Unfortunately, every time that the public hears about problems with a
wifi network (muni or otherwise) it is going to reflect badly on all of
us. After reading the article, it is pretty clear that the writer
picked out one sorehead and blew his problems up into something big.
The Bells want the Muni-Broadband efforts to fail badly, and they have
the added side benefit of making WISPs look bad in the process.
After having an opportunity to visit with Esme Vos of muniwireless.org
and several other community wireless advocates at the Freedom to Connect
conference, it is pretty clear that we should be embracing
muniwireless. They need us badly - specifically our real-world
experience and in the field capability. Many of the munis are being fed
a long line of bs from vendors and stories like this one out of St.
Cloud are going to be trumpeted as examples of muniwireless failure -
when the real failure is that govt officials and the citizens were given
Here are some of my responses to the common criticisms of muniwireless....
1) FREE service in my city is going to put me out of business
Response: Not true. Most of the FREE services are very low speed
connections (sub 256K) or are filled with non-bypassable advertising.
Plus, there is no quality of service guarantee for a free service and
nonexistent tech support. There is plenty of opportunity to offer a
higher quality service that people are willing to pay for. Don't
forget that most of the people who go for the FREE service are folks
that wouldn't pay for service anyway. If they become users and want a
better level of service, there is a good chance that they will become
paying customers at some point in the future.
2) Government money should not be used to compete with private industry
Response: In most applications, muniwireless efforts are being explored
by the governmental entity to SAVE money. If a muni can put in a
network for a cost of $100,000, but will save $60,000/year through
reduced telephone/cellphone/leased line expenses, then that is a big
WIN/WIN situation for everyone involved except the telcos. Local
government spending generates a huge amount of revenue for the phone
companies. Doesn't it make more sense for the city to put in its own
infrastructure and manage it locally than to spend it with
telcos/cellcos? Savings from telecom revenue are only one of the many
ways that muni networks can generate substantial savings. Decreased
labor, increased operational efficiency and many other benefits come
from muni networks.
3) Municipal wireless networks duplicate efforts made my local WISPs
Response: After talking to a lot of muniwireless people, the issue is
that munis would PREFER to work with a local WISP or ISP operator to get
their network going, but WISPs do such a poor job of promoting
themselves that most munis have no idea that there is someone operating
in their area. Introduce yourself to the IT person in every town where
you provide service - do not give them an excuse for ignorance. We are
generally more local than any other company that they will deal with,
and we have tons of practical experience and the ability to demo our
capabilities. We should be exploiting these advantages to the highest
possible degree. It will require you to become a participant in your
local government, but that is the best way to get what you want.
Every WISPA member should be watching their area diligently for
muniwireless opportunities in their area, and working hard to get in on
the ground floor. I have done cooperative projects in ten towns in my
service area and all have been WIN/WIN for me and for the cities. At
last check, these cites combined are saving $4000 a month over what they
were paying the telcos for the same or inferior level of service. My
goal is to be taking $30,000/month out of the pockets of the local
telcos (Qwest and Embarq) within the next two years. Just imagine what
kind of an impact muni networks would have on the telcos if 10000
communities pulled an average of $1000 a month out of telcos and put it
into local infrastructure? That is $1 million a month out of telco
coffers and into local economies. What if the average savings was $5000
a month and 20000 communities developed their own networks? Even the
telcos will notice $10 million a month in declining revenues. More
importantly, the influx into the local economy of that money (instead of
having it sucked out by the telco vampire) will make a big difference at
the local level.
WISPs should be taking a proactive, positive stance toward muniwireless
efforts. The munis are our most powerful allies right now, and we
should be working WITH them, not against them.
I am not a fan of muni wireless.
WISPA Wireless List: firstname.lastname@example.org