Digital Transition -The term "Digital Transition" describes the process all organizations must go through in the 21st Century, as they leverage new technologies that provide new options for Applications, Equipment, Processes, and Networks that make them more effective. In contrast, the term "Municipal Wireless" is limiting. It puts the network technology ahead of the application and process changes that drive the business case.
Municipal Broadband Update - Where are we now?
There seems to be no letup when it comes to municipal broadband wireless networks. Just within the past 10 days, several cities from across the nation formally launched or announced plans to build Wi-Fi systems, capped by Cisco Systems' official entrance into the municipal wireless market Nov. 15. The company announced it has deployed mesh networks in Dayton, Ohio, and Lebanon, Ore. Municipal wireless networks continue to thrive
This article is a great quick update on current Wireless Municpal Broadband deployments in the US. For instance, deplolyments using Cisco equipment get a good write up: Dayton OH and Lebanon, OR.
Then there are the cities of Temecula, CA., and Tucson, AZ, whcih recently announced plans to deploy municipal Wi-Fi with the help of San Diego-based WFI using Tropos Networks mesh network architecture.
And in downtown Lexington, KY, SkyTel rolled out Wi-Fi service this week.
Earthlink was selected to build Philadelphia’s estimated $20 million network, expected to be operational by the end of 2006. Earthlink also won in Anaheim, CA.
And CellNet won a bid to deploy a downtown network in Madison, WI.
Finally, on Nov. 8, San Francisco city officials announced they will formally request proposals for their network later this month. The San Francisco RFI in August garnered 300 comments and 26 proposals, the most noticed one being from Google, which will partner with WFI to bid on the project. Officials plan to select a bidder early next year.
Google is getting a headstart in its hometown to prepare for San Fran, which I detailed elsewhere on this blog (see One Crystal Ball Has This Future in Mind). In Mountain View, CA., city officials accepted an offer from Google to create a municipalwide wireless Internet network at no cost to the city. The network would be operational by June 2006.
Something for everyone there - what all these projects have in common is they made announcements in the past few weeks, and they each demonstrate a great sense of initative and pioneer spirit - what this country was built on. Would that more cities would emulate these bold pioneers.
Posted on November 21, 2005 at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)
Broadband is Smokin', From Sea to Shining Sea
Hot. Red Hot. Those are the words I've heard in the past week during my informal poll of the municipal wireless industry. When I eased into the conversation with one industry wag by suggesting, "well, it looks like things are starting to heat up," the response was a derisive snort and a "are you kidding?? More like 'smoking' " When I asked another if he thought the hockey stick turn was coming up (referring to the Tipping Point we've all been anticipating somewhere in the future), he said, "I think we're right in the middle of it and we just don't know it yet." These are the consummate insiders who are living and breathing and sleeping new age broadband day in and day out ... so I'm listening to what they have to say, and trying to figure out what that means for us all.
I was out in Boston early last week, at the American Public Power Association (APPA) Community Broadband Conference, where all the attendees had keen interest in implementing broadband for their cities, and then I switched coasts to attend the World Internet Institute (W2i) Digital Cities Conference in San Francisco. Needless to say, it was a lot to digest in one week, but an interesting contrast as well. The overwhelming message from both conferences is that this is an industry poised to take off, indeed, already taking off. So, if the ship has already sailed, what course have we charted?
And the wind in our sails? Growing momentum generated by ever more community broadband projects, and the projects are growing in ambition and scale. Just take a short look at these events in the background: 1) East: Philadelphia's recent selection of Earthlink to build its city-wide network (along with team members Motorola and Tropos Networks); 2) West: San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsome flirting with tech titan Google to build a wireless network for all of San Francisco; 3) Center: Madison, MIlwaukee, Chicago, Kansas City, Houston...the list goes on and on.
Broadband options are under the microscope and not just in the big cities. While the man on the street may be stumped, those who track this budding business will quickly recognize what cities such as Braintree, Bristol, Chaska, Corpus Christi, Lafayette, Manassas, Moorhead, Oklahoma City, Owensboro, Sallisaw, and Scottsboro have in common - these are some of the pioneers in this new community broadband movement. While major cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco garner press attention, city leaders everwhere are plugging away, taking control of their own destinies. As Corpus Christi's project leader Leonard Scott said at last week's W2i Digital Cities conference, words to this effect, "It's not a matter of if, but when, for city leaders. This is quite simply the network of the future for cities, and the sooner they get started on one, the sooner they will be on the road to real progress."
The high level lessons learned from my travels last week?
More on this topic soon. Good to be back posting!
