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 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 unrealistic expectations.
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.

Matt Larsen

George wrote:

I am not a fan of muni wireless.


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