Speakers


Dr. Anthony Townsend is an internationally-recognized expert on urbanization and digital technology. He is the founder of Bits and Atoms, a smart cities strategy consultancy and planning studio that works with industry, government and philanthropy on economic development, digital placemaking, and strategic technology forecasting. His first book, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for A New Utopia was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2013. In 2001, Anthony co-founded NYCwireless, a pioneer in the community and municipal wireless movement. His first book, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for A New Utopia was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2013. Anthony holds a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in urban planning from New York University, and a B.A. in urban studies with a minor in physics from Rutgers University. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.


Angela Siefer envisions a world in which all members of society have the skills and the resources to use the Internet for the betterment of themselves and their communities. She is the Founder and Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, a unified national voice for local technology training, home broadband access and public broadband access programs. Angela has been working on digital inclusion issues since 1996. Beginning with a University of Toledo sociology graduate school assistantship coordinating a regional community technology network, Angela then moved onto serving as the Executive Director of the Ohio Community Computing Network distributing funds to and supporting community technology centers. Angela was involved with multiple projects of the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program of the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA plus researching and writing best practices for the NTIA Broadband Adoption Toolkit. A profile of her written work is at angelasiefer.com.


Gordon Feller is the Co-Founder of Meeting of the Minds, a global thought leadership network and knowledge-sharing platform focused on the future of sustainable cities, innovation and technology.

He serves as a consultant to Cisco focused on Internet of Things and Talent. Gordon has worked in the area of emerging technology for three decades, most recently consulting on projects which harness the power of data (whether in the cloud, pulled via mobile networks from IoT-enabled end-points, or other advanced technologies) for solving complex problems. From 2010-2016, Feller was the Director of Urban Innovation at Cisco Systems headquarters in Silicon Valley where he served in an executive capacity within the company’s programs focused on cities. Prior to joining Cisco, Feller was the CEO of Urban Age Institute, an international non-profit research and training organization which began inside the World Bank and spun off in 2001. For 30 years, Gordon has advised on economic and technology issues with leaders of multinational companies, cities, NGOs, foundations, and national governments. His clients have included The World Bank, UN, German and Canadian national governments, The Rockefeller Foundation, IBM, Reuters, Metropolis, United Cities & Local Governments, among others. Gordon advises leaders on harnessing the power of advanced technologies which can enable them to solve complex problems with a special focus on practical solutions where economics, technology, and sustainability intersect. Gordon’s work has had broad and deep impacts. He’s published hundreds of articles including in CFO Magazine, Urban Land Magazine, TIME, Financial Times. He was appointed as an Abe Fellow by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. He was formerly the Editor of Urban Age Magazine. Columbia University awarded him a Bachelors and a Masters (cum laude). At Columbia he served as a Lehman Fellow, a Wallach Fellow and a Dean’s Fellow. He serves as a Fellow at the Urban Sustainability Lab within the Smithsonian Institution’s Wilson Center.


Bob Bennett became the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, in January 2016. Bob is responsible for making Kansas City a Smart City through effective use of technology in both public and government business operations. Bob leads the deployment of Smart City infrastructure including public WiFi, digital kiosk installation and smart lighting programs. He led the city’s planning team in support of the DoT Smart Cities Challenge. A 25-year veteran of the US Army as both a senior troop commander and policy-level strategic planner, Bob has extensive experience working with big data and digital decision support systems.


Dominic Papa is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute for Digital Progress (iDP), a not-for-profit organization designed to transform Arizona into a global hub of Smart City/IoT technology driven by collaborative civic innovation.

iDP’s Smart & Connected AZ Council provides cities with an “Innovation as a Service”(IaaS) model, a platform that allows local governments and the private sector to collaboratively design and develop new innovative technology pilots that advance solutions to public challenges, have a measurable impact, and the potential to scale. This multi-party innovation process generates customized technology solutions to solve specific city issues and real citizens’ needs. All without relying on city or agency budgets.

Dominic founded iDP after working for two years with the city of Phoenix. Prior to the city of Phoenix, he was at the Alliance for Innovation and ASU’s Center for Urban Innovation, where he worked hand in hand with city managers from across the county, helping them to challenge and transform their organizations in the midst of severe fiscal constraints. Dominic has a B.A. in Political Science and Italian, a M.A. in Public Administration, and is currently a J.D. candidate at Arizona State University.


Deb Socia is the Executive Director of Next Century Cities, a nonprofit that strives to support community leaders across the country as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet.  More than 150 cities strong, Next Century Cities is committed to celebrating city successes, demonstrating the value of truly high speed broadband, and elevating the importance of next generation broadband as essential infrastructure.

Prior to her role as the Executive Director of Next Century Cities, Deb was the Executive Director of the Tech Goes Home program whose mission is to ensure digital equity. Tech Goes Home provides training, hardware, and low cost Internet access to Boston residents and supported nearly 14,000 participants during Deb’s tenure.

Previously, Deb spent 32 years as an educator and administrator.  She was the founding principal of the award winning Lilla G. Frederick Middle School, a Boston Public School where she led the one-to-one laptop initiative.

Deb has been the recipient of many awards for her work, including recognition as the NATOA Community Broadband Hero in 2013, the 2013 Pathfinder Award from MassCUE (Mass Computer Using Educators), and the 2010 Leadership and Vision award from CRSTE (Capitol Region Society for Technology in Education).


Lev Gonick is an educator, technologists, and smart city architect. He has been teaching, working, and living on the Net for more than 25 years.

Lev Gonick is co-founder and CEO of OneCommunity, the award-winning non-profit organization enabling and celebrating innovation, collaboration, and productivity through next generation broadband networks and services throughout Northeast Ohio.

