Guest Post: Why the Gigabit City Summit Is Worth the Investment to Attend

By Aaron Deacon, KC Digital Drive   

We hope you will join  us in Kansas City January 13 - January 15 for the 2015 Gigabit City Summit.

No doubt about it, $699 is a daunting ticket price. When we set that price point for the Gigabit City Summit, we knew it could be an understandable barrier for cash-strapped city officials to attend yet another conference. I think it’s important to emphasize: We don’t want any cities who want to attend the Gigabit City Summit to be left out due to cost.

That said, the Summit is a good example of the community building projects we are all working on. On the one hand is the desire to share openly, to be accessible, and to help others succeed; on the other is the need to cover the costs of that work. After all, I’ve seen $30 million fiber builds that don’t reserve any of that budget for the hard work of making sure the infrastructure has community impact.

Our intent is more to deliver a low-cost, hands-on, outcome-driven workshop than a high-priced conference. Our ticket structure, with a low group price and an early bird rate, was designed to get communities working together. And we’ve had great response—major metros like Charlotte, Portland, and St. Louis, mid-size metros like Chattanooga and Provo, and more rural areas like southern Minnesota and Nevada City, Calif., will all send sizable delegations. (You can read more about how and why to put delegations together here.)

But if you’re not quite there, please reach out. We’ve been actively working with additional communities to find the right people and help form the right team to get their gigabit planning started the right way.

The Purpose of the Conference

Setting a community vision for gigabit fiber — for your tech adaptive city more broadly — is an oft-overlooked but critical part of the process. It’s the primary focus of the Summit. In Kansas City, it was the Playbook; in your city, it may be a roadmap, it may be a strategic plan. Chattanooga has one, Burlington, Vt., has one, and we think you’ll want one, too.

We want you to leave Kansas City in January not just with new friends and some new ideas, but some concrete work product and tangible next steps toward aligning stakeholders, setting a community vision, developing an engagement strategy, and empowering your city to provide the resources to make sure all this stuff gets done.

Fiber projects that are focused on the network build often don’t take the community activation part into account. Community visioning and engagement is real work that requires real resources.

So to get a bit more practical, here are a few ways to think about the budget:

• Use a different line item — don’t exhaust your conference budget here. We’ll make sure you walk away with a tangible work product to start your own community planning process.
• Build the cost into your fiber project (whether public or private) — you wouldn’t spend $10 million on product development and manufacturing without any marketing, user testing or strategic plan.
• Work with your ISP to sponsor your delegation — the network providers have a vested interest in communities who work together to make best use of their network; the Summit gives forward-thinking network operators a chance to be community leaders.
• Work with a foundation or community-oriented sponsor. Our strong hope is that delegations include more than just government officials. But it is difficult for community champions to afford conference attendance as individuals. The person who started the I Heart Gigabit Facebook page, who has been rallying the troops and beating the drum about the digital divide — that person should be included as well. Once you come up with a plan to use technology to improve your community, you’ll have plenty more projects to fund. You may as well have funders on board from the outset.
• And if all else fails, talk to us. We want to help you get here and join in this great work! Please drop us a line if it seems too difficult.

Look forward to seeing you in January!


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