NCTA — The Internet & Television Association

Cable ISPs Are Powering Smart Communities Across America

Cable ISPs Are Powering Smart Communities Across America

phoenix smart community

The past few years has seen a surge in smart community projects across the U.S. In fact, it has been estimated that $124 billion will be spent in 2020 alone on these projects. As a new whitepaper explains, smart communities are those that employ IoT solutions to address community challenges and create new opportunities. With more of these projects popping up in urban, suburban, and rural regions, the report shares relevant partnership models and lessons to be gleaned by municipalities, hospitals, universities, and other entities that seek to best utilize smart community projects to improve services and quality of life for their populations. But the common denominator in those that have achieved the most success has been the power of a robust, reliable, and secure cable internet network. 

The 2020 report, "Cable Companies and Municipalities: Natural Smart Community Partners," demonstrates that cable internet service providers are well suited for smart community partnerships because they already possess the wired and wireless network infrastructure necessary to enable new applications, and to facilitate the large-scale deployments of connected IoT devices that a smart community project requires. These applications include solutions focused on better management of traffic, sanitation, and water usage, to name just a few of many examples for local governments. 

Other innovative solutions include the rendering of services for residents aging at home, distance education, and remote delivery of social services, all of which depend on the technology and connectivity in a smart home. Smart homes require ultra-fast internet speeds—the kind of speeds that a gigabit connection offers. Again, here is where the cable industry is uniquely positioned to advance the objectives of smart communities. As of the end of 2019, 80% of households serviced by cable ISPs have gigabit services available to them, and efforts to further expand gigabit offerings are ongoing. And in the works is the industry's initiative to deploy the 10G platform to households nationwide, which promises to ramp up 1 gigabit offerings to speeds of 10 gigabits per second, as well as to bring lower latency and greater security. 10G networks will be essential to powering next generation technology in the home, including virtual and augmented reality. 

Smart community projects that are helping communities thrive include those involved in the U.S. Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities initiative, and which cable ISPs have played a large role. U.S. Ignite was responsible for first launching the smart city movement with the National Science Foundation in 2015. Cox, Comcast, and Charter have supported these projects in various cities. In Phoenix, Cox helped to host hackathons to explore and select app ideas to fund and develop. Earlier this year, Comcast started working with U.S. Ignite to address public challenges that people in Philadelphia are facing, through the implementation of smart technology. And in St. Petersburg, Fla., Charter is providing technologies such as wireless point-to-point connectivity to enable smart lighting systems and pedestrian and traffic safety in the city, and underwater equipment like HD cameras and drones to open up new learning opportunities in the marine life sciences for a local Boys and Girls Club.


As the report points out, new players in the smart community space have emerged, including real estate developers interested in deploying smart amenities for new developments such as in apartment buildings and arenas. In Fargo, N.D., Midco has partnered with the Kilbourne Group to provide a managed Wi-Fi solution for a new apartment complex. Midco's services not only give tenants access to seamless connectivity, but also a team of technical support experts who are ready to help residents anytime any issues come up. Then in the City of Coralville, Iowa, Mediacom has helped to sponsor a new arena that will serve as an entertainment venue and cultural centerpiece for residents and visitors. The ISP is also providing media assets and state of the art broadband and Wi-Fi technology for the facility. 

Another important factor for entities to consider in establishing smart communities is the ability to utilize Low Power Wide Area networks [LoRa], which support a range of smarty city and IoT applications through the usage of unlicensed spectrum. LoRa supports low-bandwidth applications, uses low levels of power consumption, and can be very cost effective. Comcast and Cox are currently offering organizations and municipalities access to these wireless IoT platforms through their IoT business units, and are making possible the rapid deployment of projects through these cost-effective means. In Atlanta, Comcast has installed its MachineQ Gateway, which uses LoRa technology to help the city more effectively manage its trash overflow challenges. Cox2M has also partnered with Arizona State University, where it is creating a collaboratory to engage the university population in coming up with IoT solutions, and to make available the tools needed to provide new learning experiences and to enhance the quality of life for people in the region. 

Given the success that cable operators have demonstrated in supporting smart community projects through the use of LoRA solutions, there is no need for communities to wait for 5G, or for other wireless networks to be deployed. 

As important as the robust networks they provide, cable ISPs are very much ingrained in community life through their partnerships with schools, community organizations, and daily interactions with customers. They have a stake in the success and livability of the communities they serve, which gives them all the more motivation to make smart community initiatives as successful as possible. 

Cable ISPs are more than ready to deliver their networks, expertise, and resources to support smart communities. The tremendous investment that the cable industry has poured into expanding its networks, and the benefits that small towns and cities across the country have received from their high-speed networks, make cable ISPs the ultimate partner to ensuring the vitality of smart communities, and to solving the complex challenges that cities, hospitals, universities, utilities, and real estate developers all face.  

To learn more about the report's findings and recommendations, read the report here.