3 Gigabit Cities Using High-Speed Broadband for Civic Engagement

Raleigh, N.C.

Raleigh, N.C. Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Next Century Cities just gave Raleigh, Austin and Louisville $30,000 and will provide technical assistance to get their innovative, repeatable projects off the ground.

Three cities will spend the next year leveraging high-speed broadband on civic engagement projects, aided by a $30,000 grant each and technical assistance from Next Century Cities.

The nonprofit, universal broadband coalition of 145 U.S. city representatives selected Raleigh, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Louisville, Kentucky, for the inaugural Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Awards.

Next Century Cities chose project it felt other cities will be able to replicate once underway.

“We know that broadband connectivity can bring economic and educational development to a region, but next-generation broadband is also a valuable tool for empowering citizens to be actively engaged in their communities,” Deb Socia, Next Century Cities' executive director, said in the announcement.

Austin will put its winnings toward Smart Work, Learn, Play, helping public housing residents near transit hubs access online city services.

The project is in line with a goal of the Housing Authority of the City of Austin to ensure mobile equity in disadvantaged communities.

“We welcome the opportunity to receive meaningful input on future transportation planning efforts and to begin to overcome the digital barriers that keep HACA safely using a variety of transportation options,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement.

Raleigh’s team will develop the InVision Raleigh tool letting citizen plan alongside local government.

While Louisville will wire a community center on its underserved west side with high-speed internet, turning it into the Gigabit Experience Center. Low-income families will be able to access digital training and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“Gigabit connectivity would be a game-changer for Louisville's citizens and businesses—driving innovation, expanding our economy, and providing residents with new opportunities at home,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in the announcement.