32 Cities Back Municipal Broadband Initiative

Next Century Cities, an initiative billing itself as a bipartisan effort “dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband Internet for all communities," launched Monday  with 32 cities on board.

The coalition is banding together after two cities – Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., issued requests to the FCC to preempt state laws restricting their ability to provide broadband service. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled that he wants to use the FCC’s power to prempt what he believes are efforts by incumbent ISPs to block municipal broadband via advocating for those restrictive state laws. In response, a group of dozen Republican senators expressed concerns about Wheeler’s plan, holding that it’s a state's rights issue.

Next Century Cities, launched Monday at an event in Santa Monica that included a video message from Wheeler, said its partnership cities and their elected leaders are coming together to “recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit-level Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and connect residents to new opportunities.”

Next Century Cities said it will engage with and assist communities in developing and deploying next-generation broadband Internet, with participating cities agreeing to share information on what works and what does not.

Next Century Cities, set up as a project of New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity, notes on its Web site that it is supported by a group of donors that includes the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and Google.

Next Century Cities on Monday announced the following 32 cities as inaugural partners:

-Ammon, Idaho

-Auburn, Ind.

-Austin, Texas

-Boston, Mass.

-Centennial, Colo.

-Champaign, Ill.

-Chattanooga, Tenn.

-Clarksville, Tenn.

- Jackson, Tenn.

-Kansas City, Kan.

-Kansas City, Mo.

-Lafayette, La.

-Lexington, Ky.

-Leverett, Mass.

-Louisville, Ky.

-Montrose, Colo.

-Morristown, Tenn.

-Mount Vernon, Wash.

-Palo Alto, Calif.

-Ponca City, Okla.

-Portland, Ore.

-Raleigh, N.C.

-Rockport, Maine

-San Antonio, Texas

-Sandy, Ore.

-Santa Cruz County, Calif.

-Santa Monica, Calif.

-South Portland, Maine

-Urbana, Ill.

-Westminster, Md.

-Wilson, N.C.

-Winthrop, Minn.