Mark Goldberg

How to build smarter cities

TorontoEarlier this week, Toronto signed an agreement with San Francisco, pledging greater integration of their digital media industries, an advanced high-speed network to link the locations, and joint educational and collaboration programs. Shane Schick’s perspectives can be found here.

A Globe and Mail story quotes Joaquin Alvarado, director of the Institute for Next Generation Internet at San Francisco State University, leader of the Digital City Network initiative:

You’ve got to make it easy for people to be connected

I agree. But that approach runs contrary to that which has traditionally been followed by Canadian cities.

For years, Toronto has joined the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) in fighting carriers seeking to deploy fibre on municipal rights of way. With the city of Toronto’s backing, for years FCM has been in front of the CRTC and the courts as cities sought to tax carriers a substantial percentage of their revenues, not on the basis of cost recovery.

How will Toronto approach this Digital City Network project?

According to the story:

There is no financial element to the arrangement. Instead, the local government’s role is limited to building partnerships and supporting industry. But at some point the city itself could be investing to expand networks, Mr. Miller said.

There is no need to spend taxpayer dollars on city-owned telecom networks. The city would be better off with a declaration that it will no longer fight carriers looking to invest and it will get out of the way of service providers that want to improve fibre access to their customers. The best way to support industry may be for the city to just get out of the way.<

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