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You get muni broadband by demanding it

Cities, like people, learn only with time.
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Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on
At the Freedom2Connect conference this morning there was a long panel about municipal broadband builds, and general agreement on how to get faster connections than the phone-cable duopoly will provide.

Demand it.

It is user demands for a faster, open Internet that has gotten Tropos 300 municipal customers in two years, with 190 RFPs from various cities and counties out right now, said Tropos CEO Ron Sege (left).

"The customers install their networks and experiment with a bunch of innovative applications they couldn’t do in EVDO or fiber," he said. "There’s WiFi to every police car in Oklahoma City.  There’s video patrolling of high crime areas of New Orleans, which helped with post-Katrina recovery. We’re doing mobile trauma triage in Tucson, meter reading in Corpus Christi, a free network for 28,000 residents in St. Cloud, Florida."

The business models are just as varied -- "ad-sponsored, subscriber-paid, municipal sponsored, private municipal, and multi-use" services like Google's San Francisco plan, in which users will choose between a slow-speed ad-supported service and a faster paid service.

As Sege spoke, above his head, a text conference played on a giant screen, reacting to the Webcast version of the event. One of Sege's more active critics there was Brett Glass of Lariat.Net in Wyoming, a WISP who complained that municipal networks crowd-out private WISPs, that subsidies eliiminate the ability of private actors to profit, and that free services are instantly abused by users of peer-to-peer services.  

This was, on the whole, a minority view, although Esme Vos of Muniwireless tried to answer some of those concerns. "The municipalities doing this are mainly issuing bids which require letting anyone come in. There are some who are doing it like a cable franchise, trying to give exclusivity. That’s not what the medium is about. Sensitiviity has been raised and it’s baked into the new RFPs, but that’s not true for older ones."

In other words cities, like people, learn only with time.

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