Next Century Cities



Washington, DC

Project of:

New Venture Fund


Francella Ochillo

Fiscal Sponsor:

New Venture Fund




Digital and Telecommunications Policy Advocacy

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Next Century Cities (NCC) advocates for expanding high-speed broadband internet access within communities and for shrinking the “digital divide.” NCC is a project of New Venture Fund, a funding and fiscal sponsorship nonprofit managed by left-leaning consulting firm Arabella Advisors. 1

NCC Core Principles

Next Century Cities has about 214 “member cities” in 30 states that have agreed to the group’s “core principles.” 2 NCC argues that reliable, affordable high-speed internet access is “critical infrastructure” and that providing such access to businesses, schools, and residents is a non-partisan issue and should be a top priority for state and local governments. 3

NCC advocates for community self-determination “to consider all potential broadband solutions—whether public, nonprofit, corporate, or some other hybrid—free from interference,” and advocates for competition among broadband providers. 4

Advocacy and Activities

Much of Next Century Cities’ advocacy work has focused on the “digital divide,” the alleged gap in access to broadband services between urban/suburban and rural communities, and between the wealthy and the poor. In joint comments with the liberal advocacy groups Public Knowledge and Common Cause, NCC criticized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), saying that its actions, including rolling back so-called “net neutrality” rules, have “served to widen the digital divide, particularly for rural and low-income Americans,” and that the agency has overstated the deployment of broadband service nationwide. NCC also called for an increase in the national broadband standard from 25 megabits per second (mbps) to 100 mbps. 5

NCC was critical of a 2016 decision by the FCC to pre-empt state and local laws expanding broadband networks, which put at risk state-based grant programs and legislative efforts to expand broadband access. The FCC pre-emption decision was eventually upheld by a federal appeals court. 6

In 2019, NCC was a supporter of the Digital Equity Act, legislation co-sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Patty Murray (D-WA). The bill would have created $240 million in annual grant programs to fund the creation and implementation of “comprehensive digital equity plans” to reduce the digital divide by states, as well as to support digital equity projects in local communities. 7 The bill was referred to a Senate committee and not advanced. 8

NCC opposed the merger of cellular providers T-Mobile and Sprint, arguing that the proposed merger would harm rural cell phone users and reduce wireless competition. 9 That merger was eventually approved by federal regulators and completed in April 2020. 10

In preparation for the 2020 Census — the first Census that will permit online responses — NCC has published a toolkit for communities that have limited broadband access on how to create “Census kiosks” that permit residents to fill out and return Census forms digitally. The group has also partnered with broadband providers to develop best practices for data security related to the Census. 11

In 2016, NCC was a founding partner of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Committee, which supports legislation and federal efforts to expand broadband access nationally. 12


NCC has received support from left-leaning foundations and donors. The group received a total of $1 million in support in 2016 and 2018 from the Open Society Foundations, the network of philanthropies associated with liberal financier George Soros. 13 Additionally, NCC received a $250,000 grant in 2018 from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, another Soros-affiliated grant maker. 14 NCC has also received more than $1.6 million in support from the Ford Foundation since 2014. 15 In 2015, the left-leaning foundation of eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, the Democracy Fund, pledged $350,000 to NCC. 16

NCC has also received support from Google, Google Fiber (a broadband internet service Google is deploying in multiple cities nationwide), Facebook, and AdTran, which makes telecommunications networking equipment and products. 17


  1. “Next Century Cities.” Democracy Fund. Accessed May 18, 2020.
  2. “Members.” Next Century Cities. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  3. “Next Century Cities Principles.” Next Century Cities. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  4. “Next Century Cities Principles.” Next Century Cities. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  5. “Parties Offer Views on Advanced Telecom Deployment.” Telecommunications Reports International States News Wire. Nov. 26, 2019. Accessed on Westlaw May 19, 2020.
  6. Cecilia Kang. “Bypass on the information highway.” International New York Times. August 30, 2016. Accessed on Westlaw (2016 WLNR 26310538) May 19, 2020.
  7. “Senate Democrats Introduce New Legislation to Tackle Nationwide Digital Equity Gap.” Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. April 11, 2019. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  8. “S.1167 – Digital Equity Act of 2019.” Accessed May 19, 2020.
  9. “T-Mobile Sprint Merger Opposition: Broadband Associations, Others Say It Will Harm Rural Areas.” Telecompetitor. April 25, 2019. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  10. Edmund Lee. “T-Mobile Closes Merger With Sprint, and a Wireless Giant Is Born.” New York Times. April 1, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  11. “Industry, Other Stakeholders Seek Online Census Participation.” Communications Daily. Jan. 14, 2020. Accessed on Westlaw (2020 WLNR 1535088) May 19, 2020.
  12. “Next Century Cities Teams Up With Senate Broadband Caucus.” CivSourceOnline. July 12, 2016.
  13. “Awarded Grants.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  14. Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), Foundation to Promote Open Society, 2020, Part XV.
  15. “Grants Database.” Ford Foundation. Accessed May 19, 2020.
  16. “Next Century Cities.” Democracy Fund. Accessed May 18, 2020.
  17. “Supporters.” Next Century Cities. Accessed May 19, 2020.
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Next Century Cities

1200 18th Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC