The term "digital divide" is passé and politically incorrect in the
context of municipal wireless access. According to industry experts at
the MuniWireless Silicon Valley conference, the new nomenclature is
MuniWireless, a three-day conference in Santa Clara that began on
Monday, was a gathering of venture capitalists, municipal authorities,
nonprofit organizations, and software and hardware companies, all eager
to bring city-wide wireless connections to the U.S.
The conversation was not about whether municipal wireless will become a
reality – it was about when, how, and, most importantly, how much.
Chris Sacca, principal of new business development for Google, likened
the conference to the Democratic National Convention.
"Whenever I talk to vendors in this space, I can't get a straight
answer," Sacca said. "I can't get anyone to talk about the true
capabilities of their products. It reminds me of the Democratic
convention: You've got a lot of good guys working for a good cause but
they get so caught up in their own business that they lose elections. So
I'm going to ask everyone to remember why we're building these networks
in the first place. I think it's a noble aim and I think everyone is
here because they actually do care about promoting access."
...."We don't have to sell them the idea that the Internet is important
for them. They know that. They realize it has to do with healthcare,
jobs and community engagement. Those are the issues that people want
If there's no such thing as a free lunch, it is probably unreasonable to
expect a free wireless connection. Somebody will have to pay for it --
and there was little agreement as to whom and how. Alec Ross, a panelist
from One Economy, a broadband nonprofit organization, said that
"low-income people will spend up to $20 per month on broadband."
Jonathan Baltuch, president of MRI, discussed the March 2006 launch of
citywide wireless in St. Cloud, Florida, which he deemed a huge success.
Over half of the households in St. Cloud are using the
advertisement-supported network but still, this model has yet to be
definitively proven, he said. Additionally, the big broadband providers
such as AT&T, often referred to at the conference as "the incumbents,"
should not be expected to sit back and watch their market share leak
away to free WiFi.
RAD-INFO, Inc. - NSP Strategist
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