Posted on October 19, 2005 at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)
"W" to the rescue - and I don't mean George
In ISP-Planet - Business - Editorial: ISPs Can Survive, the author describes what ISPs will have to do to survive, now that the FCC and the Supreme Court have together eliminated the requirement that third parties have access to cable and DSL networks. Among the options is for ISPs to give strong consideration to becoming WISPs, adding a W to their acronyms.
This is a great article for public sector leaders and IT managers to check out - I've long advocated Public Private Partnerships as the preferred method for cities to gain access. If you agree, it makes sense to check out articles like this to better understand the position that your potential partners find themselves in.
Posted on October 06, 2005 at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)
Texas: Addison Teams with RedMoon BB
Addison launches citywide Wi-Fi The City of Addison had a party yesterday, launching their wireless network in partnership with local wireless firm Red Moon Broadband. Red Moon has had success by building networks in a ring around Dallas, going where Internet access coverage can be spotty, but populations are dense and in need of broadband. But Addison is a new, more public-focused approach for Red Moon. This time they are working directly with the city to bring broad public wireless coverage with mesh networking equipment provided by Tropos Networks, not only providing affordable wireless broadband Internet access, but also providing coverage for public events, for the airport in Addison, etc.
Given the growing acceptance of this public/private approach, I would expect to see more and more deployments like this in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Posted on August 24, 2005 at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)
When in Doubt, Farm it Out
Most cities are now going the general contractor route, either because the technology seems so complex, or to avoid any political embarrassments from some misstep.
from The Seattle Times: Opinion: City-sponsored Wi-Fi's wild ride, by Neal Pierce, Syndicated columnist
With apologies for this blog title to the late Johnnie Cochran, it helps to make a point with rhyme. As this article makes clear, city leaders increasingly look to the private sector to help them get broadband, but not necessarily to the traditional sources of help on telecom issues. Cable and Telecom incumbents have squandered their logical leadership position and cities are turning to upstart competitors to help them put city networks in place. Most city leaders do not want the political risk that would go with running the network themselves.
But that doesn't stop incumbent-sponsored groups like the Heartland Institute from beating the drum about the risks associated with municipally-owned broadband (see The Heartland Institute - A Mixed Month for Muni Broadband - by Steven Titch. The facts are, articles like this tend to use a single example that contradicts the mainstream evidence to make their points, and invariably, the examples of poor performance by city-owned projects are dated fiber projects, not timely wireless examples. And in any case, the authors are singing a song that is increasingly irrelevant, as cities mostly work in partnership with private sector firms to hasten the penetration of broadband.
It will be a while until a federal telecom bill makes it through the grinding legislative process at the Capitol, so while the McCain Lautenberg bill offers hope of federal intervention to stop state legislatures from tying the hands of municipalities, it can be expected that more initiatives by incumbents will rear their heads in state capitals in the months ahead. Those cities that move diligently to acquire the skills and recruit the private sector partners will be winners if they get networks in place before their state leaders heed the incumbents' siren song of state-provided protection of large corporations from competition by municipalities, when in reality they are protecting large companies from competition with small private companies who seek to meet city needs.
UnwireMyCity.com encourages its readers to get educated, get busy, and make something happen. The opportunity costs of going without broadband are much more likely to be higher than the risks of moving ahead today, with technologies like wireless mesh that let a city dip its toe in the water, learn, and adjust its plans to provide the most benefit with the least risk. There is no reason to wait, and there is no reason to fear. The biggest risk today is in delaying development and implementation of an infrastructure plan, which will leave your city behind in the new global marketplace, and perhaps out of luck if your state lawmakers decide to take your authority away.
Posted on August 24, 2005 at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)
Public v. Private v. Public/Private
Public Versus Private Cable System Ownership: A Tilted Playing Field? In this fascinating interview/article, two former industry execs, now on the public side, share their perspectives on the debate. Read this and decide where you fall on the public/private/public-private partnership continuum. This article may hold some surprises for you - I found a lot of truth in it, based on their first-hand experiences.
Private telecommunication companies often claim the playing field has tilted away from them toward municipal providers. Two industry executives in Iowa - Darrel Wenzel and Dave Fyffe - have been on both sides of the public-private ownership equation. Their professional experiences lend perspective to a subject that has garnered a fair share of editorials and headlines in the past year.
Wenzel, manager of Independence, Iowa, Light and Power, worked for incumbent TCI in Independence until 1998. Fyffe, manager of communications at Muscatine Power and Water, worked for Cablevision, managing three different regions in the south. Subsequently both men worked as consultants and helped build municipal telecommunications systems. Once the municipal systems were functioning, each was asked to join the municipal utility staff as managers.
