Report: City-run Wi-Fi plans could have 'grave flaws'
Despite good intentions, city officials could be making a mistake
Computerworld - City-run wireless broadband networks such as those now under discussion in a number of places, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco, haven't been fully studied and are being touted with dubious claims about their benefits, according to a report issued by the New Millennium Research Council.
The Washington-based NMRC is an independent subsidiary of Issue Dynamics Inc., a "consulting firm specializing in public affairs and relationship-management services." Its clients include SBC and Verizon, companies that municipalities would be competing with if their plans to provide Wi-Fi service are realized.
The six authors who worked on the report (download PDF), which was released yesterday, warn that if the proposals aren't studied fully, taxpayers could be left to pay for what could soon be outdated technology.
"Municipal Wi-Fi networks present a number of serious problems that are being overlooked as cities rush into committing millions in taxpayer dollars to pay for network development and expansion," the report said.
"[While] the intentions of city officials and administrators are admirable, the rollout of municipally held Wi-Fi networks will likely have a detrimental effect on city budgets and on competition in the telecommunications industry, and fail to produce the economic growth and jobs promised by municipal leaders," the authors said in the report.
"[City] ownership of Wi-Fi networks is not the solution for bridging the Digital Divide or encouraging competition in the broadband market," the report says.
The authors cited what they called "grave flaws" in city-run Wi-Fi plans, including potential cost overruns that would draw more taxpayer dollars away from other city priorities; damage to legitimate commercial broadband competition resulting from taxpayer-subsidized municipal entry; a lack of evidence that economic development and jobs will result from the new Wi-Fi systems; the fact that previous municipal attempts to deploy broadband networks have failed; and a disturbing reliance by proponents on unsubstantiated "if you build it, they will come" assumptions that are at the heart of most city-run Wi-Fi scenarios.
Despite those cautionary words, others said it's too soon to know whether the Wi-Fi networks will be a boon or bust for cities. That's because they haven't yet been built to any large extent, said Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Austin-based Wi-Fi Alliance.
"What has been done is hot-spot kinds of applications and perhaps campus types of applications," he said. "And because Wi-Fi technology is a maturing technology, some of the uncertainty is taken out of the equation. Wi-Fi is showing up in all sorts of applications -- it works, and it's cost effective.
"The technology bugs have been workedout over the past several years," Hanzlik added, "so the challenge that cities like Philadelphia appear to be embarking on is how can they take that hot-spot concept and really put it on steroids."
Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.
- 18 Hot IT Certifications for 2014
- CIOs Opting for IT Contractors Over Hiring Full-Time Staff
- 12 Best Free iOS 7 Holiday Shopping Apps
- For CMOs Big Data Can Lead to Big Profits
- Slideshow: 5 ways to lock down your mobile device
- Slideshow: 10 mistakes companies make after a data breach
- How to rob a bank: A social engineering walk through
- Which smartphone is the most secure?
If you think getting it right from day one is always what matters, you probably haven't been following technology too closely.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Bring Networks and Applications Closer--Cisco ONE
- A series of sweeping trends is placing new requirements on the tried-and-true network model--requiring network infrastructure and applications to communicate. Get the open...
- Lippis Research Reviews the Cisco Catalyst 2960-X
- In this Lippis Report Research Note, Lippis Research reviews the latest edition of the "most popular access switch on the planet" -- the...
- Design Guide--Scaling Up to a Campus-Wide LAN
- Is it time to scale your network environment to a campus wired LAN? Here's the framework you need to set up your LAN...
- Comprehensive Security: Cisco Catalyst 2960 Series
- With a rich and comprehensive set of security features, Cisco Catalyst 2960-X and 2960-XR Series Switches can help you address networking megatrends such...
- Be Energy Efficient--The Cisco Catalyst 2960 Series
- How much energy could be saved if all 230 million Layer 2 and 3 fixed managed switch ports sold in 2012 were as... All Government IT White Papers
- Modernizing SAP environments with minimum risk - a path to Big Data Hear from top IDC analyst, Richard Villars, about the path you can start taking now to enable your organization to get the benefits...
- Vblock™ Specialized System for SAP HANA® Overview video from DJ Long about the new Vblock Specialized System for SAP HANA®.
- The Power of the Citrix Mobility Solution, XenMobile Does everything become a smartphone? Or does the smartphone begin to do everything? How can we afford to support BYOD? Rather, how can...
- BYOD Happens: How to Secure Mobility How to navigate the journey of securing mobility, including the BYOD corruption of IT, the top ten mobility strategies, and the mobility management...
- Fighting Fraud Videos: IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager Short videos about IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager (IIM) for Fraud. IIM optimizes the investigation of fraud for customers across many industries in both...
- All Government IT Webcasts
Does your organization offer extensive benefits, cool perks, competitive salaries, opportunities for training and advancement? Then get it recognized!
Nominate your company or another deserving organization for Computerworld's 2014 Best Places to Work in IT list now through Dec. 20, 2013.