Minneapolis is going wireless. This came as a surprise to me, because government moves slowly, and I remember reading about this project in 2004, and thought we'd all have hover boards before municipal wireless would get off the ground. It's a good thing, for a few reasons:
- Lowers the cost of communication, if it works reliably, for the city. For example, cop cars, which are online all the time, don't have to use expensive cell phones to hook into the network.
- At $19.95 a month, a rate set in a 10 year stone, it's cheaper then broadband.
- $500,000 will be spent to provide low cost hardware, internet, and training for low income residents. This is the digital gap which separates someone from getting a $10 an hour entry office job, and someone working at KFC for $6 an hour. OK, it's not the simple, but I would like to see kids on poor homes have access to the internet, a good working computer, and training for the family.
The Strangely Optomistic
- As part of the marketing the city used to justify wireless city wide, was the image of firefighters heading to a fire, looking up the floor plans for the building on the way to the fire over wifi. Neato. But, I don't know how realistic that scenario is, or how common that would be.
- The massive security camera network the police would have access to instantly. This is another pie in the sky dreams of the city. Tie all the public and private security cameras into the network, so the cops can view security camera footage in the car on their way to a scene. Great, but how common would that be?
- $19.95, while cheaper then my bill currently, is still high for a lot of people. And, USI has to charge enough money to make a profit. Because the city doesn't own the network, USI must charge enough to make money. They are projecting $12 million in losses in the first year, out of a $27 million total operating cost.
- While there is a contract in place, if USI ever had to pull out, the city would be screwed. Sure, the city would buy out the contract, but would they be able to manage the services they didn't have to touch before?
- It's not free, and it should be. While there is a cost to provide internet service, it's something that should be funded through taxes, and given free to everyone. Their current model charges everyone, even visitors, except in certain areas, like plazas, or parks, and there is free access, but it's in a "walled garden" of city specific sites, I'm sure with advertising.