Minneapolis Muni WiFi: My (second) Council Letter

My second email to the Minneapolis City Council concerning the wireless initiative. I sent it off yesterday. (First letter is here.)


Greetings,

I contacted the Council previously, right before the vote (Feb. 24) on the wireless initiative. Thanks to those who responded.

Since then, I’ve been active in researching the issue. I have some concerns and suggestions.

My main concern is that so far, very little has been done to gather feedback from the community-at-large for the benefits agreement. I am aware of C-CAN and the Digital Access Project and I will be attending a meeting this coming Thursday where a group is drafting the benefits agreement. But I had to do a lot of work to find out how to get involved.

The “Municipal Broadband Initiative Business Case” (Feb. 16, 2006; p. 28, Opportunity #2) calls for public meetings prior to the pilot project launch which I understand is fast approaching. I can’t find a listing of any meetings on the City’s Web pages including the Minneapolis Wireless section. In fact, the City’s home page doesn’t mention the wireless initiative and doesn’t link the Minneapolis Wireless section.

Cam Gordon did hold a public forum on March 6 (I reported on it here) but there wasn’t a lot of publicity beforehand. I would expect meetings like this to be listed on the Wireless Minneapolis Web pages and to be announced via the City’s wireless announcements. (Maybe it was announced there? I only recently subscribed.)

A second concern is with the pilot itself. My understanding is that there won’t be public access to the system. I encourage you to include public and residential access to the system during the pilot or tell us the rationale as to why not. I don’t see any problem with either making it wide open or providing a single generic user/password or supplying, upon request, user/passwords.

A third concern is the minimum speed of connection on the wireless network. The need for bandwidth is only going to increase as services such as video-on-demand become popular. I would recommend that minimum up and down speeds for the network be set to at least 3mbps rather than the 1.5mbps that is mentioned in the Business Case. And keep upload and download speeds at the same level. This would also be of benefit to small businesses and entrepreneurs who wish to run their own servers. (Here’s a good article that discusses speeds and broadband penetration in the US.)

My fourth concern is the $12 wholesale price for ISPs. Has the Council checked with local ISPs to see if this is low enough for them to make a profit on the resale? I fear that the wireless initiative could put local ISPs out of business. I would like to see a very competitive marketplace for these services.

Finally, I urge caution and all due diligence even to the point of starting over. There is talk that this is our “window of opportunity” and that we could fall to the bottom of the vendor’s lists if we don’t act now. That sort of talk makes me nervous and sounds more like a salesperson trying to close the big deal. You might check out this cartoon.

I’ve been posting on my blog about Wireless Minneapolis and also muni wireless in general. I will likely post this message there as I did my last one.

You can check here for my wireless related posts.

Thank you for your time.

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