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Cities cheer Obama's push for municipal broadband

Matt Hamblen | Jan. 19, 2015
Dozens of U.S. cities are cheering President Obama's proposal this week for the Federal Communications Commission to allow municipalities to provide their own Internet broadband services even in states that have banned such services.

Cooper said that state laws that restrict municipal broadband deployment are "antithetical to those FCC mandates because they enshrine barriers to investment by local governments." There is "ample" evidence that advanced broadband capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion, he added.

Some Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., government and private sector officials are worried that state laws limiting municipal broadband and related legislation could undermine a torrent of tech startup and related economic development activities in the Kansas City region.

Google Fiber helped kick off the renewed tech growth when it came to both cities in 2012. Kansas City, Mo., hopes to capitalize on the trend with construction of a two-mile streetcar line that will run through downtown neighborhoods dotted with tech startup office and meeting spaces as well as art galleries and restaurants.

Networking giant Cisco Systems is planning a smart cities project along the streetcar line complete with wireless sensors and kiosks connected to a fiber-optic cable network that will offer services to tourists, residents and businesses that Cisco hopes will become a model for other cities globally.

A push for tech startups in KC

On Wednesday, the nonprofit Downtown Council of Kansas City, Mo., announced a LaunchKC business competition to lure 10 tech startups to the city with $500,000 total in grants, free office space for 12 months in downtown startup spaces and mentorship programs.

Twenty finalists will attend the first annual Techweek Kansas City conference Sept. 14-20, where a panel of venture capitalists and enterpreneurs will pick the 10 winners.

The LaunchKC competition will focus on attracting startups in business verticals already found in the Kansas City area for advanced manufacturing, agriculture, animal health, big data, cloud services, data analytics, financial tech, health tech, mobile computing and real estate. There is also a robust sports culture in the region, which is home to the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs and other professional sports teams, as well as a sizable interest in stadium architecture that could inspire related startups to compete in LaunchKC, said Mike Hurd, director of marketing for the Downtown Council.

"The area is fortunately enjoying a renaissance and LaunchKC is an opportunity for us to be in the tech startup space," Hurd said. Applications will be taken March 31 to June 30 at the LaunchKC website.

 

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