Portland is currently developing a new Comprehensive Plan, only the second full plan in our history (the first was in 1980 – in the last century!). You can learn about the update project and play with an innovative tool – the map app (where you can make comments on the geographic aspects of the plan).
The plan has the traditional elements: land use, transportation, sewers, water lines, parks, etc.
But this is a new century, and I’m concerned that the world we live in now needs some plan components that we don’t have: open data and broadband.
Our city is a collaborative effort of citizens, businesses, non-profits and a host of government agencies. The collaboration can only work better when data is shared among the partners. Portland recognized this in 2009, becoming one of the first cities in the country to adopt an open data resolution, and ran a competition for applications using the data sets that were released at the time. But a resolution is only an aspiration, and the effort has waned a bit since that time. Some data sets have been updated, but others have not, and we’d love to see a lot more.
I think the Comprehensive Plan is an excellent opportunity to make this official city policy (and law) rather than just an aspiration. Can we make every new City IT system produce open data (subject to reasonable exceptions based on privacy, security and cost)? Can we make all that data available on a license-free, redistributable and machine-readable way? I think Portland is the kind of city that can do that!
Internet connectivity is a critical factor for economic competitiveness and educational attainment, but the United States lags seriously. Our households have slower access – and pay more for it – than countries in Europe and Asia. Portland currently stands 200th on the global list of cities for access speeds. And the connectivity we do have is not evenly distributed across the city. This is a key equity issue! Atlantic Cities did an interesting set of maps of adoption by neighborhood in a number of cities, including Portland.
CenturyLink has just begun offering Gigabit (50 times the current rates of connectivity) service in some neighborhoods of Portland. And the City is working hard to recruit Google Fiber. But neither offer the assurance of universal service.
I would suggest that a policy of affordable and universally available broadband connectivity is every bit as important to include in the Comp Plan as water and sewer lines. This goal from Portland’s Broadband Strategic Plan might be a good candidate:
“Eliminate broadband capacity, equity, access and affordability gaps so Portland achieves near universal adoption of broadband services for all residents, small businesses and community-based organizations.”
Feel free to discuss these ideas (and suggest details for the policies) here. But if you feel like it’s important for the City to include something about these policies in the Plan, I’d suggest you comment formally. You can attend any one of the four public hearings this fall (the first on September 23rd) or you can send written testimony to the Planning and Sustainability Commission at email@example.com.