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'Smart city' broadband pitch targets Natchitoches and Lafayette

A New York think tank that advises communities on how to use technology to grow their economies will conduct two workshops in Natchitoches and Lafayette. The Intelligent Community Forumwill be consulting with state agencies, politicians and business leaders on how to maximize broadband use. Robert Bell, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, said Louisiana lags behind in adopting broadband, and his organization aims to change that through these workshops.

“Our work really consists of finding the communities around the world that are doing this best, and sharing their stories, strategies, and ideas for how to get to a broadband future with everyone else," Bell said.

The Intelligent Community Forum has worked with 120 communities worldwide to help them embrace technology. Bell said he’s seen transformational change in small cities like Bristol, Va., that boasts one of the most advanced broadband networks in the nation. Louisiana residents rank in the bottom 10 of all states in how they use the Internet. Bell hopes to demonstrate to municipalities that broadband needs to be a core service, and not just a side perk.

“If broadband were just about watching cute cat videos on YouTube, I’d say absolutely right [not a priority]. But increasingly broadband is how our economy runs. So, if you want to be included in that economy, you  have to get on board. It’s very much like a road," Bell said.

The workshop in Natchitoches will be held Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Landing Restaurant with an icebreaker reception planned for Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. at the same location. The Lafayette workshop is planned for Oct. 10. The consulting is funded through grants from the 2009 federal stimulus.