Government Technology

Wi-Fi for the Masses


December 8, 2005 By

If nothing else, 2005 was an entertaining year for many a town, city or even county -- though the entertainment sometimes came at the expense of incumbent telecommunications companies.

This was the year of the municipal wireless network, when cities and counties across the country announced deals to blanket their jurisdictions with wireless Internet access. Philadelphia started it off by investigating ways to create a wireless network to provide affordable Internet access to city residents.

San Francisco generated plenty of buzz in August when its request for information and comment for a citywide Wi-Fi network, TechConnect, drew more than a dozen bids. The entrant that generated the most attention was Google, though the company's interest in this market might not be such a good thing for communities already invested in wireless networks.

Google's proposed San Francisco network would be designed to offer more than 1 Mbps of symmetric service throughout the entire city. That sort of speed, however, will cost extra -- the company said residents and visitors could connect free of charge to its network at data rates of up to 300 Kbps.

Google also said it would provide wholesale access at rates vastly discounted from today's retail prices, and other providers could then resell Internet access at substantially higher data rates than the free solution, potentially reaching 2-3 Mbps of throughput. Google itself also may sell ultra high-speed access and other premium services to consumers.

The company's foray into Wi-Fi has far-reaching implications for municipal wireless networks. It's no secret that Google has been busy buying unused fiber capacity in cities across the country, a step some observers see as the foundation for Google becoming an Internet service provider. The San Francisco experiment is a way for Google to refine the best mix of technologies, wired and wireless, to provide Internet access.

The surprise is that Google will likely offer free basic access to its network because the company's revenue comes from advertising contracts. The more people that use the network, the more Google can charge advertisers.

If indeed Google-Fi becomes reality, it would siphon users away from municipally operated wireless networks, which could cause problems for local governments. If those local governments are at all relying on revenues from subscriptions to Internet services, a sudden drop in revenue might turn the municipal network into an albatross instead of a self-supporting offering.

It's difficult to predict what could happen if Philadelphia residents, for example, suddenly had to choose between a low-priced wireless Internet access from the city and free access from Google. Sure, $20 per month isn't much, but free is a lot less.

If a mass migration to Google-Fi took place, Philadelphia -- or any city involved in providing wireless connectivity -- could well find itself in a bind.


| More

Comments

Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Maintain Your IT Budget with Consistent Compliance Practices
Between the demands of meeting federal IT compliance mandates, increasing cybersecurity threats, and ever-shrinking budgets, it’s not uncommon for routine maintenance tasks to slip among state and local government IT departments. If it’s been months, or even only days, since you have maintained your systems, your agency may not be prepared for a compliance audit—and that could have severe financial consequences. Regardless of your mission, consistent systems keep your data secure, your age
Best Practice Guide for Cloud and As-A-Service Procurements
While technology service options for government continue to evolve, procurement processes and policies have remained firmly rooted in practices that are no longer effective. This guide, built upon the collaborative work of state and local government and industry executives, outlines and explains the changes needed for more flexible and agile procurement processes.
Fresh Ideas In Online Security for Public Safety Organizations
Lesley Carhart, Senior Information Security Specialist at Motorola Solutions, knows that online and computer security are more challenging than ever. Personal smartphones, removable devices like USB storage drives, and social media have a significant impact on security. In “Fresh Ideas in Online Security for Public Safely Organizations,” Lesley provides recommendations to improve your online security against threats from social networks, removable devices, weak passwords and digital photos.
View All

Featured Papers