Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Shifting the municipal WiFi discussion in 2006

One particular piece of logic keeps floating to the top of my brain as I watch cities announce muni WiFi initiatives and telcos denounce them. It’s logic that needs to start driving the discussion in cities planning or launching their initiatives.

Aside from its representative body, city government is a business operation. In many places, a multi-million or multi-billion dollar operation. Looking at it further, cities are similar in three distinct ways to companies that have many acres of land they use for large warehouses, shipping docks, manufacturing plants or office campuses.
  1. Hundreds, if not thousands, of employees are mostly mobile in a city’s place of business – the streets within its geographical boundaries;
  2. there’s a huge number of physical assets such as emergency equipment, vehicles and building structures that cities spend a lot of money to track, retrieve and maintain; and
  3. they have, or can negotiate, access to vertical assets upon which can hang the infrastructure for an effective WiFi network.

Businesses figured out that the cost of a WiFi network pays for itself many times over through the decreased costs plus increased efficiency and productivity that comes from wireless asset maintenance and on-site employees using mobile applications. And none of these companies would even dream of spending truckloads of money for wireless data services when they own the wireless network employees on their premises are using.

Governments. Start thinking like a business! Put the discussion about providing wireless public access on the back burner for a month. Spend that time building the business case for using your vertical assets to deploy WiFi so you better manage your human and physical assets.

What you’ll likely discover is the following.

You’ll make back the money you invest within two years or sooner from the resulting cost cutting and productivity improvements. Factor in the money you won’t spend for carrier data service and ROI is quicker. Everything after that is major financial surplus. This stops all the yammering about cities not being able to make money with the network, WiFi networks are boondoggles, etc., etc.

You probably won’t have to tap into tax revenues to build the network. Build it using either capital funds, bonds or be creative and have an ISP or vendor build it. This gets you past arguments about using the taxpayers’ money. Sure, telephone poles belong to the citizens, but they’re getting more efficient government in exchange for pole space they aren’t using anyway. Hardly seems like an impeachable offense.

You can use the money you save by cutting costs and running a more efficient business operation to run social programs, spur economic development or find other ways to give citizens more value for their tax dollar. You (a.k.a. the citizens) own the infrastructure, so do with it as the citizens deem fit.

If you want to provide public access, either for the social programs or because you feel it’s a good thing to do, bring in a third party to run and manage it. No matter how much the telcos bluster about you competing unfairly against them, public/private partnerships for the greater public good are as much a staple of American government as lobbyists and billion-dollar tax subsidies. Also, since the network’s ROI is coming from improved government operations, the city has minor financial risk with the public access service.

Bottom line. Think like a business. Use WiFi to run a better government operation. Neutralize opposition to muni WiFi. Then ponder public access.


At 7:57 PM, Blogger Curtis Palmer said...

Amen to that!

At 2:37 AM, Anonymous 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

, having a wire free computer in the house connected to a broadband connection.
Broadband" href="http://www.broadband.co.uk/">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

title="broadband.co.uk" href="http://www.broadband.co.uk/">broadband.co.uk

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!


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