Mike Bloomberg and Eric Schmidt Speak to City Leaders at Local Infrastructure Hub Convening
Bloomberg Philanthropies, in Partnership with National League of Cities, Results for America, and US Conference of Mayors Host Second Virtual Convening with 213 Cities
Bloomberg and Schmidt Urged City Leaders to Take Advantage of Infrastructure Funding to Expand Access to High-Speed Internet to Spur Economic Recovery
New York, NY – Bloomberg Philanthropies yesterday hosted the second virtual convening as part of the Local Infrastructure Hub: Support for U.S. Cities and Towns to Put Federal Funding to Work for Residents. The Hub is a national program to ensure that all cities and towns can access funding from the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to drive local recovery, improve communities, and deliver results for residents.
Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City, was joined yesterday by Eric Schmidt, Co-Founder, Schmidt Futures; Former Chairman & CEO, Google, to speak to the nearly 230 attendees, representing 213 cities and including 50 mayors. In addition, Andy Berke, Special Advisor for Broadband, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and Francella Ochillo, Executive Director of Next Century Cities, spoke to attendees about tapping into federal funding to achieve universal broadband access goals and digitally equitable outcomes.
Michael Bloomberg kicked off the convening by outlining how his administration tackled the digital divide, noting that, “in New York City, our administration worked to streamline the permitting process for broadband. We set new building standards that increased uptake of high-speed internet. We used city facilities to host broadband infrastructure, especially in areas that lacked conductivity. I’m glad to say that we were able to make a lot of progress.” He closed by acknowledging the many challenges mayors face today but encouraged them to tap into federal funding available to expand broadband access saying, “as you focus on the most immediate and urgent issues that face your city, don’t take your eye off the long-term projects that will set your city up for success in the decades to come. Expanding broadband access will help spur jobs and economic opportunity where they are needed most.”
Eric Schmidt said “the COVID-19 crisis accelerated the need for high-speed broadband access everywhere,” and urged city leaders to take advantage of the infrastructure funding available to bring broadband to rural and urban communities, and to use free resources like the National Broadband Resource Hub for help in doing so. He shared technical advice and encouraged city leaders to embrace fiber optic technology and build strong community and business partnerships in order to close the broadband access gap because “Fiber is your friend. The reason fiber is so important is that a single strand of fiber can carry all of the world’s information forever.” He closed by saying he could “think of no better use of [mayors’] time than using the internet and increasing access to promote the goods, people and ideas coming out of cities.”
Berke remarked on how transformational this opportunity is for cities, saying, “The President of the United States for the first time has said that every American will have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet. Traditionally, internet access has been thought of as a luxury but we are transforming this, not just with money, but in the way that we think about internet access as becoming one of those basic infrastructure items that everyone expects like access to clean water, electricity, and roads.”
Finally, Ochillo encouraged city leaders to collect data needed to “understand broadband gaps and be able to quantitatively and qualitatively explain how the lack of connectivity impacts their community.” She explained why local officials must be able to identify “where there are digital deserts, where there are the persistent barriers to adoption, and where barriers to affordability can make a live fiber line essentially unavailable.” Ochillo stressed that “it really is the first time that federal funding is being used for digital equity programs,” noting that “digital equity means something different in every single one of your municipalities.” She encouraged local officials to partner with community entities and encouraged them to apply directly to their state for digital equity grant funding because local governments “need community partners to ensure that broadband plans have longevity.”
The Local Infrastructure Hub website opened applications for technical assistance for small and mid-sized cities on August 12 and currently hosts several tools to help cities access the billions of dollars of federal funding now available. This includes the Opportunity Finder, a federal grant navigation tool powered by eCivis that allows cities to easily search for infrastructure grant opportunities and a Content Calendar for future convenings.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ballmer Group, Emerson Collective, Ford Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation have joined together and contributed $55 million to The Local Infrastructure Hub to help cities of all sizes capitalize on federal infrastructure funding.
The Hub is delivered by U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and Results for America. The National League of Cities will offer technical assistance to help small towns and mid-size cities develop strong applications to draw down on federal grants. The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Results for America will lead webinars to help cities identify the grant opportunities, get guidance about application criteria and timeframes, and learn about infrastructure innovations and best practices.
Organizations including the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, National Association of City Transportation Officials, African American Mayors Association, and the National Urban League will partner to contribute additional content, expertise, and support to communities. These organizations will help cities think ambitiously about how to spend these grants on opportunities to advance innovative solutions to problems that are increasingly urgent in American cities, especially narrowing racial wealth disparities and cutting the pollution that causes climate change.
U.S. cities of all sizes can access the Local Infrastructure Hub here.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 941 cities and 173 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.66 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Courtney Greenwald, email@example.com