Lev was CIO at Case Western Reserve University from 2001-2013. He and his colleagues were internationally recognized for technology innovations in community engagement, learning spaces, next generation network projects, and organizational development. Lev’s innovations, including the Case Connection Zone catalyzed national projects, including US Ignite and Gig.U

Inside Business Magazine named Lev one of their Power 100 in 2015. In 2011 Government Technology awarded Lev one of their “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers in Public-Sector Innovation.”​ In the same year Crain’s Business Cleveland named Gonick one of its “10 Difference Makers”​ in Northeast Ohio and Broadband Properties honored him with their Cornerstone Award for “using fiber to build an inclusive society and empower individuals.”​ In 2010 he received recognition as “Visionary of the Year” from NATOA. Lev has been recognized by ComputerWorld as a Premier 100 IT leader and honored by CIO magazine with a CIO 100 Award.


Allen Meyer is co-founder and CEO of Sherpa Fiber LLC, a company dedicated to bringing high speed broadband services to communities across the United States. Sherpa Fiber is actively researching municipalities where it will build, own, and operate open network fiber networks that are then leased to city and county governments and wholesale providers. The goal of Sherpa Fiber’s model is to reduce the cost of entry into new markets for wholesale providers so these companies can increase revenue more quickly and cost-effectively while simultaneously increasing the service and provider choices for community businesses and residents.

Allen’s career in telecommunications spans more than 25 years back to the early days of cellular and paging systems and T1 data lines. Throughout this time, he has worked in various roles and actively worked with new technologies that continue to evolve. Prior to launching Sherpa Fiber, Allen most recently served as a key member of a telecom engineering firm working closely with dozens of carriers including a very large and visible initiative to deploy Gigabit to the Home networks to communities in multiple markets around the country.


Ken Hays’ professional career is a unique mix of real estate development and public affairs, beginning with four years as Assistant Chief of Protocol for the White House and the U.S. State Department, and leading most recently to rejoining his partners at Kinsey Probasco Hays.

As Protocol Chief, Mr. Hays coordinated visits by foreign leaders to the United States during the Carter administration. He then moved to the Democratic National Committee where he served as Finance Director. Mr. Hays returned to Tennessee in 1983 to accept a position as Executive Vice President for Solomon Development in Nashville.

In 1984, Mr. Hays moved back to his native Chattanooga to become a partner in the development firm of Leonard Kinsey & Associates. When Jon Kinsey was elected Mayor of Chattanooga in 1997, Mr. Hays joins him at City Hall, serving as Chief of Staff.

In 2000, Mr. Hays was named President of the RiverCity Company, Chattanooga’s downtown development company. During his four-year tenure, Mr. Hays helped revive the downtown residential market and he was instrumental in the design and development of Chattanooga’s $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Plan.

During the last three years Mr. Hays has served as part of a Leadership team in leveraging the assets of EPB’s Smart Grid and fiber deployment.

Mr. Hays has served on the boards of the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, the Fannie Mae Tennessee Advisory Council, the Hamilton County Industrial Development Board, the African-American Chamber of Commerce and the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority. Mr. Hays attended Auburn University and George Washington University, majoring in Public Affairs.


Jim Baller is president of the Baller Stokes & Lide, PC, a national law firm based in Washington, DC. He represents clients in a broad range of communications matters nationally and in more than 35 states. He is also the co-founder and president of the 450+ member Coalition for Local Internet Choice, which works to preserve and protect local decision-making on critical broadband infrastructure matters. The Fiber to the Home Council has observed that Jim is “widely recognized as the nation’s most experienced and knowledgeable attorney on public broadband matters.” The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors designated him its Member of the Year in 2001 and its first “Community Broadband Visionary of the Year” in 2007. In 2009, Ars Technica included Jim on its list of the 25 “Top Names in Tech Policy” and FiberToday honored him as its Person of the Year. In 2012, the FTTH Council presented him its Chairman’s Award “for his relentless promotion and pursuit of community broadband and of faster networks for everyone.” In 2014, SEATOA bestowed its Community Broadband Advocacy Award on Jim for “beating back (two years in a row) anti-municipal broadband legislation in Georgia.” In 2016, American Registry recognized him as one of “America’s Most Honored Professionals (Top 1%),” and in 2016 and 2017, Super Lawyers included him in its list of “Washington, DC Super Lawyers.” He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Cornell Law School.


Aaron Deacon is the founder and managing director of KC Digital Drive, a nonprofit civic organization with a mission to make Kansas City a digital leader. He works with mayors, entrepreneurs and civic leaders in Kansas City and around the world to help build ecosystems that connect infrastructure, emerging technology and social impact. He combines a high-level strategic approach with boots-on-the-ground project implementation and management in smart cities, civic tech, digital inclusion, digital health, and education.

Through KC Digital Drive, Aaron helps to lead the Code for KC Brigade, the Health Innovation Team, and the KC Coalition for Digital Inclusion. Aaron is a founder and producer of the Gigabit City Summit, an annual conference on how cities build value on technology infrastructure. He also leads Kansas City’s participation in a number of global initiatives including US Ignite, NIST’s Global City Teams Challenge, the IEEE Smart City Initiative and the MetroLab Network.

Aaron’s work in cities and technology began as an instrumental leader in helping Kansas City prepare to be the first market for Google Fiber. He created and led a variety of community engagement initiatives around broadband deployment, including Building the Gigabit City and Give Us a Gig. He continues to help cities develop community playbooks to take advantage of ultra high-speed broadband.

Prior to working in the civic sphere, Aaron honed his skills in innovation management, design thinking product development, strategic planning and qualitative and quantitative research as a consultant and project director for a variety of Fortune 500 clients. He is the founder and principal of the research and strategic planning firm Curiolab. He earned a master’s degree in social science from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Dallas, and taught high school Latin for two years in between.