This article originally appeared on technology news site Technically Philly, a PlanPhilly partner on the Broadband2035 project, an editorial series meant to highlight broadband issues to inform the city’s comprehensive plan.
It was in the first days of publishing Technically Philly two years ago that we came to understand that the city’s broadband infrastructure played a crucial role in our technology community.
Wireless Philadelphia, an effort to provide free, wireless access to city dwellers, had ended a failure. Verizon had only recently been allowed to expand its internet connectivity services to residents here, and Comcast had staked a much bigger claim over the city by altering its skyline with its tallest building.
So it was with much bewilderment that when we browsed through the Planning Commission’s comprehensive Philadelphia2035 plan, the first undertaken in more than 60 years, there was little mention of the copper, cable and fiber-optic lines that run deep beneath the city, helping connect it with a global economy. Though the plan is incomplete, summaries of the plan have under-represented what we believe is vital to the city’s economic growth: broadband connectivity. Without more detailed plans to implement next-generation connectivity, the city risks missing an important opportunity.
A few weeks ago, the Commission released the first draft of the plan [PDF], seeking comments from city residents.
That’s where you come in.
Today, we’re asking for some input that we can provide immediately to the Planning Commission on your vision of this city’s needs to support and expand broadband access. What needs are unmet for your individual or business purposes? What problems have you witnessed regarding broadband infrastructure that you’d like to see changed? What are other cities doing that are a benchmark for success? Respond in the comments below, or send an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org before Monday, March 28, and we’ll make sure your comments are heard. Now’s your chance to help shape the future of Philadelphia’s broadband access.
In March, the Division of Technology announced plans to compete for Google’s ultra-high speed Gigabit fiber pilot program, electing separately University City — where the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are located — and a stretch of neighborhoods from Old City to Fishtown which relies on commercial infrastructure. Though it is assumed that both areas would attract more businesses with higher-speed access, some neighborhoods in the city struggle to provide little affordable broadband access.
What lessons can be learned from these areas that can help inform the city’s comprehensive Philadelphia2035 plan? Does broadband investment in University City and along the city’s waterfront translate to increased economic activity? How does the investment unique to each of these two areas compare with a neighborhood with little investment? Finally, how can the city best support the creation of next-generation high-speed connectivity to spur growth?
In partnership with online news provider PlanPhilly, which covers planning, design and development in Philadelphia, in November Technically Philly was awarded $5,000 from J-Lab, a journalism innovation think tank based in Washington, D.C., to produce Broadband2035, a series of reports that will help examine the impact of broadband infrastructure in the region.
Through June, freelancer Chris Reber will write a series of seven reports covering such topics as Philadelphia’s broadband failures, Comcast and Verizon’s involvement with connecting the city, dark fiber that runs beneath our city’s municipal buildings, the role of broadband in encouraging business relocation in neighborhoods here, and overall, a report we hope will help impact the Planning Commission’s comprehensive plan.
Look for the first of those reports in a few weeks.