With an increased awareness of the importance of digital infrastructure many local councils are disillusioned by not having access to infrastructure such as FttH and smart grids. The organisations involved in the delivery of this are slow in upgrading their infrastructure since in many cases they will not be the recipients of the benefits derived from it. The benefits are social and economic and do not show up on the balance sheets of these companies. As this is essential national infrastructure strong leadership is needed to make it happen. Many countries are struggling with this situation as the incumbent operators have strong lobbying powers and are resisting change and expensive infrastructure upgrades.
The situation in the USA is perhaps the most dramatic, as the incumbents there are even able to force state governments to implement legislation that prevents cities from building their own digital infrastructure – this despite the fact that the Obama Administration and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) both developed policies aimed at encouraging municipalities to do just that.
In the Netherlands municipalities have been taking a very proactive role and have been working together with telecommunication companies and electricity utilities to build local networks. Remarkably, this has been most successful in regional and rural towns. More than one-third of the Dutch municipalities now have FttH networks in place.
In other countries – mainly in Scandinavia, but also in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal – telcos have been building local FttH networks. Most of Scandinavia now has nationwide FttH. Great progress has also been made in Eastern Europe, again mainly through leadership from telcos; Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovakia and many others now have a higher level of FttH penetration than many of the so-called western economies.
In the mid- and late 00s, Australia, with its plans to develop a nationwide FttH network, positioned itself as one of the global leaders. However this became a political football between conservative and progressive politicians and the whole project collapsed. The same thing happened with the nationwide plan for smart grids. Under pressure from incumbent utilities the conservative government that came into office in 2013 also cancelled this plan.
At the same time, on a local level we see many people continuing to do what makes sense for them. They install PVs; they oppose CSG and other fossil-fuel mining projects. They save energy; they continue to support projects such as FttH and wireless broadband; they use new e-health and education apps, internet services and wearable technologies.
Despite often counter-productive national policies we see many cities working towards the generation of renewable energy and net-zero plans in relation to carbon emission. Most new corporate buildings follow a similar trajectory and many businesses are now looking seriously into alternative energy plans, micro-grids and battery.
City-based infrastructure for LED street lighting, waste and water management, smart parking and other applications are all being implemented, and, by sharing infrastructure and linking it to Wi-Fi networks and the well-connected high-broadband, cities can start implementing their smart city concepts. Around the world we also see cities pursuing the concept of gigabit cities.
|A gigabit city is one where all residents and businesses have access to ultra-high-speed broadband of 1 gigabit per second (1Gb/s) or faster. This makes it easier for citizens to access the internet, and for businesses to thrive and expand. It is considered by many to be an essential component of smart city technology. Such networks are essential for modern healthcare, education, entertainment and business applications. It provides the city with social and economic capacity to create new jobs, to develop the digital economy, and to improve the lifestyle of its people. Chattanooga in the USA was the first fully-connected gigabit city in the world to offer 10Gb/s. Many other cities, such as Seattle, Chicago, Kansas City and Atlanta, are following in their footsteps.
At a more moderate level other cities, such as Adelaide in Australia for example, are by offering such a network to business users around the city.
Such ultra-high-speed networks allow cities to create intelligent city-based ICT platforms that cut across silos. Great efficiencies can be created and, supported by big data and data analytics across the silos, new services and applications can then be made available to the citizens. From here the broader community can be engaged and the city, as a platform, can be used for a range of add-on developments such as apps for the city. This opens up new opportunities, innovations and the development of new entrepreneurial small businesses, as well as new jobs, especially in the ‘sharing economy’.