Walter Cannon is a man of many talents. He is a born salesman — he says he probably came out of the womb trying to sell something — but also he is an accomplished cook and video editor. In fact, he was helping to produce a cooking show in 2009 when a longtime friend called and asked him to take a sales job at a fiber company.
Twelve years later, that company has become ZenFi Networks, and Walter Cannon has become a seasoned sales executive with a view of the industry that goes beyond his own ambitions.
“If we didn’t have the technology that we have and the construction that has been done, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation today, this way,” Cannon told Lynn Whitcher, general counsel of Md7, on the most recent episode of AGL Presents: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
For Cannon, a passionate advocate for closing the digital divide, connectivity infrastructure is about much more than making a living. “Of the 8 million people in New York City, 1.8 million don’t have access to a computing device or broadband where they live,” Cannon said. “Students have to sit in the hallways of public housing to get Wi-Fi access so they can do their homework.”
Cannon said that he believes ZenFi has an important role to play in connecting the unconnected. He compared broadband internet service with water and electricity delivered by private utilities working closely with the public sector. He would like to see similar public-private partnerships dedicated to planning and deploying broadband, and he said he believes ZenFi could be a key participant in the New York area.
“The infrastructure that we are really lacking is in buildings,” Cannon said. “That’s probably the biggest place where a lot of this money should be put … especially our public housing, affordable housing, a lot of those places really could use it.”
Cannon said he loves being part of a company that has an opportunity to affect the issues that he knows are critically important for New York. He said that working at ZenFi has been his favorite job so far, even more fun than the cooking shows. “This phase of Walter Cannon’s career has been probably the most challenging and the most fun,” he said. “Probably the most rewarding, as well.”
Martha DeGrasse is a contributing editor.