Council rejects wireless proposal

By Adrian Sanchez/[EMAIL PROTECTED]
COLUMBUS - The City Council rejected Frontier Communications' proposal to deploy a wireless broadband network in Columbus in a 5-3 Monday night vote.

Councilmen Joe Jarecke, Ron Bogus and Jim Bulkley voted in favor of the proposal after extensive discussion. Frontier representatives exited the council chambers immediately following the council vote.

Kerry Haley, vice president and general manager of the Frontier wireless division, declined to comment on the council's decision, but did summarize her reaction in one word: “Disappointed.”

Linda Aerni, president of Community Internet and Wire Free Nebraska Inc., and Paul Schumacher, a business partner of Aerni, celebrated the decision.

Aerni said the council did a good job of processing a lot of technological information and made the right decision for the city.

“The council voted the right way, not holding the city to a 10-year obligation,” she said. “Technology has changed so much, even in the last month.”

When asked if Community Internet is considering deploying a network on its own, Aerni said “of course.”

“Community Internet has already deployed wireless Internet outside Columbus,” she said.

Schumacher said there was no need to rush into any agreement, and if and when Community Internet does decide to implement a network, “the city wouldn't be in the middle of it.”

A report by Robert Tupper, chief telecommunications engineer for RVW Inc., and Donn C. Swedenburg, telecommunications specialist for RVW, may have influenced the council's decision.

The proposed contract stipulated no other devices that may degrade Frontier's network “as determined by Frontier” could be attached to city property.

The report stated “the characteristics of unlicensed operation present many challenges.” According to Federal Communication Commission regulations, devices for operation of an unlicensed band, such as Frontier proposed, “must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”

Tupper said deployment of two wireless, broadband, mesh networks was possible but may not be feasible.

“Co-existing within the 2.4 gHz spectrum is the toughest coordination,” he said. “I am not going to say it can be done. I am not going to say it can't be done.”

Whether it can or can't, it would “be difficult to have two widely deployed mesh networks ... from an economics standpoint,” Tupper said.

Councilman Chuck Whitney objected to Frontier's sole discretion to determine interference and network pricing differences between Frontier and non-Frontier customers.

“If I am a Frontier customer I pay $9.99 a month and a customer of Community Internet/Megavision would pay $9.99 per day,” Whitney said. “There can be no discrimination in pricing.”

Mayor Mike Moser said the council made the right decision regarding the Frontier proposal.

“I think the council came up with right decision. There were a lot of unknowns, and before entering into a contract, all the blanks should be filled in,” Moser said. “I didn't feel the city was getting enough out of it to make it work.

“If somebody else comes up with plan they can bring it to city the to look at it, but it is not something we are actively looking for at this moment. The ultimate result was where it should be gone.”
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