Designed to Stimulate Investment in Citywide High-Speed Broadband-Enabling Networks
MEMPHIS, September 26, 2023 – As part of realizing Memphis 3.0 and Smart City priorities, Mayor Jim Strickland today introduced an Ordinance amendment to stimulate future investment in Memphis-wide high-speed broadband networks.
“Memphis can become one of the most connected cities in America, where every Memphian can participate in our digital society and economic opportunity benefits us all,” said Mayor Strickland. “Expanding our broadband networks will immediately transform communities throughout Memphis and equip the City to make Memphis more efficient for generations to come.
High-speed broadband is as essential as electricity, gas, or water, yet today too few Memphians have access to this fourth utility. Memphis’ median fixed broadband download speeds are currently amongst the slowest of any major city in the nation.1 Federal data suggests that at least 32,000 households do not subscribe to any internet services of any speed or technology, and local economic development planners estimate that more than 45 percent do not subscribe to broadband-speed wired services.2 Less than 25% of Memphis residents have access to best-in-class fiber internet.
The Ordinance amendment follows recommendations by CTC Energy and Technology, an independent consulting firm engaged by the City in 2020-2021 to assess and develop a strategy to improve equity in communications and reduce the digital divide, advance citywide economic development and support the City’s Smart Memphis Plan.
CTC’s analysis clearly identified the need for private investment in citywide high-speed fiber broadband” said Joanne Hovis, President of CTC Technology and Energy. “By introducing this amendment, the Strickland administration is making investment attractive for existing and new internet service providers and encouraging private investment in Memphis.”
CTC’s findings and recommendations include:
- Affordability and adoption of broadband services represent critical challenges for Memphis
- Internet use in Memphis is high, but many lower-income Memphians purchase tiers of service below the FCC’s definition of “broadband.” These low-speed, asymmetrical connections limit Memphians’ ability to take full advantage of the economic, educational, and healthcare opportunities that depend on higher-speed connections
- Nearly 90% of Memphians believe the city must help ensure that residents have access to affordable broadband and 95% agree that the city must ensure that students have access to affordable broadband
- Fiber optics is the preferred infrastructure for the City’s efforts given fiber’s longevity and capacity—effectively, the most capable communications medium in existence with a lifetime of decades and unlimited scalability
- A strategy of public-private collaboration to reduce the cost and risk to the City, while enabling private sector opportunity in Memphis. To do this, the City can use its funds, efforts, and assets to attract private capital to build and/or operate world-class communications infrastructure in Memphis
“This Ordinance amendment will make investing in city-wide fiber networks more economically feasible for telecoms companies and will offer residents more provider choice,” said Chandell Ryan, Chief Operating Officer, City of Memphis.
The Ordinance amendment introduces new permitting and fee requirements for telecommunications companies that ensure high-speed broadband availability in at least 60% of Memphis’ residential and business premises and 60% of low-income premises within the city.
The Ordinance amendment is designed to incentivize investment from existing and new broadband network providers.
About Memphis 3.0 and Smart City
Introduced by Mayor Strickland in 2017, Memphis 3.0 is a comprehensive plan that aims to transform Memphis into a more prosperous and inclusive city by guiding growth and policy for the next 20 years. The plan calls for redevelopment and reinvestment in anchor areas in the core city and neighborhoods, connectivity of people, jobs, businesses, and infrastructure, and expanding equity and opportunity to communities across the city. The plan’s Smart City strategy mobilizes and utilizes technology to support goals of connectivity, shared mobility, public safety, innovation, and quality of life. The plan aims to create and expand technology applications that allow employees and citizens to better access and improve City services; establishes municipal broadband as a public utility; expands free Wi-Fi to public spaces throughout the City; and develops innovative use of technology to address common issues.
About Memphis Broadband Assessment and Strategy
CTC was directed by the City, in collaboration with Memphis Tomorrow, to develop an assessment and strategy aimed at improving equity in communications infrastructure and reducing the digital divide. Over the course of 2020 and 2021, CTC evaluated Memphis broadband infrastructure and service gaps; surveyed households about the types of services to which they subscribe and use; developed a system-level design for a widespread fiber-to-the- premises network; and developed strategies and mechanisms for public- private collaboration between the City and potential private partners.