The North Texas Innovation Alliance will share its broadband rollout experience in a new collaboration with Peachtree Corners, which has connected infrastructure know-how NTXIA can use.
Two of the country’s most recognized smart city initiatives announced a partnership, and they have set their sights on boosting broadband internet access as their first task.
The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA), a nonprofit consortium of nearly 30 municipalities, agencies, corporations and academic institutions around Dallas, joined with Peachtree Corners, Georgia, a 5G-powered smart city near Atlanta.
The collaboration will allow Peachtree Corners to “provide and receive support and learnings across innovation, sustainability and economic development,” the two parties said. Peachtree Corners is looking to learn from NTXIA about its efforts to help some of its members improve broadband connectivity in their communities. For its part, NTXIA will benefit from access to Peachtree Corners’ expertise on 5G and connected infrastructure.
Together, the partners are supporting the expansion of smart cities across the country.
NTXIA Executive Director Jennifer Sanders said the group, which first convened in December 2019, worked to bring together four of its member jurisdictions to publish a joint request for proposals to deploy broadband infrastructure across their communities. The idea, she said, was to create “efficiencies of scale” through cost savings and a simplified process for getting infrastructure in the ground.
Jurisdictions working together can help them all navigate sometimes complex processes, she said, and NTXIA members have already shared their expertise with others.
“Cities huge and small around the country have really reached out to them to learn,” Sanders said. “It doesn't matter that you're small … others can learn from that,” she said. Now that funding for broadband expansion is available, communities need to take advantage of each others’ experience so they can “spend this infrastructure money wisely and put this project together quickly.”
Peachtree Corners has been an early adopter of 5G and piloted the technology through several projects including a fully automated pedestrian crossing and signal preemption for autonomous vehicles. Assistant City Manager and Chief Technology Officer Brandon Branham said broadband expansion is one area where Peachtree Corners can learn from NTXIA, given that broadband rollout in Georgia has been “sparse” and “segmented” and needs greater collaboration between jurisdictions.
Peachtree Corners will also be learning from NTXIA how its member jurisdictions deployed infrastructure and how they determined residents’ and business’ internet needs, Branham said.
“They're a little more ahead of us than we are in that area,” he said. “So we’re leaning on that expertise … to help us because we're in the middle of that right now.”
Sanders said Peachtree Corners has done “such great work” in deploying 5G and using it to help with smart traffic management to try and alleviate congestion on its roads.
And Branham said upcoming “ideation sessions” will allow members of NTXIA and Peachtree Corners to discuss more common challenges or solutions.
Despite being in two different states, both Sanders and Branham said the two organizations have plenty of similarities. Peachtree Corners and NTXIA are just outside major metropolitan areas (Atlanta and Dallas) and deal with traffic congestion and commuters passing through on their way to work, as well as growing populations as more people move into their jurisdictions.
The regional broadband collaboration is critical, Sanders said. “I always say, as a resident, I don't care that I've crossed a county line, I want the traffic signals to work, I want emergency services to be able to respond if necessary and have that communication channel,” she said. “I think that's consistent for everyone. You just want things to work, you want to be safe.”
In the past, local governments would “tend to do things in silos,” but Branham said there is a greater sense of cooperation now, as evidenced by partnerships such as this. And despite previous, and additional, mistrust between the public and private sectors, conversations are starting to happen, he said.