The study will focus on areas such as using the network as a platform for digital inclusion initiatives and for economic development
The city of Portsmouth in the US state of Virginia is exploring how it can best make use of its planned fibre-optic backbone network via a citizen connectivity project. The study will be conducted in conjunction with the new smart city study group being established by the city.
Earlier this year, it took its first steps towards becoming a smart city by implementing a fibre design master plan, and a request for proposal was issued to construct a community broadband network. The broadband project encompasses 55 miles fibre-optics designed to increase internet connectivity around the city.
The city council leadership has now re-engaged Federal Engineering (FE) and its subcontractor Magellan Advisors (FE/Magellan Team), the nation’s leading broadband and smart city development firm, to create the Citizen Connectivity Study. The study will be focused on using the city’s planned fibre-optic backbone network:
Through the proposed Citizen Connectivity Study, the consultants will survey households and businesses to understand how they currently use technology and the importance of high-speed digital connectivity. Survey results will reveal the benefits of and barriers to technology use, particularly available internet access options.
Working with city departmental leaders, the FE/Magellan Team will engage key stakeholders, from major businesses to neighbourhood champions, to define current gaps and goals. A series of workshops will be conducted to gather input and learn about connectivity needs and opportunities.
The insights and anecdotal evidence from these discussions will allow for deep insights into what connectivity means for Portsmouth’s citizenry in today’s global digital economy.
The FE/Magellan Team will supplement its knowledge from designing Portsmouth’s new fibre-optic network with research into other regional network infrastructure. The area has numerous large entities that own infrastructure, in part because it is a major pass-through area for the east coast and termination points for undersea cables. Network service providers are invited to share connectivity issues they have encountered and how they might help address community needs.
Portsmouth’s community broadband network will include connections to community anchor institutions such as hospitals, higher education centres, and will serve as a catalyst to narrow the digital divide and regional broadband initiatives. Construction began in July.
Daniel Jones, chief information officer for the city of Portsmouth, said the project is a five-year build-out that will make Portsmouth a digital port. The community broadband network is a $9 million multiphase capital project.
"The Citizen Connectivity Study will provide precise information on what businesses and citizens actually need when it comes to high-speed internet connectivity," said Jones. "Our project will connect all municipal facilities including schools and the broadband network will improve municipal operations at a substantial cost savings."
The consultant will engage with the community through the smart city group, as well as local associations, civic leagues, and businesses. Results from the surveys, discussions, and infrastructure inventory will be analysed along with input from these groups to establish a strategy and action plan for the city. The connectivity study is expected to be completed over the next five months.
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