The original home of the blog known as 802 Online

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

More Muni Wi-Fi

Here's a story from Durham's Independent Weekly about municipally owned wi-fi in the Triangle Area (in North Carolina). It's written by my new pal Fiona Morgan, who I met at the blogger conference at UNC last month. It's a good read, particularly for anyone interested in getting muni wi-fi in Vermont. This is an extremely relevant topic, given the current controversy over Burlington Telecom's cable project.

Incidentally, Tim Nulty of Burlington Telecom told me that there are no plans to do muni wi-fi in Burlington. They've completely ceded that to the private sector (in this case, Soundtivity, Summit Wireless, and the various vendors on Church Street).
Well that sucks. Did he tell you why they have ceded wifi to the private sector? How can we get them to change their minds? Does it have to be Burlington Telecom or can some other city agency take it on?
In Chapel Hill, we recognize that some level of coordination has to be done between all the players. For instance, in Durham NC, Duke University has expanded their coverage and drowned out a number of free hotspots along the 9th St. corridor. Wishing to avoid this problem at the home of UNC, the Downtown Economic Dev. Corp and others are exploring how a public sponsor, like the town, can coordinate both public and private efforts. My take? Ceding all Wifi access to a private entity is a recipe for disaster. Maybe Burlington isn't interested in the "last mile" problem or bridging the digital divide, if so, then maybe turning over your "airspace" to a for-profit entity might not be such a big deal. Here in Chapel Hill, it would be...
No other city agency is going to take it on. I can't recall if Nulty went into detail about why they're not doing muni wi-fi--I talked to him about it for a story I wrote back in December--but they're definitely not interested.

I think it's a pretty complicated thing, requiring a separate infrastructure for them, and they'd rather let private companies do it if there are people who want to. Jeremy Ward of Soundtivity seems into it.

I expect more to happen this spring. Because of the variations in signal when the leaves appear, there won't be any construction on new hot spots until summer. I'll keep you posted when I know more.
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