Who doesn’t want a faster more reliable connection to the Internet? Well okay. I guess there are some people who don’t. But the majority of us? That speed and reliability sounds pretty good.
That’s why we all started drooling all over Google Fiber. And that’s why an awful lot of us are excited about the potential for Portland’s latest connectivity plan—citywide broadband.
“We are moving forward with the broadband strategic planning effort, knowing that high speed affordable broadband to every home and business represents basic infrastructure for Portland in the 21st century,” said Commissioner Amanda Fritz in a press release. “It means jobs, education, health care, and access to services across the digital divide—-all key elements of a sustainable city. We are committed to the broadband future Portland wants and needs.”
This all stems from City of Portland Resolution 36816 (PDF) which was designed to:
Authorize the Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management, in cooperation with the Portland Development Commission and the Bureau of Technology Services, to develop a citywide Broadband Strategic Plan and report back to Council by June 30, 2011.
The event will be held Friday, January 28 from around 9:30 until noon in Portland City Council Chambers. Can’t make it downtown to City Hall? Don’t worry. The event will be streamed live by Portland Community Media.
The goal? “Engage key stakeholders to commit to develop the plan over the next 6 months. Raise awareness of the importance of broadband infrastructure, access and adoption for Portland’s future.”
Why this technology? Why now?
So maybe you’re wondering what I was wondering. Or maybe you’re not. But I’m going to ask it anyway: Why broadband? Well, Mary Beth Henry (@pdxcycle) from the City of Portland Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management, was nice enough to spend a few minutes clarifying some points for me.
So why broadband? Why not other technology options?
“What other technology options?” said Mary Beth. “Broadband is the only technology which penetrates across and among all business and residential sectors to be depended upon and within reach of everyone. We are not wedded in the Broadband Strategic Plan process to particular platforms, recognizing that broadband must be connected to all (by the best wired or wireless means).
“There are no other technology options that have the reach and impact of broadband across all sectors, as well as the societal and economic implications for all – positive implications if we can focus and harness and plan for it. That is what the City of Portland Broadband Strategic Plan is all about!”
Deja vu all over again?
Oh, so that’s the question you thought I was going to ask. Yes, I thought of that one too. Great minds and whatnot.
Portland tried something like this before didn’t they? Isn’t that why there are all of those non functioning wifi canisters sitting on top of traffic lights around town?
Mary Beth explained how this broadband initiative differs from the Portland wifi one.
“First of all, the COP BBSP isn’t a hardware or software or construction project. It’s a planning process,” she said. “After the City’s experience with MetroFi, it would be difficult for any objective observer to disagree that the City can and should do holistic planning with respect to any and all broadband efforts before undertaking, directly or indirectly, further broadband projects.
“Yes, the MetroFi effort did not achieve its goals, but the City should be given credit for knowing how important this technology is, learning from our mistakes, and keeping our shoulders to the wheel by continuing to focus and plan for results. Look at MetroFi as part of a continuum of City efforts to promote and develop broadband here, from the Open Access wars of the 1990s, to the overbuilders of 2000, to the MetroFi experiment, to the Portland Community Fiber Network business case study (2008). The City continues to recognize how important this area is and continues to work hard to learn from the past and apply these lessons to the future. That’s precisely what the City of Portland Broadband Strategic Plan is all about.”
So are we no longer searching for Google Fiber?
But what about that whole Google Fiber thing? How does this program complement that effort?
“Google fiber is still pending,” said Mary Beth. “Google changed its internal management of the project in December 2010 and pushed the decision into 2011.”
So there’s no decision yet. But when there is, Portland could be one of the cities selected. What then?
“This doesn’t replace but is very much in addition to the City’s response to Google’s RFI,” said Mary Beth. “In fact the community and business response and outpouring of assistance the City received in responding to Google last year had a major impact in catalyzing the energy to proceed ahead with the City’s broadband strategic planning.
“The City’s response to the Google RFI is definitely synergistic to the COP BBSP – the knowledge and connections we developed in responding to Google are incredibly important to maintain, sustain, and develop further in the BBSP process.”
Participating in the Broadband Strategic Planning process
If this sounds interesting to you—either from a business perspective or a personal perspective—head down to Portland City Hall tomorrow morning for the meeting and to hear the plans for the, um, plans. Again, if you can’t make it, you can tune in on CityNet Cable Channel 30 or watch the livestream of the Portland Broadband Strategic Plan kick off meeting.
For more information—including an agenda and proposed topics—visit the Broadband Strategic Plan page on Portland Online.
(Hat tip @jerryketel)
(Image courtesy pfly. Used under Creative Commons.)