Thursday, January 12, 2006

Muni Wireless

I was going to try and pull together a big post on Muni Wireless with comments, but it looks like I am not going to be able to string it together with a lot of prose. Here goes a link fest.

UK Parliament members demand Wifi:

"We recommend that wireless Internet access should be provided in those areas likely to be of most use to members," the report said. "We appreciate the security and viability issues around wireless Internet access but believe that it should be possible to overcome these difficulties."

Popular Mechanics say IEEE 802.16 is one of the top inventions of the past 25 years.

"The geniuses at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers publish a wireless metropolitan area network standard that functions like Wi-Fi on steroids. An 802.16 antenna can transmit Internet access up to a 30-mile radius at speeds comparable to DSL and cable broadband. When it all shakes out, 802.16 could end up launching developing nations into the digital age by eliminating the need for wired telecommunications infrastructure."

GlobeTel will install WiMAX in Russia's 30 largets cities.

Uli Altvater, President of GlobeTel Wireless stated: "This is a very large undertaking that will utilize the skills or more than 1,000 people in Russia, Europe and the United States. This transaction will catapult GlobeTel to a position as one of the top two suppliers and operators of wireless networks in the world."

Om Malik points to wireless clouds in Britain and Paris.

"The Cloud, a UK-based company that operates wifi hotspots is planning to build city wide WiFi clouds in London, Manchester and seven other cities. The network, is supposed to reach a total of 4 million people, and would also compete with incumbent phone and mobile carriers. The Cloud has stuck up partnerships with the likes of Skype and Nintendo for its WiFi network. I wonder if the Europeans once again have cracked the municipal wireless code: private enterprise upstarts with lower cost structure fighting it out with deep pocketed incumbents!"

"The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, believes in giving free access to the Internet and wants to push development of a city wide telecom network. His intentions were first reported in Nouvel Observateur, quite a serious newspaper. James Enck says, “The article refers to a city-wide network, and also seems to suggest that the Mayor has aspirations of offering free narrowband internet access and local telephony to residents of more modest economic means.”

You can also see Om's broadband Wiki.

Techdirt has the goods on why there is a need for Muni Wireless.

"Glenn Fleishman points to a Washington Monthly article that does an excellent job of highlighting why there's a need in the US for municipal broadband services -- because incumbent providers do an inadequate job of serving many communities, and regulators let them get away with it.

Both the original article and Fleishman's post point out examples of incumbent providers refusing to invest in offering services wanted and needed in some place, and also the double-standard the companies have when they object to localities spending public money to compete with them, but gladly accept all kinds of tax breaks, subsidies and incentives from local governments to support their own businesses.

The lack of real competition in the broadband market has allowed it to stagnate and lets providers get away with subpar offerings and high prices. Clearly the current regulatory situation isn't doing anything to spark competition -- far from it -- leaving underserved localities little option but to jump into things themselves. It's not a question of free markets or
government interference; incumbent providers just don't want to have to compete, period, regardless of who is their rival."

More from Techdirt on why Wifi isn't the right approach:

"WiFi is a wonderful technology that has done amazing things -- but it was built for local area networks, and stringing it out to cover entire cities is simply asking for problems.

The unfortunate part of this story, however, is that anti-muni-broadband forces, usually bankrolled by incumbent telcos, will quickly latch onto this story to suggest that all muni-broadband fails. Of course, as Glenn Fleishman pointed out just days ago, when it looked like Lompoc was on its way to launching the WiFi offering, the real goal of the city is to offer muni-fiber."

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