Another Potential Problem With Muni-WiFi: You Need To Deal With Politicians

from the no-room-for-pork-in-wifi dept

While municipal internet access can be a valid option for providing some form of internet access to residents or businesses where they might not have any other choice (or where it can help stimulate a local economy), there still are plenty of questions about whether WiFi is really the best technology — especially considering that nearly every deployment has had a lot more problems that originally expected. Considering that WiFi wasn’t designed to be a wide-area technology, that’s not too surprising. Still, it may be the right solution (at least right now) for some deployments — though, it’s silly to see all the reports that any particular city needs municipal WiFi to be “high tech.” It’s an option that should be on the table, but it’s not automatically a good idea. For those cities that do decide to implement muni-WiFi, the good news is that most of the deployments aren’t really municipal WiFi, but are simply cities granting the rights of way to a private entity to put access points on city-owned property. However, it appears that some of those deals come with plenty of strings attached.

The San Francisco muni-WiFi plan was never well thought out. From the beginning it was clear that it was a pet project of the mayor, who didn’t understand exactly what he was proposing. Remember, when he initially proposed it in August of 2005, he had hoped the service would be launched by the end of the year. While the team of Google and Earthlink eventually won the deal, they’re now discovering that the poor planning on San Francisco’s part is taking quite a toll in moving the project forward. Even though it really is a private effort using public property, just the fact that it’s connected to the city has apparently set things up so that every local politician is somehow trying to link his or her pet project to the offering — meaning that the entire effort is bogged down in a political mess. Perhaps it’s time to start over with a real plan that serves a real need, rather than a pet project that makes a politician look good.

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Comments on “Another Potential Problem With Muni-WiFi: You Need To Deal With Politicians”

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Mike (profile) says:

Re: Muni Wi-Fi

Wouldn’t WiMax make a better base technology for Muni-scale internet connectivity? More expensive per unit of equipment, but designed for the range and communications capacity required for a large-scale implementation.

In theory, WiMax is better, but it has its own problems. WiMax *is* designed for wide area, rather than local area, so that’s good.

But, WiMax is unproven so far. Almost every implementation was pre-WiMax equipment.

Second, you need to buy spectrum. All of the approved WiMax equipment is in licensed spectrum.

Next, on the consumer side, no one has WiMax equipment to receive WiMax signals. Just about everyone has WiFi in their laptops already.

So, sure, in theory WiMax sounds better, but you’re talking in two or three years, not today.

Anonymous Coward says:

How to get my vote

“Perhaps it’s time to start over with a real plan that serves a real need, rather than a pet project that makes a politician look good.”

I’m on board with that. There are too many laws, rules, and restrictions, placed by legislators, and bureaucrats, that simply do not serve the public.

I think Municipal WiFi falls right into this category. While it sounds good on the surface, I think it will likely just create one more governing bureaucracy, with new sets of rules, and new restrictions, making government unnecessarily bigger, and more expensive, not smaller, and less expensive.

While free Internet service for all would be a great public service, I don’t see a government bureaucracy being able to handle it efficiently, or cost-effectively. Also, the cost of supporting it would be spread over many people who just don’t use it, or want to use it.

How about this for a real change?

Politicians, and bureaucrats, should review existing laws, rules, restrictions, and programs, removing all of them that are antiquated, and no longer apply, or the ones that serve special interests.

My message to the politicians, and bureaucrats?

1. Stop creating new laws, rules, and programs for the sake of creating new laws, rules, and programs!

2. If you have to find a pet project to justify your existence, then try cleaning up the mess, instead of making it more convoluted!

DoxAvg says:

Nothing is so simple the government can't screw it

This is my main concern with muni broadband. Politicians petty political agendas, purchased political agendas, or Just Plain Wrong political agendas should interfere with the efficient rollout of technology. If the current conservative government wants to make sure that you don’t get porn over your muni broadband, what can you do? If they decide that you need to get their pet project’s “Save The Puffin” info as popups with every served webpage, what can you do? If they’re “lobbied” into ensuring that you can’t access Darned Foreign Illegal MP3 sites, what can you do?

In an efficient market, you can move to a competitor. But in a government subsidized market, there’s a barrier to entry that can be made arbitrarily large so that there’s no competition. The best that can be done to promote “muni broadband” is for the government to get out of the way as much as possible. If providers want access to light poles, sell it away in the free market.

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