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American Planning Association Technology Division

Building Future Cities:
Planners as Broadband Champions

By Kathleen McMahon

Robust broadband networks are essential for the innovative technologies of 21st century communities.

Every day, the news media is covering innovative technologies that are helping cities engage citizens, improve public safety, conserve energy, manage water resources, reduce traffic congestion, attract new businesses, and plan for the challenges of the 21st century. Giant companies like Google, IBM, Cisco, and Siemens have "smart city" initiatives to promote fiber networks, big data, and the "Internet of Things." In a 2013 speech on the national climate plan, President Obama challenged cities to adopt smart technologies to achieve energy efficiency, build more resilient infrastructure, and respond to more severe weather events. Robust and reliable broadband networks represent the underlying infrastructure that is necessary to support all of these undertakings.

Yet, the United States lags behind other industrial countries in meeting the bandwidth demands necessary for urban and rural areas to integrate these new technologies into their current and future operations. It requires a commitment to public policy that is foresighted and engages all stakeholders to develop successful strategies for next generation broadband.    

Planners are in a position to advocate for broadband as a critical infrastructure. They have the skills to conduct visioning processes, communicate with public officials and identify collaborative strategies. To adopt this new role of “broadband champion” planners will need to acquire new knowledge. As recommended by the American Planning Association:

“Planners will need to become aware of the importance of planning for broadband infrastructure. In order to incorporate broadband strategies into local plans they need familiarity with how various technologies operate. Understanding broadband applications is essential to working with telecommunications experts that are designing wireless, fiber and cable networks. Planners need access to educational material that can help them navigate these issues.”
(Source:  APA, “Rebuilding America: APA National Infrastructure Investment Task Force Report”) 

This seminar will provide urban planners and local government officials with the information and tools to foster a 21st century community that supports innovation and sustainability. Key objectives are:

  • Learn how broadband infrastructure is becoming a critical part of urban systems and why it is essential to have affordable, reliable and high-speed broadband for communities of all sizes.
  • Uncover opportunities for planners, planning commissioners and local officials to promote broadband development through comprehensive plans, revitalization efforts, permitting processes, land use regulations and capital improvement plans.
  • Become familiar with models for broadband deployment – including community networks - and discuss the roles planners can undertake in these efforts. 

Breakfast Forum
Wednesday, September 17
Opening Day of Full Conference


At the Breakfast Forum You Will Be Part Of A Nationwide Discussion

The 30,000-member American Planning Association and its task force on Smart Cities and Sustainability is gathering information at events around the country.

The Springfield conference is one of these events.

All registered attendees at the conference as well as planners who registered for the preconference planning seminar on Tuesday, September 16 are invited.

Click here to register for the conference!

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