Blair Levin, the Architect of Our National Broadband Plan, Offers Advice to Westchester County Association and 4 Westchester Cities as They Plan for Gigabit Internet

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The WCA is with Yonkers, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Mount Vernon, in the nation's first multi-city bid to provide gigabit broadband to residents and businesses.

By taking the steps you have, you are at the forefront of all communities in delivering affordable, abundant bandwidth for your enterprises and residents.

Blair Levin, the nation’s foremost authority on broadband, spoke at a luncheon in Westchester County Nov. 10th, and painted a bright picture of what the county will gain from the gigabit broadband initiative recently launched by the Westchester County Association (WCA), the county’s preeminent business association, and four of the county’s cities. Levin is a voluntary advisor for the WCA’s Smart Growth Gigabit Broadband project.

The WCA is spearheading the project under its Blueprint for Smart Growth, which entered into a public-private partnership with Yonkers, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Mount Vernon in October, 2016 to bring gigabit broadband to every household, business, healthcare, and educational organization in those cities (and later beyond), and close the digital divide. This is the first such broadband compact between cities in the nation. The process is expected to take from three to five years.

Said Levin: “By taking the steps you have, you are at the forefront of all communities in delivering affordable, abundant bandwidth for your enterprises and residents... But take your time. This does not happen overnight. Even Google, one of the fastest movers on the planet, took years to build its networks. So you have to have a long-term perspective that includes a 3-5 year time horizon for planning and deploying the network.”

Levin is executive director of Gig.U: The Next Generation Network Innovation Project and a non-resident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution. In the first Obama administration, he oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan. He served as Chief of Staff for the head of the FCC under the Clinton administration.

In his address, Levin addressed four topics: the impact of next generation broadband, market forces, models to consider, and effective steps to expand the value of the gigabit ecosystem. He noted that gigabit broadband spurs economic growth and jobs. “The early gigabit adopters like Chattanooga and Kansas City are enjoying growth in entrepreneurial activity and jobs associated with their networks. A 2014 study showed that communities with widely available gigabit access enjoy per capita GDP that is 1.1 percent higher than those that have little or no gigabit services,“ he said, adding that gigabit broadband increases property values and lowers prices for broadband services. “When the prices go down, so does the digital divide,” he pointed out.

He also advised the WCA’s Broadband Committee to consider how policies and practices can affect the economics of deployment for potential broadband providers, which will weigh the cost-benefit of the project. “The fundamental trade off is between risk and control,” he said. “Remember, too, you are stronger together...by virtue of greater scale you will garner greater attention and greater options.”

Levin noted “there are many paths up the mountain...First, get everyone on; Second, use the platform to better deliver public goods and services; Third, help every enterprise to become a networked empowered enterprise; Fourth, make sure your network accommodates the next technology shifts.”

In closing, he offered this insight: “The kind of network that you envision will be the new table stakes for addressing both the challenges and opportunities of this century to build a better life for ourselves, our children, and the generations to follow....America will not be great if it does not have great broadband; and we will not get it if we do not work together.” A copy of Levin’s speech can be found at http://westchester.org/_img/resources/resource_1478897254.pdf. To view Levin’s presentation, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDLTX3kFPes.

“To attract someone of Blair Levin’s stature is a real coup for the Westchester County Association and its partners,” said William M. Mooney, Jr., President and CEO of the Westchester County Association. “As we embark on the three- to five-year process of bringing gigabit broadband to Westchester’s four largest cities (and beyond), his advice and counsel will be invaluable.”

ABOUT THE WESTCHESTER COUNTY ASSOCIATION

As the preeminent business leadership organization in Westchester County, the WCA is committed to business advocacy, economic vitality and to providing a strong and clear voice for the interests of businesses on the regional, state, and national levels. Its key objectives are to: drive economic vitality and development in Westchester and the region; stimulate new business creation; provide a strong and clear voice for the interests of businesses of all sizes on the regional, state, and national levels; and be an information resource center for its members. For more information, visit http://www.westchester.org

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Jeannie Ashford

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Remarks by Blair Levin