City of Huntsville: Validating Plans for the Future

by Jessica Day

Many municipal communities are familiar with broadband internet connection. But another considered connection is fiber-optic. The reason that it is so often considered is because municipal fiber-to-the-home networks are better at delivering connectivity services to audio and video devices. Those bandwidth requirements are increasing at a rate of 40% per annum. Fiber is the conduit that can keep up with that demand.

Here in Berkeley they’ve been talking about it for a long time.

But talk is often all that happens in these towns. Fiber is expensive and the citizens seems happy enough. Well, the City of Huntsville, AL has a different approach.

In 2014, the City of Huntsville launched an 18-month comprehensive master urban planning initiative that would shape the future of Huntsville for decades to come. They began asking for citizen input in a variety of formats: surveys, focus groups, citizen academies and an online digital community called Imagine Huntsville.

One of the suggestions was for a municipal fiber-optic system. And although Huntsville was already considering it for their city, they were shocked when the idea rocketed to the top five ideas in the community. They realized in that moment that it was going to be hard to put off longer and in June of that same year, the City Council approved a resolution to hire a consultant for a fiber financial model and business plan. They began the process of delivering fiber to their citizens and the community that had rallied behind the idea was excited.

There’s something to be learned here, however, about citizen engagement. It’s not always for new ideas – sometimes it helps to validate and speed ideas that are already in the works. City of Huntsville does a great job of listening to and responding to its citizens, but no one knows that better than the citizens who are collaborating in the process of improving their home.  In this way the two groups of people are helping each other: the city employees are helping to provide services to their citizens, yes, but the citizens are also making it easier for employees to make a case for real change by giving them the data to back it up.

To learn more about the City of Huntsville and their citizen engagement initiative, download the case study here.


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Jessica DayJessica Day is a marketing and technology writer and editor for IdeaScale. She received her Masters in Writing from the University of Washington. Day also blogs about crowd-based innovation and idea management solutions at blog.ideascale.com.

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