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By Carol Ellison  |  Posted 2005-02-18 Print this article Print

: Who pays for municipal wireless?"> Marsico offered these thoughts on how to fund the service: "Taxation is probably the best method, although some may claim that the local citizens would then be subsidizing the tourists. How contraire! Tourism brings revenue to the city and helps keep local taxes down since the revenues from tourism bring businesses profits and enable those businesses, in turn, to pay the citys various Business use taxes and other mercantile licenses fees, etc. The outsourcing of technical support to local IT would then put more people to work locally, thereby generating more revenue for the city via wage taxes, license fees, etc." Mark Barton, of San Jose, Calif., would like to see municipal wireless come his way. He says his business could not exist without broadband and, based on his experience with municipal utilities, muni Wi-Fi promises to hold down rates. "In the neighboring towns of Santa Clara (Intels headquarters) and Palo Alto, the power utilities are run by the cities," he wrote. "Residents in these towns enjoy significantly lower bills than those of us in the Pacific Gas & Electric service zones. ... My experience is that local control can be very effective in providing essential services."
Looking for a Wi-Fi hot spot? Click here to use eWEEK.coms Hot-Spot Finder Alexander J. Wood spoke up for muni Wi-Fi, saying "the most important service many consumers get is their broadband connection, and not their phone line or TV service…I can also see Wi-Fi becoming the only access in small towns where big providers wont spend money to run fiber-optic lines and new DSL and cable systems to distribute the bandwidth. Even if the wireless projects dont replace cable or DSL, they surely will bring the prices of private broadband way down…Now, if lawmakers could get with the program we might actually have better broadband. Although mail ran strongly in favor of muni Wi-Fi, there were a few who did not agree that cities should have the right to determine their own Wi-Fi fates. Pennsylvania resident Terry Smith, systems administrator at Management Science Associates likened muni wireless to socialism and argued "while it is a noble thought that all citizens of Philadelphia should be given free or low-cost broadband, what happens to free enterprise? If I can get broadband for $15, why spend $42? If Verizon (or Comcast or Adelphia or whoever) loses customers to this government-subsidized low-cost supplier, they will be forced to raise their rates. Eventually their rates will be so high that they will be out of the broadband business. If all carriers are forced out of their broadband business, the government will be the ONLY provider. And once they are the only provider and have to maintain their own infrastructure, the prices will soar, either in monthly fees or higher taxes… The way to affordable broadband is through competition. When companies compete, prices drop." Cmdr. J. Price of the U.S. Naval Reserve also opposes muni Wi-Fi but doesnt like the idea of the state granting a monopoly interest to any carrier. "I dont want any governmental agency taxing, controlling or providing anything," Price wrote. "So no, the government should not grant control or a monopoly to any company, nor should it allow any company to control the market by some legal grant. Every vendor that desires to enter a market should be allowed to do so, and may the best win." Then there were others who didnt think muni Wi-Fi was enough. Jeff Hoel, a resident of Palo Alto, Calif., describes himself as an enthusiastic supporter of muni "fiber to the home," which he calls "an even better idea than muni wireless." He says hed "rather pay my muni than the telecom incumbents for Internet, phone, and TV services… Munis typically try to charge for utilities what they cost, plus a little for the General Fund. At least thats the policy for Palo Altos existing utilities. It could be the same for an information utility." Jeff Warner, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., said he likes the idea of muni Wi-Fi in theory but, on close examination, he has his doubts. He writes: "It would be nice to get wireless away from my house, but I would hardly ever use it. If the city wants to paint the area with connections, I think they should get a new frequency!" Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.

Carol Ellison is editor of's Mobile & Wireless Topic Center. She has authored whitepapers on wireless computing (two on network security–,Securing Wi-Fi Wireless Networks with Today's Technologies, Wi-Fi Protected Access: Strong, Standards-based Interoperable Security for Today's Wi-Fi Networks, and Wi-Fi Public Access: Enabling the future with public wireless networks.

Ms. Ellison served in senior and executive editorial positions for Ziff Davis Media and CMP Media. As an executive editor at Ziff Davis Media, she launched the networking track of The IT Insider Series, a newsletter/conference/Web site offering targeted to chief information officers and corporate directors of information technology. As senior editor at CMP Media's VARBusiness, she launched the Web site, VARBusiness University, an online professional resource center for value-added resellers of information technology.

Ms. Ellison has chaired numerous industry panels and has been quoted as a networking and educational technology expert in The New York Times, Newsday, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CNN Headline News, WNBC and CNN/FN, as well as local and regional Comcast and Cablevision reports. Her articles have appeared in most major hi-tech publications and numerous newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

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