Arizona

Tempe muni wireless falls short

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/25/2008 - 13:32

Tempe, Arizona's foray into community and municipal wireless has not worked out as expected. Like many other communities that have tried the same thing and have also failed, Tempe tried to avoid spending any money. They simply granted an untested wireless firm access to city lightpoles and structures for wireless equipment. The private firm had to bear the entire cost of build out. The wireless system was also not seen as reliable as a wired system, and the wireless firm has not been able to attract many subscribers.

The lesson learned is that there is no free lunch for community broadband. Communities that spend very little are getting very little in return, and if all of the risk is left in the private sector, the private sector won't come or won't stay long. Another lesson is that building out without a solid business plan to attract customers is also a non-starter. The right approach is to target underserved areas and/or to be able to offer innovative services that are not already available from other providers.

Digital Cities: "My business can't survive without broadband"

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 01/23/2008 - 12:48

Galen Updike, with the State of Arizona, opened the Digital Cities Expo this morning, and told of speaking to a woman who was trying to run a business out of her rural home.

She said, "You know, I can do without public water--I can have my own well. I can do without public sewer--I can put in my own septic system. I can do without a paved road to my house. I can even do without electricity--I can generate my own. But without Internet access, my business will fail."

And that story illustrates the relative importance of broadband with respect to economic development.

VoIP works just fine at 80 mph

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 02/23/2005 - 07:52

Esme Vos at MuniWireless reports that Arizona has been testing VoIP via wireless on highways, and that telephone calls have been made successfully at speeds of 80 MPH. The effort uses equipment from a company called RoamAD. The mesh network system is able to hand off the signal from one cell to another without losing the telephone call.

I've been following mesh networks for some time, and I think the technology, which is inexpensive and ideal for covering large areas with a WiFi blanket, is poised to catch on.

One of the weak points in the incumbent opposition to municipal wireless networks is the fact that a WiFi blanket is likely to emerge as a key public safety technology. On top of that, community-regional WiFi blankets are going to save taxpayer dollars. Laptops are already common in patrol cars. But imagine if a police officer, at the scene of an accident, could not only videotape the scene, but transmit it in realtime to a server back at the police station, where it could be archived, along with all the paperwork, which would also be transmitted in realtime from the scene.

Drunk driving enforcement could use the same systems, archiving roadside sobriety tests as evidence for a court trial. Fire, rescue, and paramedic teams could also use 24/7 realtime network access to improve response times and save lives.

And if a community is provisioning a wireless network, why not design it so citizens can use it as well?

As always, I think that communities ought to be making the infrastructure investments (duct, towers, tower sites, colocation facilities) and issue RFPs to the private sector to provision and manage the network. That way communities get what they need while creating private sector jobs. Why would you want to do it any other way?

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