CBA goes to Ways & Means: Let the Negotiations Begin

On Monday, July 31, the Minneapolis City Council’s Ways & Means Committee received and filed and approved the Digital Inclusion Task Force CBA Recommendations. (Download it here.)

This report is based on the report from the Digital Inclusion Coalition that I was on.

There was some discussion. The report advocates (we only suggested) a free and ad-supported low bandwidth system for full participation. In discussion, Council Member Betsy Hodges wanted to know more about that and how strongly the Task Force was pushing for it. Catherine Settanni, Task Force convener and presenter to the Committee, backed away from the idea quickly. I don’t think we’ll get it. Ms. Settanni mentioned it was really too slow anyway (maybe 300Mbps). I don’t agree. A stable 300Mbps signal is fine for basic browsing. I’d like to see a free wireless network. Ads don’t bother me that much.

The report also advocates for an intermediary group but it seems the shape and form of that are yet to be determined. There are legal issues in play here. You have the vendor, the City, and possibly this intermediary group. The City feels it should enforce the contract as it has more teeth. (Uh, what about the cable public access fiasco?) The Task Force didn’t really push for any specific model so it will be left to negotiations.

The contract negotiation schedule was discussed and it is very aggressive. Forget about a 60-day evaluation of the pilot networks. I’m not sure they’ll even get 30 days. The negotiations begin on August 14 and they hope to have a Council vote on the contract by the last cycle in August. (I assume that means a meeting near the end of the month.)

The pilot of the winning vendor is likely to stay up for a while. That has me cheering for US Internet as I’ve had an excellent connection via the Belair antenna outside my window. Speeds were very fast initially (like 14Mbps) but settled down to around 3M. Still faster than my Qwest DSL connection and it is very stable.

Hmmm. Maybe the losing vendor will decide to build out their current pilot network and offer competitive services. That would give Minneapolis a fourth broadband choice (cable, Qwest, City wireless, other wireless). Hell, they could hire me to do some serious Web 2.0 marketing and evangelism.

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