June 30

Watch Now

When the city of Ocala, Fla., took the unusual step of turning its electric utility’s fiber-optic network into a municipal broadband service, city leaders had no idea how vital those high-speed Internet connections would become during a pandemic.

Join Government Technology and leaders from Ocala on June 30th to hear how the city’s municipal broadband network delivered more than enough bandwidth to support telemedicine, distance learning, and remote work when COVID-19 hit, helping the city keep its citizens safe, healthy and informed.

You’ll hear how the city:

  • Built a successful Internet service provider business that is profitable and sustainable
  • Uses the network to connect municipal organizations, deliver smart city services and help the county’s rural schools with distance learning
  • Overcame competition from large telecommunications and cable companies



Bob Bennett — Moderator

Senior Fellow, Center for Digital Government and former CIO for City of Kansas City, Missouri

Bob Bennett is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Digital Government and the founder of B2 Civic Solutions, an international smart cities consultancy firm based in Parkville, Mo. From 2016 to 2019 he served in Mayor Sly James’ administration as the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Kansas City, Mo. During his tenure, he oversaw the city’s smart city initiatives including a 54-block total digitalization pilot, strategy development for the city and P3-based expansion plans. Kansas City’s initiatives earned the city an Edison Award (Gold) for “Collective Disruption” and civic innovation in 2017, and Bob was named one of GovTech’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in 2018. Before his role with the city, Bob completed a 25-year career in the U.S. Army which included service as a Strategist, a Battalion Commander and multiple combat tours.


Mel Poole

Director, Ocala Fiber Network (OFN)

Mel Poole is the Director of Ocala Fiber Network (OFN). He is a retired U.S. Air Force First Sergeant who served in the United States and abroad. His work included assignments within U.S. Special Operations Command and Special Missions Squadron. Over the last seven years, he has been charged with directing the activities of the City’s Fiber Optic Utility. Under his leadership, the department has twice won the much sought-after “President’s Award”. This achievement highlights the advancement and improvement of service provided by OFN, most importantly, quality of life to the City of Ocala citizenry. Mel earned his bachelor’s degree from Trident University in business administration.