We Mourn the Loss of Two Broadband Champions

We are saddened to learn that two quiet champions of broadband have passed away — one recently and one about a year ago, although we only recently learned of his passing. Drew Davis of Larimer County, Colorado, and Larry Gates from Chanute, Kansas, performed the heavy lifting behind the scenes to help move their communities forward with essential investments. Both men and their quiet determination will be missed in their communities and by us.

Drew Davis and Discovering Larimer County

We spoke with Drew last summer when he came on the Community Broadband Bits podcast for episode 311. As Program Manager for Larimer Broadband, he and Director of Economic and Workforce Development Jacob Castillo and CIO Mark Pfaffinger joined discussed results of the county’s feasibility study survey. Drew was instrumental in developing the county plan as they find a way to bring better connectivity to people in Larimer County.

Drew was always helpful whenever we needed information about what was happening in the Colorado broadband world. He was a leader and strived to help others, including in the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department and Search and Rescue.

We know that folks in Colorado are also grieving his potential as well as the loss of his presence. Colin Garfield, who was one of the leaders of the municipal broadband effort in Fort Collins writes:

"Drew was a trusted adviser, a formidable ally to our efforts, and a local visionary who will be dearly missed. His contributions and leadership for rural broadband and policy flashed local brilliance. As northern Colorado becomes a stronghold for local connectivity, Drew's contributions, vision, and compelling arguments will not be forgotten. I'm grateful for the many enlightening, humorous, and blunt conversations we had over the past three years - I'm lucky to have even had the opportunity to cross paths with him."

Larry Laid the Foundation

When word reached us that the city of Chanute decided to begin developing a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project, we also learned that Larry Gates had passed away in August 2018. Larry's hard work and vision established the foundation for the city's investment. We wish Larry, who worked so hard to develop the municipal broadband utility, was here to see this development.

We first met Larry when he provided critical information for our report on Chanute back in 2012. In fact, we could not have written the detailed report if he had not patiently shared the story of the project and connected us with many people in the community. He was the tip of the spear in transforming the network to a utility to bring savings, jobs, and opportunity to Chanute.

The Kansas Municipal Utilities posthumously awarded Larry the 2019 Edgar P. Schowalter Award. At the conference where Larry’s wife accepted the honor, KMU Executive Director Colin Hansen said:

“It is just and fitting that we pause tonight to honor Larry and reflect back on not only a remarkable career in municipal utilities, but a life well lived and an incredible legacy for his family, co-workers and colleagues.”

He had been at the City of Chanute for more than 15 years and spoke with Christopher about the city’s broadband initiative in episode 16 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast along with John Lester. Larry was Director of Utilities and, according to his obituary, a patriot guard rider, and motorcycle aficionado.

From Christopher:

"Larry Gates and Drew Davis are two people that taught me a lot and I respected deeply. Both were always available when we had questions and wanted to help other communities learn from their efforts. But what I will miss the most are the many conversations, filled with good humor, that both offered every time we talked. These are the people who move our communities forward and improve upon them."