Silicon Valley leaders want to deliver faster internet services
Elad Nafshi speaks at Joint Venture Silicon Valley on Tuesday April 18, 2023 in San Jose, Calif. (Don Feria/AP Images for Comcast)

    Local governments are looking to create public-private partnerships to ensure high-speed internet is a central service to all South Bay residents.

    At a technology innovation forum hosted by Comcast, government and tech leaders gathered to discuss how large companies can work with cities to create faster internet services and ensure more equitable and accessible coverage.

    Elad Nafshi, Comcast Chief Networking Officer, San Jose City Deputy Manager Rob Lloyd and David Witkowski, executive director of civic technology initiatives at Joint Venture Silicon Valley, were panelists at the forum moderated by San José Spotlight.

    Nafshi touted Comcast’s new 10G network, launched in February, that provides customers with broadband that is seven to 10 times faster without needing any major infrastructure updates. This moves away from in-ground cable upgrades and instead speeds up existing cable connections by utilizing software-powered networking technologies and a cloud-based platform.

    “A network that enables us to continue to grow capacity, continue to deliver new services, but at the same time, really takes advantage of the absolute best technology, as technology continues to progress, in order to deliver the best connected experiences,” Nafshi said.

    The company has spent $20 billion in the last five years with a goal to roll out a faster network nationwide by 2025. To accomplish this, Comcast wants to partner with local governments to provide broadband services to more people. The internet service behemoth already has $700 million in government deals across the nation, and officials like Fremont Mayor Lily Mei said they are looking to strike a deal at the forum.

    Witkowski said public-private partnerships will only grow in popularity. Many cities and counties are creating broadband strategies now especially as they work on their housing elements — a plan that outlines where cities will build hundreds of housing units in the next eight years.

    “We’re hearing from cities having to say, ‘We know that we’re going to be putting a lot of housing in this area, we also know there’s no infrastructure in that area at all,'” Witkowski said. “So how do we connect to what’s going on?”

    Witkowski said the answer is to work with different stakeholders and leverage various grants to expand access. For example, he said cities will have to be efficient in how they use their allocation from the $62 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Act designed to help local governments improve connectivity.

    “Our next wave of innovation will be enabled by broadband. Whenever you have a new technology that connects people, companies will take advantage of that to provide services that benefit people in their daily lives,” Witkowski said. “But of course that leads to the challenge of how do you get it to everybody?”

    Lloyd said broadband internet access is the “most inequitable infrastructure in the country.” And in the Silicon Valley, where tech is king, broadband is more important than ever.

    He said San Jose has been a great example of expanding its connectivity. In 2016, the city launched its first inclusion broadband strategy which found that 1/10 of San Jose lacked 1.5 megabit per second or faster connectivity — meaning thousands of residents could not stream, upload documents or join online meetings. American Community Survey data showed more than 100,000 San Jose residents lacked a broadband internet subscription as of 2019.

    San Jose invested millions in expanding digital services through the Digital Inclusion Expenditure Plan. About $3.5 million went to the hotspot partnership with AT&T. The city also spent millions to provide internet in school districts like East Side Union High School District which connected more than 160,000 people with Wi-Fi.

    “We are starting to see a model where this (type of partnership)is truly starting to emerge,” Nafshi said. “We are looking forward to continuing with these partnerships. It’s really exciting.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

    Leave a Reply