The journey to wisdom is often described as walking a path rather than passing through a door. Paths call for steady, mundane, incremental advancement; doors indicate instantaneous arrival – you’re in one place then another with no transition period.

This path/door metaphor came to my mind recently as I attended a breakout session on Connected Communities at United States of Anchors: SHLB’s (Schools, Health, Library Broadband) 7th Annual Conference.  The panel for this session included several community broadband internet leaders and service providers. In addition to discussing the need for broadband to remedy the digital divide, panelists shared the challenges their communities face in moving toward a smart city.

The enthusiasm for the smart cities concept creates a strong desire for a quick transition, just stepping through the door and arriving at a smart city. However, the panelists recognized the path toward a connected community is one of sustained progress – step by step. Connected Communities take root incrementally. One project, though, can be the start of that journey.

Some stories about the path to smart cities were particularly instructive. Anne Schwieger, broadband advocate for the City of Boston, described Boston’s approach to the smart city.  Rather than start with the technology solutions, her city focuses first on the community need. Taking this approach allows a government agency to address a specific need (e.g., traffic control, parking efficiency, safe lighting) rather than waiting on all of the other government agencies to align their participation.  (See Boston’s smart city playbook at https://monum.github.io/playbook/).  Identifying an anchor application is the place to start.

There are many concerns along the path to a connected community (security, scalability, project management, technology integration), but a robust, scalable network is the foundation.  No one knows what future smart cities applications will entail. But we do know a flexible, resilient, carrier-grade network is the essential enabler of all the other ideas to be discovered on the pathway.

At CenturyLink, we recognize that the first step toward a connected community can be intimidating. Give us a call. We can help you identify the path and assist with steps along the way.

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