Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021

Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 was held as a hybrid event at the Broadband Communities Summit.

Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021

Visit Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment page for an up-to-date listing about Digital Infrastructure Investment–Washington

Agenda for Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021

  • Introduction and Logistics for In-Person and Remote Attendees – Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast; Of Counsel, The CommLaw Group – 1:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. CT
  • Polling and In-Conference Interactivity Ben Kahn, Reporter, Broadband Breakfast – 1:10 p.m. ET / 12:10 p.m. CT
  • Explanatory Keynote: What is Digital Infrastructure Investment? Drew Clark – 1:15 p.m. ET / 12:15 p.m. CT
  • Topic 1: Infrastructure Investment Funds – 1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT
    • How will the Biden Administration’s broadband infrastructure package influence institutional investors? Will mergers and acquisitions accelerate in telecom?
    • Panelists:
      • Ryan Carr, Partner, MC Partners
      • Tom Coverick, Managing Director, Keybanc Capital Markets
      • Lindsay Miller, Partner, Ice Miller LLP
      • James Wagar, Partner, Frontbridge Capital
      • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast
  • Broadband Breakfast Presentation: Lit Communities – 2:20 p.m. ET / 1:20 p.m. CT
  • Topic 2: Last Mile Digital Infrastructure – 2:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. CT
    • Ownership models are evolving. Who will play the lead role in constructing? What entities, including cities, will own digital assets? Who will manage the networks?
    • Panelists:
      • Monica Webb, Senior Director, Market Development and Strategic Partnerships, Ting Internet
      • John Burchett, Head of Public Policy, Government and Community Relations, Google Access and Google Fiber
      • Carter Old, Co-founder, President and Chief Growth Officer, Tachus LLC
      • Ramiro Gonzalez, Director of Government and Community Affairs, City of Brownsville
      • Julie Wheeler, President Commissioner, York County, PA
      • Joan Engebretson (moderator), Executive Editor, Telecompetitor 
  • Broadband Breakfast Presentation: – 3:20 p.m. ET / 2:20 p.m. CT
  • Broadband Breakfast Presentation: Render Networks – 3:25 p.m. ET / 2:25 p.m. CT
  • Interactive Session with Broadband Breakfast and BroadbandNow – 3:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. CT
  • Break (15 minutes) – 3:45 p.m. ET / 2:45 p.m. CT
  • Topic 3: Public-Private Partnerships – 4:00 p.m. ET / 3:00 p.m. CT
    • Municipalities are becoming a leading voice in new digital infrastructure projects. How has their role changed the conversations around public-private partnerships?
    • Panelists:
      • Matt Schmit, Director, Illinois Office of Broadband
      • Chris Walker, Senior Executive Director of Infrastructure Strategy, Northwest Open Access Network
      • Nate Walowitz, Regional Broadband Program Director, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments
      • Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO, California Emerging Technology Fund
      • Chris Mitchell (moderator), Director, Community Broadband Networks Initiative
  • Broadband Breakfast Presentation: California Emerging Technology Fund – 4:50 p.m. ET / 3:50 p.m. CT
  • Broadband Breakfast Presentation: SiFi Networks – 4:55 p.m. ET / 3:55 p.m. CT
  • Broadband Breakfast Presentation: UTOPIA Fiber – 5:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. CT
  • Broadband Breakfast Presentation: Positron Access – 5:05 p.m. ET / 4:05 p.m. CT
  • Topic 4: The Future of Shared Infrastructure – 5:10 p.m. ET / 4:10 p.m. CT
    • Cellular towers were once proprietary, before carriers partnered with infrastructure owners. Will 5G deployment accelerate the deployment of shared real estate facilities?
    • Panelists:
      • Jonathan Adelstein, President and CEO, Wireless Industry Association 
      • C. Earl Peek, CPA, Founder and Managing Partner, Diamond Ventures and Peek, LLC
      • Deborah Simpier, Co-founder and CEO, Althea Networks
      • Mari Silbey (moderator),  Senior Director of Partnerships and Outreach, US Ignite
  • Conference Conclusion – 6:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. CT

Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 Sponsors:

Platinum Sponsors

Lit partners with municipal, county and other governmental entities, as well as a variety of private partners to deploy last-mile fiber optic network infrastructure. Residents and businesses connected to our networks will receive service from a local internet service provider that delivers a local brand and promise of great service and customer support. makes finding and winning broadband grants easy. Sign up at today at to line up for your share of $42 billion worth of broadband grant funding with a single application that unlocks grants in multiple states. Find underserved and unserved areas in your territory. Need match funding? No problem. Get on the fast track to funded with many sources of private money to choose from. Discover, apply, get match funding, and win grants. It’s really that simple.

