Community Broadband Awards

The Intelligent Community Forum just announced their Top Seven Communities of 2009. They have all made it past the arduous International screening and are now in the running for the Top Community of 2009, which is announced in early summer.

The winners so far are:

  • Bristol, Virginia, USA. As a first time honoree, Bristol made an impact after taking on incumbent telcos in court and the state legislature to win the right to deploy a fiber network called OptiNet. Conceived as a backbone serving government and schools, OptiNet has grown into a fiber-to-the-premises network for business and residents in Bristol and four neighboring counties. It has also attracted more than $50 million in private investment, including the region’s first technology employers, and improved rural education and healthcare by connecting local providers to leading institutions.
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands. The Eindhoven metropolitan area (a 2008 Smart21) has long been the industrial heart of the Netherlands. Through a public-private collaboration called Brainport, the region is ramping up its knowledge economy to maintain and accelerate growth in a hyper-competitive global market, while at the same time coping with an aging population and shrinking workforce. Among more than 40 public-private projects are an award-winning coop that has brought FTTP and a broadband culture of use to the suburb of Neunen, and the SKOOL outsourced IT management system for public schools.
  • Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. For most of its history, government and education were the economic mainstays of Fredericton (a 2008 Top Seven). When it could not get broadband from the private sector, Fredericton founded the e-Novations coop, which deployed a fiber ring that spurred competition, giving the city a 70% penetration rate at speeds of up to 18 Mbps. The next step was the Fred-eZone wireless network, which provides free WiFi service across 65% of the city. The combination of broadband, entrepreneurship and Fredericton’s universities has powered the creation of over 12,000 jobs.
  • Issy-les-Moulineaux, France. Issy-les-Moulineax (a 2006 Top Seven) became the industrial zone of Paris in the early 20th Century only to suffer de-industrialization in the post-war years. Beginning in 1980, a visionary mayor focused policy on creating an innovative, IT-based knowledge economy, implementing e-government, outsourcing IT needs, and taking advantage of liberalization to attract competitive fiber carriers deploying cost-effective broadband. Public-private innovation includes a cyber-kindergarten for children, cyber tearooms for older citizens, citizen e-participation in decision-making, a successful business incubator and ICT-based real estate projects.
  • Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Twenty years ago, the Moncton region was a former railroad and industrial hub facing a doubtful future. Since then, this bilingual community has become a major Canadian customer contact and back office center, and built a “near-shore” IT outsourcing industry. Private-sector carriers have collaborated in the city’s growth as a telecom-centric economy, and helped power the addition of 20,000 new jobs since the early 1990s.
  • Stockholm, Sweden. In the mid-90s, Stockholm, the economic and political capital of Sweden, established a company called Stokab to build an open-access fiber network. Today, the 4,500 km network connects more than 90 competing service providers to government and business customers. Though the city already has a 98% broadband penetration rate, Stokab will also provide FTTP access to over 95,000 low-income households in public housing by the end of 2009. Stockholm also manages KISTA Science City, housing more than 1,400 companies, plus a support program for start-up and early-stage companies.
  • Tallinn, Estonia. Three-time Top Seven community Tallinn has risen from post-Soviet economic ruin to become an economic tiger largely on the strength of ICT. Making creative use of people and funding, Tallinn computerized its schools and deployed widespread WiFi as well as nearly 700 public access kiosks. The city also developed a large-scale digital skills training program, extensive e-government, and an award-winning smart ID card. Through partnerships, it developed high-tech parks including Ulemiste City, Tallinn Technology Park and Cooperative Cyber Defence Center. Rated #2 worldwide for economic potential by the Financial Times, Tallinn is home to half of Estonia’s companies, which receive 77% of the country’s foreign direct investment.

And while its’ too late to be top ICF community of 2009 – the nominations are just opening to be the Last Mile Smart Community. They are looking for an extraordinary community that is deploying broadband to close the digital gap. Deadline for all nominations is March 15, 2009. The nomination/application looks very simple and as always I’m hoping to see Minnesota well represented.

This entry was posted in Conferences, Digital Divide by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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