Cities Must Ensure People-Focus for Implementing 5G, Broadband

Municipal modernization efforts, particularly when deploying emerging technologies like 5G and broadband, don’t come without challenges. For the city of San Jose, Calif., it’s about overcoming challenges that ensure the residents are not left behind.

During NextGov’s 5G Futures virtual event June 10, San Jose CIO Jordan Sun spoke about how the city is aiming to put the citizen first when it comes to broadband and 5G. Sun says that San Jose has been working to deploy 5G equitably and with that, there are two primary challenges.

“The challenge I think primarily is twofold. One is, are we still being equitable enough? Assuming that this is going to be the future standard for what everybody operates on in a data-intensive world when it comes [to] applications,” said Sun. “Two, are we being considerate enough of residents? And how do we address that and make sure that folks are happy with, you know where things are going, or at least content.”

In terms of broadband, the city has worked to connect 100,000 residents to its community Wi-Fi programs, with a goal of connecting 300,000 residents to the community Wi-Fi by the end of 2022.

“That’s the connectivity piece on the device side of things, we reduced the device gap for students from 67,000 before I joined the city in April 2020, down all the way to less than 6,000 now for students that have a student device parity of one to one match,” said Sun.

To build out programs like these, Sun says, it’s important for local governments to start thinking more like businesses, despite the negative connotation associated with that. Additionally, cities should be coming up with more novel ways to gain funds for these types of programs and rethink monetization efforts.

“Just a few weeks ago, I was on another call with another major investor that builds out broadband and especially macro networks, and they were saying like ‘wow, you know, this is the first time I’ve talked with a city where y’all are able to speak industry in a way that like I’m not talking to a government bureaucrat, that I feel like I’m talking to a counterpart and they understand me,’” said Sun. “And I think having that level of empathy is important because then we can have logical conversations about what needs to be solved and be focused on the outcomes of equity versus just missing each other.”

Jordan Smith
About Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.