service."