14 September 2005

CityWide WiFi Network

The city of Philadelphia has a plan to deploy a citywide WiFi network as a low-cost solution to provide a broadband Internet access to the low-income residents. ($20 / month) If cities are creating public funded wireless broadband network, what would be an impact on commercial WiFi providers such as T-mobile and Wayport? Do we need to wait for WiMax technology, which has a broader coverage than WiFi? (http://www.news.com, Philly narrows Wi-Fi equipment choice)

10 comments:

James Twigger said...

Does anyone know where I can find any basic information on what are the current regulations governing WiFi services for the general public? Are the companies and government regulated by the same telecom act of 1996 for wireless Internet services?

If my memory serves me correctly, wasn't there a court case that developed somewhere because a local municipality decided to setup and provide wireless Internet service to residents for free...and than, after doing so, they got sued and had to turn it off?

I think the government, if they so desire, should be allowed to enter this business. First, they will most likely have the same startup costs as would any other organization. Second, what is to stop the government from competing with normal businesses. It would essentially drive others to develop better quality services at the same costs or less.

Also, is the government service only available to low-income residents, or is it available to anyone?

Martin Weiss said...

In the US, different states have different policies with regard to municipal networks. In Pennsylvania, a municipality may only provide service if a private carrier.

The Progress and Freedom Foundation has published this testimony in a Florida case (PFF tends to favor a libertarian, private sector approaches to telecommunications policy). If you look around on their site, you will find other related documents.

On the other side, CaNET has promoted municipal networks. Check out their library for specific references.

Most municipal network proposals that I have seen make service available to all. Whether you believe government should be involved in providing this kind of service depends on your political prferences. Some say that government has no business competing with the private sector, because it hampers investment (how can you compete with taxpayer supported services) and because government lacks the expertise to do so. Others view it as a way to stimulate a broadly-based rollout of new services.

Martin Weiss said...

As an add-on to my previous comment, see this article in today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette!

Martin Weiss said...

Just to add more to this ... please take a look at the latest posting by the PFF...

demko said...

Here's an article that I found about the state law regarding this.
cnet article

They also include a link to an actual bill that was signed into law by Gov. Rendell that stated, "cities and townships may not provide to the public any broadband or wireless services if a fee is charged." I didn't read through the whole bill, but here's the link if anyone wishes to do so.

House Bill #30 of 2003 Session

KuangChiu Huang said...

If I was a private ISP of Philly, definitely, I wish such nightmare would not come true. The new entrant would increase the competition, share customers and squeeze the profit margin. In addition, municipal WiFi is provided by city government and its budget/finance is indorsed by public. It is unfair to require private companies to compete municipal in similar service. It is clear that dial up Internet service (like AOL) may not be able to compete with $20/month WiFi, and how does the municipal to setup the identification and security mechanism to prevent low income WiFi subscribers from transferring/sharing the service with non-low income residents.

Martin Weiss said...

The Wireless Philadelphia website indicates that the City would act as an infrastructure provider, wholesaling capacity to private ISPs, who would interact with users. Does this change entry and profitability concerns? Should municipalities construct and provide wholesale capacity (i.e.,, is this an appropriate role for government)?

Martin Weiss said...

Here is an update on the Philadelphia wireless project:

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NEW YORK - A high-profile plan to turn the city of Philadelphia into one giant wireless hotspot is about to take a leap forward. Sources close to the project say that the city will award a contract to design, deploy and maintain the network on Monday. The two finalists are Internet service provider EarthLink and computer company Hewlett-Packard.

http://www.forbes.com/intelligentinfrastructure/2005/09/30/philadelphia-wifi-contract-cx_de_0930philadelphia.html?partner=yahootix

Martin Weiss said...

Earhlink won the contract to implement the Philadelphia wireless project (see this article.

Anonymous said...

When you hear broadband providers or your colleagues and friends talking about "wireless" they could actually be talking about two separate things:Wireless Networking, having a wire free computer in the house connected to a broadband connection.Wireless Broadband, this is a special kind of broadband package where you can use it at home, but also in certain places when you are away from home. All you need is your phone number or pastcode to see if either of these broadband connections are available and you can check it at broadband.co.uk.