Over at The Register, Andrew Orloski suggests that Muni Fiber might displace Muni Wi-Fi, the much-ballyhooed panacea for bridging the digital divide and adding some much-needed competition in the broadband sector. The article cites the city of Berkeley, California, where, lacking proven Muni WiFi success models, the city is considering doing Muni Fiber instead. I tend to agree that WiFi (b or g) is a weak approach to Muni Broadband, but fiber is at the other end of the continuum...perhaps overkill. But why not go after the challenge of Muni Broadband with the big guns? The paltry 256Kbps speeds promised by the San Francisco WiFi project across the Bay are laughable, and at present about as future-proof as a 3.5" floppy disk. Installing a network should require some amount of planning including future capacity demand. A fiber network could arguably serve Berkeley for decades, while a WiFi network (as proven by the Chaska case) could need to be upgraded within its first year. Short-term vision could hurt municipalities. Infrastructure projects shouldn't be done with the cheapest technology available. We don't build bridges that way, and we shouldn't bridge the digital divide that way either. At the least, we shouldn't be afraid of considering fiber. If the job is worth doing, it's worth doing right.
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