Gold Sponsors

BroadbandNow is a data aggregation company helping millions of consumers find and compare local internet options. BroadbandNow’s database of providers, the largest in the U.S., delivers the highest-value guides consisting of comprehensive plans, prices and ratings for thousands of internet service providers.

Render Networks provides an entirely new approach to fiber deployment. Utilizing innovative geographic information systems (GIS), mobile and automation technology, Render’s platform and data management enable network operators, engineers and builders to deliver quality networks without the need for manual, paper-based construction packs. Render uses real-time geospatial data to provide increased control and visibility, resulting in significant resource productivity across the delivery lifecycle.

Silver Sponsors

SiFi funds, builds and owns FiberCity™ networks for use by Internet Service Providers, 4G/5G carriers and other service providers wishing to deliver ubiquitous high-speed broadband services to business and residential properties as well as connectivity for city-wide Internet of Things applications.

Created by a group of Utah cities, the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) is a community-owned fiber optic network that uses the Open Access model to promote competition by giving customers the freedom to choose which telecommunication services they want.

Positron Access specializes in carrier-grade telecommunications products that increase bandwidth delivered and the distance covered within both core access networks and residential buildings using existing wiring infrastructure. These include line powered digital subscriber line amplifiers/extenders that double the customer serving areas and increase the bandwidth, Gigabit Access Mulitplexors (GAM) that provide managed non-blocking symmetrical gigabit bandwidth to subscribers in multiple-dwelling units/multi-tenant units over copper pairs or coaxial cables; and bonded copper solutions for mobile backhaul, core transport, access and edge aggregation.

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has been on a mission over the last decade to forge partnerships and foster public policy to close the Digital Divide. This work has been strategically-focused, results-oriented, and people-centered. CETF is a leading proponent of the Digital Equity Bill of Rights

Photos and Bios of Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 Speakers

Topic 1: Infrastructure Investment Funds

James Wagar is a partner with Frontbridge Capital, in addition to serving as a Managing Director for Thomas Capital Group, and a Partner with Alpine Pacific Capital. He is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University where he received his BBA in Finance. James has experience in myriad areas including venture capital, private real estate, buyouts, and growth equity.

Tom Coverick serves as the managing director for Keybanc Capital Markets, working with their public sector division. Tom has extensive experience in municipal broadband and public finance in the Midwest, Southwest, and Northeast. Tom has worked for broadband initiatives such as UTOPIA Fiber, the Utah Infrastructure Agency, and MINet.

Ryan Carr is a Partner at M/C Partners, where he leads origination, deal diligence and portfolio company support for investments for broadband infrastructure and technology services segments. He serves on the Board of BAI Connect, Everywhere Wireless and Denovo and previously was on the Board of Thrive Networks, as recapitalized by Court Square. Prior to joining M/C Partners, he worked at MVP Capital, a telecommunications, media and technology focused boutique investment bank, where he completed a number of financing and M&A transactions in wireless communications and infrastructure, fiber infrastructure and media sectors and previously worked as a certified public accountant in the energy and telecommunications sectors of KPMG.

Lindsay Miller is a partner at the law firm Ice Miller LLP and is a member of the Public Affairs and Government Law Groups. With nearly 15 years of experience in broadband and telecommunications initiatives, Lindsay is a strong advocate for building relationships with public and private sector stakeholders. She regularly advises municipalities on how to utilize Public-Private Partnerships for fiber and wireless expansion to build smarter cities and leverage the Internet of Things.

Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. He has also worked with cities on structuring Public-Private Partnerships for better broadband access for their communities. As a journalist, Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband, and – building off his work with Broadband Census – was appointed Executive Director of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois under Gov. Pat Quinn. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

Topic 2: Last Mile Digital Infrastructure

Monica Webb serves as the senior director of market development & strategic partnerships and oversees the expansion into new internet markets for Ting; whether by building FTTP networks, acquiring businesses, or through partnerships with network infrastructure owners, both municipal and private. Additionally, she direct Ting’s government affairs strategy in local markets.

John Burchett is the Head of Public Policy, Government and Community Relations for Google Access and Google Fiber. Before moving to Access/Fiber in 2016, Mr. Burchett led the public policy for Google in the US States, Latin America and Canada since 2007. Prior to joining Google, he was Chief of Staff to Governor Jennifer Granholm where he acted as the Chief Operating Officer for the State of Michigan.

Carter Old is Co-founder, President and Chief Growth Officer of Tachus LLC, one of the fastest-growing privately-held FTTH companies in Texas. He has a background as a co-founder in tech-focused startups, namely OmniEarth Inc. which sold to EagleView in 2017, and as an investment banker at Fieldstone Partners, where he co-led the Space and Ground Infrastructure finance group. Before joining the private sector, he also served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy.

Ramiro Gonzalez was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, moved to Washington, D.C. to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from George Washington University. After moving home and discovering that urban planning was his passion, he continued his education at the University of Texas-Austin School of Architecture where he received a Masters of Science in Community and Regional Planning. In the Fall of 2009, Ramiro received the opportunity to move back to Brownsville, Texas and begin his career as a Planner. Since then, Ramiro has had the opportunity to work on a variety of initiatives for the City of Brownsville that include the creation of a Master Hike and Bike Plan, Downtown Revitalization Plan and Implementation, Market Square Revitalization Project, Façade Improvement Program and much more. He continues his work now in a different role as Director of Government and Community Affairs, where he manages all external relations and partnerships to the City and continues to manage special projects of significance including the Cannery Public Market Project and the Battlefield Extension Project for the City.

Julie Wheeler was elected to her first term on the York County Board of Commissioners in 2019. Julie grew up in York County and graduated from Dallastown Area High School. She earned a degree in biology from Randolph–Macon Woman’s College. She brings extensive business acumen. She started her career at Adhesives Research, and then went on to work for General Electric, where she most recently served as the General Manager for a medical device business.

Joan Engebretson (moderator) Joan Engebretson has been writing about technology and telecommunications since 1992. She is currently executive editor for Telecompetitor, a news website focused on broadband. Joan has a BA in journalism and an MBA from the University of Michigan. She has won awards for her commentary from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and in min’s Editorial and Design awards.

Topic 3: Public-Private Partnerships

Matt Schmit serves as the Director of the Illinois Office of Broadband. In this capacity, he is responsible for facilitating the deployment of the Connect Illinois broadband infrastructure grant program. He also served as a state senator for Minnesota between 2013 and 2016.

Chris Walker is the Senior Executive Director of Infrastructure Strategy for Northwest Open Access Network. His work at Northwest Open Access Network includes the management of network growth and expansion, strategic planning, capital development of the outside plant program, and community consulting and engagement for emerging public benefit networks. Chris has led many of NoaNet’s critical functions in his 20 years including Network Operations and Engineering, Outside Plant Construction, the statewide Network Operations Center, Professional Services, and Community Outreach Initiatives. Before NoaNet, Chris served 12 years in the armed forces.

Nate Walowitz supports communities developing broadband access across NW Colorado with the NWCCOG and across the State of Colorado in support of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. He also developed Project THOR, a publicly owned open access middle mile network serving communities across 12 counties in NW Colorado.

Sunne Wright McPeak is President and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, a statewide non-profit organization that accelerates the deployment and adoption of broadband. She assumed the position as the CETF first chief executive in December 2006 after serving for three years as Secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.

