The VAR Guy

March 6, 2007

1 Min Read
What's Next in City WiFi?

The VAR Guy spent Monday meeting with integrators and city CIOs at MuniWireless 2007 Texas, a conference that highlights public broadband initiatives across the world. The highlight of his day was watching the City CIO panel, which featured the CIOs of Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth and Plano.

Some key observations: Corpus Christi still has one of the most advanced public broadband networks in the country, using such applications as automated meter reading (AMD).

Dallas CIO Worris Levine was refreshingly honest, indicating that he is taking a very slow approach to public broadband because he believes there will be a big price to pay for “free” networks and “free” Internet access. He mentioned that he gathers info from city directors by asking them “What do you need?” — without limiting the conversation to “What wireless services do you need?” This ensures that city directors focus on the most urgent application requirements rather than WiFi hype.

Fort Worth put out an RFP for public broadband but is now reconsidering the effort and trying to determine key application priorities for such a network.

Plano has begun an interesting public safety initiative involving an applications partnership with Motorola.

And El Paso used a “sand box” metaphor to describe a one-square-mile project to deploy and test public broadband. The effort included close working relationships with Cisco and Intel.

As Ash Dyer from MIT recommended to all conference attendees: Start small and think of public broadband projects as Lego pieces. Instead of trying to unwire an entire city all at once, focus on one neighborhood—or one building block. This is akin to building departmental LANs in the 1990s, and then piecing them together using routers and bridges.

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