Government Technology

    Digital Communities
    Industry Members

  • Click sponsor logos for whitepapers, case studies, and best practices.
  • McAfee

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


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
Digital Cities & Counties Survey: Best Practices Quick Reference Guide
This Best Practices Quick Reference Guide is a compilation of examples from the 2013 Digital Cities and Counties Surveys showcasing the innovative ways local governments are using technological tools to respond to the needs of their communities. It is our hope that by calling attention to just a few examples from cities and counties of all sizes, we will encourage further collaboration and spark additional creativity in local government service delivery.
Wireless Reporting Takes Pain (& Wait) out of Voting
In Michigan and Minnesota counties, wireless voting via the AT&T network has brought speed, efficiency and accuracy to elections - another illustration of how mobility and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology help governments to bring superior services and communication to constituents.
Why Would a City Proclaim Their Data “Open by Default?”
The City of Palo Alto, California, a 2013 Center for Digital Government Digital City Survey winner, has officially proclaimed “open” to be the default setting for all city data. Are they courageous or crazy?
View All