I've often wondered what it would look like if a reporter wrote about a Wi-Fi network without any ideological baggage to slam it. Now you can see - Mollee Francisco wrote a lengthy and fair article for a local paper in Chaska, a suburb of Minneapolis. Like so many publicly owned citywide Wi-Fi networks, Chaska.Net accomplished many goals but was a disappointment for others. In particular, it was more expensive and the technology was more difficult than expected, but it introduced faster broadband than was available at the time. It continues to service 2100 customers, one of which is a household with close friends of mine. They love having the option of taking service from the City - they've been happy with the customer support and lower prices. That the speeds are slower than what cable networks offer doesn't bother them, they prefer to save the money. The article also discusses the wireless network in Buffalo, Minnesota, a city further away from the metro than Chaska that sees a brighter future for its public wireless network.
Tag: "muni wireless"
A new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues that a publicly owned information infrastructure is the key to healthy competition, universal access, and non-discriminatory networks.
“Localizing the Internet: Five Ways Public Ownership Solves the U.S. Broadband Problem” notes that high speed broadband is becoming ever more widespread. But, it argues, the way in which that broadband is introduced may be as important as whether it is introduced.
Many telecommunications companies are offering to build a citywide wireless or even wired network at little or no upfront cost to the city. That arrangement is especially attractive to local elected officials who fear that government lacks the expertise to manage a high tech network and who worry about the possible impact on their budget. “This is an excellent time to remember to look that gift horse in the mouth,” maintains Becca Vargo Daggett, the report’s author and the director of the Institute’s Telecommunication as Commons Project.
“Even deals framed as coming at no cost to the city require the public sector to enter into extended contracts to pay millions for their own services over the new privately owned network. Cities owe it to themselves and their citizens to carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of public ownership.”
Ms. Vargo Daggett also notes that cities that own infrastructure like roads and water pipelines should not fear owning the physical information network. “Concerns about obsolescence are overstated. Fiber optics is the gold standard, with essentially unlimited capacity and a lifespan measured in decades. Wireless technology is rapidly evolving, but its price is low and the payback period is short.”
Moreover, unlike investments in traditional infrastructure, an investment in information networks can generate a significant return. “The investment will not only pay for itself, but can generate revenue that can pay for other important municipal services.”
“Pri-Fi” = A broadband delivery model in which a private-sector wireless provider constructs, own, and operates a WiFi network in a major city without requiring any substantial commitments from the city or exposing the city or its taxpayers to any financial risk. When such projects fail, as they usually do, opponents of municipal broadband misrepresent them as failed municipal projects and cite them as proof that public broadband projects are failures.