Wi-Fi: “Do you know the way…to Anaheim?”
LAKE TAHOE, CA – Last week I spoke to Mayor Curt Pringle of Anaheim, CA. I thought I would pass along how one city is looking for a new way to provide citywide wireless coverage.On June 28, Anaheim officials claimed they”turned on” the first broadband wireless network to cover an entire American city -over 50 square miles in all. Full build out of the system is expected by the end of the year. Offering no judgment on Anaheim’s technology choices, I do want to draw attention to one American city’s approach to funding vital local government services in the Interactions Economy. What’s new? Anaheim has agreed to give up the revenue stream from cable franchise and local telephone fees. Yes, you read that correctly. The City recognized that consumers bear the cost of these fees, so, Curt argues, doing away with them lowers the cost of service while encouraging more competition. Out with old! In with the NewInstead of a franchise fee, the City will charge the WiFi provider a pole attachment fee for placement of antennas, the cost of electricity for the network, and a lease payment for using fiber cable connections owned by the City. The City gets access to the network at a discounted price, and consumers get one-megabit-per-second service for $22 a month anywhere in the coverage area.OK, the new WiFi service is slower than DSL or cable, but faster than dial-up. That’s why many argue that Muni WiFi is great, but only as a secondary access. Yet the hope is that WiFi providers will upgrade the system to be faster over time. The incentive to do so is that the network is”open,” meaning other providers get access to the network, including competitors. I’m not saying Anaheim’s approach is Nirvana, but it’s a welcome break from the media coverage of”free” city WiFi. I actually like that it isn’t”free”. By offering a low monthly fee to consumers insures future investment in the network. New approach to fees worth watchingWe all depend on local governments to fund vital quality of life services such as road repair, parks, libraries, and police and fire protection. Yet some traditional revenue streams, such as cable franchise and local city telephone fees, may no longer make sense. Hence, we should take note of Anaheim’s non-traditional attempt to secure funding streams for vital local services.