Chris Mitchell (moderator) is Director of the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Broadband Network Initiative. His work focuses on helping communities ensure that the telecommunications networks upon which they depend are accountable to the community. He was honored as one of the 2012 Top 25 in Public Sector Technology by Government Technology, which honors the top “Doers, Drivers, and Dreamers” in the nation each year. Originally published on, this piece is part of a collaborative reporting effort between Broadband Breakfast and the Community Broadband Networks program at ILSR.

Topic 4: The Future of Shared Infrastructure

Jonathan Adelstein has headed the Wireless Industry Association since 2012, representing the businesses that build, develop, own, and operate the nation’s wireless infrastructure. He is a former Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission and Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. He previously served 15 years on the U.S. Senate staff, culminating as a senior legislative advisor to Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

C. Earl Peek, CPA, Founder and Managing Partner, Diamond Ventures and Peek, LLC, is a graduate from Wilberforce University in Ohio with a B.S, in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude and has an extensive background in public accounting, banking, commercial lending, and venture capital formation. As an entrepreneur he ran his own business for eight years. He founded and was greenlighted to be a Small Business Investment Company (SBIC). As Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Treasury he was a key voting member for deploying capital to ethnic minorities, minority depository institutions, community banks, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other U.S. entities deploying nearly $6B in all states, cities, and more than 400 community banks. Peek, was an Assistant Vice-President /Director of the Bank Commercial Business Development with Industrial Bank and later he was Vice President in Commercial Banking with BB&T- both in Washington, D.C.

Deborah Simpier is a small business veteran and has been active in the Pacific Northwest mesh networking and net neutrality scene for several years. Before she became co-founder and CEO, she was Althea’s first user.

Mari Silbey (moderator) is Senior Director of Partnerships and Outreach for US Ignite, and Program Director for the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program, a $100 million initiative funded by the National Science Foundation and a consortium of more than 30 wireless companies and associations. Mari has 20 years of experience in communications and technology. She has worked previously as a writer, analyst and consultant in the private sector, and as a journalist covering broadband and wireless infrastructure.

Join the Broadband Breakfast Club and Register for the LIVE ONLINE version of Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 for the Member’s Rate of $149. First month of Broadband Breakfast Club Membership included.


The Broadband Communities Summit is ​the ​leading ​conference ​on ​broadband ​technologies ​for ​communities. It will take place in Houston, Texas, from September 27 – September 30, 2021.

The Summit ​attracts ​broadband ​system ​operators, ​network ​builders ​and ​deployers ​of ​all ​kinds. ​Many ​of ​the ​country’s ​major ​property ​owners ​and ​real ​estate ​developers ​attend ​the ​Summit ​each ​year, ​along ​with ​independent ​telcos ​and ​cable ​companies, ​municipal ​and ​state ​officials, ​community ​leaders ​and ​economic ​development ​professionals. ​

For more information on the Summit, visit Broadband Communities, as well as 2021 Travel & Hotel Information.

Broadband Breakfast Club Members receive discount pricing on both the Broadband Communities Summit and Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021.

Join the Broadband Breakfast Club and Register for BOTH the Broadband Communities Summit and the IN-PERSON Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 for the Member’s Rate of $349. First month of Broadband Breakfast Club Membership included.


See Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment Archives for a complete list of prior DII events.

Articles from Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021

Pandemic and Funding Programs Increasing Investments in Broadband and M&A, Conference Hears
Pandemic and Funding Programs Increasing Investments in Broadband and M&A, Conference Hears
Broadband money programs and a need for connectivity is driving capital into the space.
Counties, Private Providers Clash Over Merits of Open Access Networks
Counties, Private Providers Clash Over Merits of Open Access Networks
Counties see it as a way to increase competition and lower prices, while telecoms see money and quality problems.
Focus of Broadband Expansion Should Be On Last Mile, Says President of CETF
Focus of Broadband Expansion Should Be On Last Mile, Says President of CETF
Open access to middle mile infrastructure will help deliver services at the last mile, CETF says.
Infrastructure Bill Opportunity to Show Efficiency of Shared Infrastructure, Conference Hears
Infrastructure Bill Opportunity to Show Efficiency of Shared Infrastructure, Conference Hears
Broadband expansion can happen fast if grant money includes stipulations to share infrastructure, Jonathan Adelstein says.

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