Craig Settles, President, courtesy of Craig Settles Craig Settles, President, Photo courtesy of Craig Settles

data services with a fiber network. Santa Monica sold dark fiber and excess bandwidth to corporations. The city's operations fund is now self-sustaining, IT has $2.5 million in capital and it's getting ready to launch a citywide wireless network.

The CIO should be the lead deal-maker, partnering with community stakeholders, other local governments and nonprofit entities. You must partner because the best deals that ensure network benefits for constituents have the best shot at stimulus dollars. Partnering with vendors and service providers is equally critical. These deals must be well structured so private-sector partners do as well as the public-sector ones.

Perhaps the biggest public CIO challenge is being brutally honest about whether your local tech resources are up to the challenge. Your IT department's good at taking care of servers, so you think, "OK, they'll be good telephone guys." Sometimes the two skill sets don't match. Same with that brother-in-law of the mayor who happens to "know a little something" about technology. When you have capable local talent in- and outside of government, as is in places such as Franklin County, Va., that's often your best bet. But be willing to cast your net wide when necessary.

Craig Settles  |  Contributing Writer

Craig Settles is an industry analyst, broadband strategy consultant and co-founder of Communities United for Broadband, which delivers on-site training to private- and public-sector organizations. Follow him on Twitter (@cjsettles) and his blog, Fighting the Next Good Fight.