Building the Gigabit City Workshop by Craig Settles
“Your community may not need a gigabit network. Yet. What they need, what much of the United States needs, is faster Internet access that enables businesses to communicate faster and more effectively so that a bakery or dress shop in small town Ottumwa, IA can be a player in the national or even international market.”
From the very beginning of his newly published book, Building the Gigabit City, Craig makes it clear that his mission is to enable cities to connect to the fastest broadband they need — not necessarily the fastest broadband they might want because other cities have it!
Craig and I have been kicking around the idea of a collaboration for several years. San Leandro Dark Fiber LLC’s efforts to expand the dark fiber network that is building Lit San Leandro to other cities in the East Bay gave us an idea: let’s invite municipal economic development, IT staff and their community members to a workshop in San Leandro. Our goal: to provide cities throughout Northern California the tools they need to make smart decisions about building fiber optic networks in their communities.
The result? On July 26th, in the San Leandro Public Library, representatives from the cities of San Leandro, Hayward, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Sacramento, Brentwood, the County of Alameda and the East Bay Broadband Consortium gathered for a full day to learn from Craig’s experiences gathered while traveling the U.S., meeting with broadband experts and creators of municipal broadband networks, and consulting with some of them.
The participants were greeted early in the morning by Mayor Stephen Cassidy and City Manager Chris Zapata, who both emphasized that the City of San Leandro’s sponsorship of Building The Gigabit City workshop exemplified the City of San Leandro’s commitment to innovation, collaboration and sharing best practices to ensure the economic vitality of the entire region.
Then we got to the heart of the matter: how can each city figure out what type of broadband it really needs? Craig’s advice to the group:
- Talk to your stakeholders. Educate. Learn. Assess their needs: now and 3-5 years out.
- Survey your stakeholders. Compile the data. Determine the potential Return On Investment (ROI). Get them excited!
- Assess possible business organization structure (how will the network be owned and operated?) and adopt a creative approach to financing options.
- Find the “One Thing” — the initial project that will unify stakeholders and create a notable, early “WIN” for the initiative.
Craig’s instruction style was engaging — once the questions started to flow, the group dug into their own experiences to share with the other participants. It quickly became clear that the importance of this type of training was not only the opportunity to receive insights into how to build an effective broadband network; the networking and learning from each other was equally important. Too often it is tempting for cities adjacent to each other to feel competition. The fact is — cities in the East Bay are all economically intertwined, we share similar assets and challenges, and the expanding broadband network being built by San Leandro Dark Fiber LLC will only make this connection more real!
The “One Thing” segment of the workshop was illustrated by the arrival of OSIsoft/San Leandro Dark Fiber/Lit San Leandro founder, Dr. Patrick Kennedy, and Lit San Leandro CEO Jim Morrison. Dr. Kennedy engaged the audience with a history of how the public/private partnership with the City of San Leandro to create the Lit San Leandro fiber optic network came about. How the “one thing” that led to creating the network was OSIsoft’s need for access to lightning fast speeds afforded by fiber optic or the company would have to leave San Leandro. How this motivated City staff and leadership to develop and execute a License Agreement that enabled creation of the fiber optic network in record time!
The day ended on a positive note — there is not a single way to create an effective and robust broadband network. Some solutions will include existing internet service providers. Many will not. Craig presented an easily understood methodology for cities to get started.
The City of San Leandro will look for ways to continue and grow engagement among the cities that participated in this workshop and extend this to other cities in Northern California as well. It is likely that we will engage Craig to present a similar workshop sometime in early 2014, with the goal of inviting these original participants back to share what they’ve learned and to include new cities as well!
For more information on Craig Settles and his mission to help U.S. cities get the broadband they need:
- You can download a copy of Craig’s book by clicking here.
- Join Craig on his weekly internet talk radio show, Gigabit Nation. Craig Settles and guests discuss business strategies for putting broadband networks into place, as well as policy issues that affect community broadband.
- Listen to Craig’s recent interview with me, San Leandro’s CIO, where we discussed Broadband and the Road to Innovation via Lit San Leandro.