THE BLOG
02/23/2014 12:52 pm ET Updated Apr 25, 2014

FCC Can Free the Cities

The FCC's seeming willingness to challenge laws in 20 states that restrict city governments from offering broadband Internet services represents a huge potential opportunity.

FCC Chairman Wheeler knows well that the established players -- mostly the cable and Telco's -- have joined forces to routinely block any attempt any by a city to provide municipal Internet services. State legislators and other politicians have also told them the telecommunications business belongs to the private sector.

Most cities, therefore, already subsidized in some small way by a cable franchise or largesse of the local telephone monopoly -- are afraid to act or simply unaware of the stakes. This new thinking on the part of the FCC could free the cities.

In every study of importance, broadband Internet services are mentioned prominently. The argument that such infrastructures are the thing most of the nation's innovation today urgently need is something that all the studies seem to agree on.

Given the realignment of power in the world -- from nations to cities to individuals--what the city does or does not do can determine their community's success and survival, or its demise; and as such, will determine the nation's success or failure.

Some more progressive cities are already working with other nearby cities or their county to do joint governmental planning and development, and provide not only police, fire and safety services but land use, transportation and telecommunications systems as well.

This clearly makes sense since people already live in one jurisdiction, work in other, and play or dine in a third. More importantly, the new creative economy demands consolidation to save money, and a repositioning of the larger region itself to succeed in the new global economy.

Broadband, or high speed Internet service is a ripe for such joint planning, and as important as waterways, railways and highways were in an earlier era. Building a regional information infrastructure is vital.

According to the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., "the top 100 metropolitan areas covers about two thirds of the nation's population and an even larger share of the nation's gross domestic product." It is these "regional economies" that foster quality places, vibrant downtowns, attractive town centers and historic, older suburbs that feed the development and acquisition of human capital, financial capital and contribute to resource efficient, sustainable growth.

Not merging municipalities or at least jointly providing basic services, starting with broadband, puts the prowess of a region at risk. Cities are more important than ever in our nation's history as we enter headlong into a new age of creativity and innovation.

The city is and has been the crucible of civilization; the center of commerce, and in this new age, can and must be the incubator of creativity; the place where people and cultures and ideas wash against one another producing the inventions and innovations the world needs and wants, and the finance and marketing plans to support them.

The city, of all our geopolitical institutions, needs to reinvent itself for this new global age.