And Then There Were Three ... Feels more like the Final Four
AP Wire | 07/21/2005 | Wireless Philadelphia chooses three finalists Well, the news is out and three groups have made the cut: 1) ATT (with Lucent and BelAir Networks); 2) HP (with Aptilo Networks, Alvarion, Business Information Group - BIG, and Tropos Networks); and 3) Earthlink (with Motorola Canopy and Tropos Networks). A final decision is expected on July 29, a week from tomorrow. I'm excited, aren't you? This feels like the beginning of something big!
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty? It Depends
50 Percent Success Rate for Current Wireless Network Initiatives is Indicated While most headlines will trumpet a 50% failure rate, as the study by Jupiter Research suggests based on break-even analysis of current municipal network projects, I thought I would tilt the perspective a little with this title and suggest a 50% success rate.
Preliminary discussion on Daily Wireless: Jupiter Research: Half of City Clouds Will Fail and Muniwireless: Jupiter Research report: 50% of muni projects will not break even opine on the prediction that half of current networks will fail and ponder whether that is a valid analysis.
There are many points and perspectives to consider. I would open discussion with the caveat that this is a very early assessment and so has limited value as a prediction (although it will most certainly sell some reports). I would also highlight the conclusion that Public-Private Partnerships are indicated in the face of such risk. That's a conclusion I've drawn elsewhere on this website. Finally, I think that other industries might look favorably on a 50% success rate. And finally (one more time), it may be that some projects that "fail" are actually considered successes if they provide services that would not otherwise be available, even at a loss.
Not having read the report, I would go out on a limb and offer my perspective that these networks are a risk to the degree that the owners and or operators, be they public or private, neglect to nail down anchor tenants that will help them to cover as much costs as they can with long-term contracts. City government, utilities, and state agencies are just a start as anchor tenants. It's not unlike the way that Southwest Airlines creatively fills its planes to capacity, while other airlines fly planes half empty and risk bankruptcy. Success in this market will go to those savvy operators that figure out how to fill up the bandwidth that they make available, at a decent margin. I don't think that good business sense and creativity are located exclusively on either the private or public sector side. Whoever ends up running these networks will need to be sharp to be successful, but the risks of these projects should be kept in perspective: compared to fiber projects, wireless projects are helped along by the relatively low costs.
Independent ISP conference
I bet Park City, UT in August is nice. You now have an opportunity to visit on official business. The Wireless ISP Network Operators Group (I hope I got that acronym right) is hosting a Forum from August 15-17 in Park City, and Public Private Partnerships are the key focus of the forum. I just got off the phone with Charles Wu, whose job it is to promote the conference and he asked for help in getting the invitation out to muncipal government network specialists and policy planner types.
From their website: As the Public vs. Private Sector Broadband Network Debate gets more and more tied up in the legal system, what is clear is that, like in all lawsuits, "ultimately, no one ends up winning." So, what are the options? Rather than wasting resources "fighting amongst one another" - let's meet, talk, work together and coordinate an action plan that both public and private sector can jointly leverage.
In continuing the WiNOG EXCHANGE tradition, this August we will establish a forum to bring together both sides of the table, public and private, to stop the fighting and to discuss methods of working together to accomplish the task of "Bridging the Digital Divide."
I encourage you to take a look and attend if you can. There is tremendous potential in getting the public and private sectors to act more cooperatively to deploy wireless broadband, and this could be a good start for your town or city.
Minnesota: Review of Municipal RFPs
Minneapolis Plans to Go Wireless Philadelphia and Minneapolis RFPs are prgressing - this article dates back to before they were issued, opines on how things will go. Both cities' plans reflect a trend in turning to outside sources to fund, deploy and manage the network. By not relying on taxpayer money, the cities avoid direct conflict with telecoms and cable companies that have fought such plans with well-financed ad and public relations campaigns claiming they waste taxpayer dollars.
Lousiana: Baby Steps
Local News - The Lafayette Daily Advertiser - www.theadvertiser.com Bell South and broadband proponents have a long history of disagreement in this neck of the woods, but there are signs of progress on the horizon. This article describes the talks regarding bringing Fiber to the Home (FTTH) for residents - as with most of these projects, which can be very expensive, risk is a prime topic of discussion, as planners ponder how the bond holders will be repaid.
The Center for Digital Government has a good document that will get you to thinking about the potential value of a partnership with a private sector firm. While not specifically focused on partnering for wireless networks, the white paper does describe the elements of a good partnership between a private sector firm and a public sector entity.
Follow this link to download the document, Essential Partnerships: A Guide to the Successful Creation of Public-Private Partnerships.
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