As Senior Researcher Lisa Gonzalez approaches her last few days here at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, she took some time to reflect on her eight years with the Community Broadband Networks Initiative. Lisa is our team's secret weapon, and though we are sad to see her go, we wish her the best of luck in her future position with the State of Minnesota. Read her farewell below.
As I write this, it's March 2020 and the world is in the early days of a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 have stranded many students and parents at home where they are working, streaming, and trying to "flatten the curve" to limit infections. As a result, our country's Internet networks are being pushed and tested. In many ways, this sort of situation is an ideal time for this Senior Researcher to pass the torch.
With feelings of bittersweet excitement, I'm accepting an opportunity which will allow me to use all the great knowledge I've soaked up at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to work for the State of Minnesota. I'll miss sharing with you stories of local communities, their investments in community broadband networks, and the innovative approaches they take to improve local connectivity.
Eight years ago, the country was coming out of the Great Recession, and I had been unemployed for more than a year. As a single parent with two young kids, I was finding that my law degree and limited experience working in politics wasn't helping me find employment at a time when employment was hard for everyone to find. I had even been turned down for a stint as a part-time dog walker!
Then I came across a posting for a Research Associate position for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance with a special emphasis on Internet access and telecommunications. When I attended law school, I had planned on focusing on intellectual property law and had developed a curiosity in how the Internet might affect life and work for artists. Years earlier, I had finally earned my theatre degree and wondered how computers and live performances might influence each other. With nothing to lose, I applied and got the job.
I'm not ashamed to admit, and Christopher can confirm, that it took a while before I really understood what we were doing. I think that he was stuck with me, desperate for help, and because things were moving slower in those days, he was able to take the time to explain the technical and policy details I needed to understand our mission. Thanks to his patience and guidance, I'm able to take advantage of this new opportunity to help the people of Minnesota.
There's been quite a few faces that have passed in and out of the doors of the Institute and the Community Broadband Networks Initiative since I started in 2012. With the exception of its leaders and a few key staff, the organization seems to be the training ground for intelligent and driven people who come here to learn and then take their new knowledge out into the world to make it better. I feel fortunate to have met and worked with so many and have learned more than a little from each person. Now it's my turn.
I am immensely proud to have worked with Christopher for so long to have developed a solid, stable program. Our work has helped people in many places and, as I see interest in publicly owned networks grow every year, I know that the Community Broadband Networks Initiative is on the right track. The current team of energetic, intelligent, and creative people can handle the growing surge as more and more local communities and cooperatives investigate and take advantage of the doors opened by publicly owned broadband networks. Go, team, go!
I'll forever be thankful to those of you who continued to return to MuniNetworks.org to read the articles, listen to the podcasts, and share the resources. Hopefully, the material has inspired you to inspire other people. I know I've been inspired by all the stories I've shared about local folks taking control of their own destinies, and I'll be checking in daily to see what's new.
Like everyone else in the Minneapolis office, I'm telecommuting these days to do my part. While I'm sad to be ending my time at the Institute away from my friends and colleagues at the office, I feel there's a poetry to my last few days at the Institute. After all, there can be no more fitting way for a broadband researcher to leave than with a virtual wave and a remote hug.