NEW ORLEANS – Mayor LaToya Cantrell today was joined by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and James ‘Jim’ Reynolds, founders of JLC Infrastructure, in several New Orleans neighborhoods to announce the rollout of the Smart City Initiative. This program will deliver broadband connectivity and a host of Smart City solutions that include internet service, to promote economic development and bridge the digital divide in underserved communities.
“Since the beginning of my first term as Mayor, I have been laser-focused on bridging the digital divide in our city,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell, “This remains a priority of my administration and is another step in developing programs like our 2018 Digital Equity Initiative and Computer Donation and Recycle Program, to mobilize broadband connectivity to underserved communities. These initiatives ensure equitable access to affordable internet coupled with wraparound digital services for residents that do not have broadband access, and we are excited to partner with Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson and James ‘Jim’ Reynolds, founders of JLC Infrastructure, to continue the work started before the COVID-19 pandemic, and achieve our goal of building fiber infrastructure.”
Community leaders were provided an opportunity to hear about and discuss the Smart City Initiative at three locations including GW Carver High School located in the Florida/Desire neighborhood, Joe W. Brown Park Recreation Center in New Orleans East, and at the Abundant Life Tabernacle in the St. Roch neighborhood. The Cantrell Administration’s goal is to bring these services to three initial New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Commission Centers across the city: the Joe W. Brown Park Recreation Center in District E, the Milne Recreation Center in District D and the Treme Center in District C.
Many areas of the city lack the infrastructure necessary to provide high-speed internet services to residents. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the need for connectivity, forcing families and workers to rely on broadband to work and attend school virtually for an extended amount of time. The City estimates that up to 50 percent of the households in certain communities do not have internet access. Today’s announcement and tour of participating neighborhoods introduces an initiative to expand broadband access through an investment of new technology infrastructure that will provide digital equity and improve city services.
The initiative will reduce connectivity costs, generate new revenue, advance economic development, and enhance public safety through smart lighting, intelligent traffic management, smart water detection, and distribution of smart kiosks to deliver public information and city services. It includes the deployment of wireless and fiber infrastructure that addresses the digital divide and community needs through free services to the public.
“The City of New Orleans is committed to bridging the digital divide and building technology infrastructure for the next generation. To accomplish these goals, we are partnering with local and national leaders in Smart City development,” saidKimberly LaGrue, Chief Information Officer for the City of New Orleans. “We are proud to have JLC Infrastructure, a 100 percent minority-owned firm, Jacob’s Engineering and Qualcomm, come together with the City to build this much-needed infrastructure, provide affordable high-speed internet, and improve city services with Smart technologies for lighting, traffic, water management and more.”
This is the latest in Mayor Cantrell’s efforts to bring greater digital equity to New Orleans. In 2020, the City worked with Comp-U-Dopt, a nonprofit with a mission to provide technology access and education, to allocate hundreds of free, reconditioned computers for underserved youth. Additionally, through the City’s Computer Donation and Recycle Program, more than 300 computers were recycled from the Department of Sanitation, then refurbished and donated to residents. In 2018, Mayor Cantrell launched the Digital Equity Initiative.
“Digital equity has been at the forefront of the Cantrell Administration since day one.” saidJonathan Rhodes, Director, Mayor’s Office of Utilities. “We know that one in four students do not have access to the Internet at home, and there are places in our community where 30–50 percent of residents do not have internet at home. Mayor Cantrell believes that everyone should have access to high-speed internet in order to deliver digital equity and opportunity to all communities.”