Sen. Cantwell and Rep. DelBene seek $220M/year in federal funding for ‘smart city’ programs

By:  Monica Kickelsburg
Source: GeekWire

A new bill introduced by Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Suzan DelBene would set aside $220 million a year in federal funding to help local governments implement smart city technology over five years. “Smart,” in this case, is a blanket term for internet-connected, data-collecting devices for city services like utilities, transportation, and public safety.

The earmarked funds would toward programs like equipping public pipes with leak detection technology to reduce water waste, or implementing streetlights that allow transportation authorities to monitor traffic conditions.

DelBene’s office is holding up the following examples of existing programs that could be replicated in other cities with help from the bill:

  • The City of Spokane is partnering with Itron and Washington State University, among others, to install smart streetlights equipped with air quality sensors to save in energy costs while improving both the safety and the health of urban residents.
  • Chattanooga’s smart grid and citywide gigabit Internet service had resulted in at least 2,800 new jobs and added $865.3 million to the local economy while reducing power outages and attracting new businesses with better internet services.
  • The City of Seattle is partnering with the University of Washington and Argonne National Laboratory to deploy an array of sensors across the city to improve hyper-local weather forecasting to reduce flash flooding.

The initiative could face some opposition from rural communities concerned that cities will disproportionately benefit from the federal assistance but the bill’s authors believe a rising tide will lift all boats.

“Urban areas serve as proving grounds for smart city projects, demonstrating value and reducing costs at scale, but communities of all sizes will benefit from smart technologies and systems,” a one-pager associated with the bill reads.

Rep. Ray Luján, of New Mexico, co-sponsored the bill, titled the Smart Cities and Communities Act of 2017. It was written with input from cities and IT and telecom companies across the country. In addition to funding, the bill pledges to provide federal assistance and resources to local governments to help them implement smart city systems.

“We can’t afford to replace aging infrastructure with anything but smart infrastructure, and our bill does just that,” Cantwell said in a statement. “The bill makes this technology accessible to local governments so they can make smart investments that attract businesses, create jobs, and improve critical infrastructure while boosting services, livability and the health of residents.”