Are MuniNets the great equalizer?

Micah Sifry believes that cheap WiFi based muni-networks are about empowerment and opportunity. Joi Ito agrees, and points out that its not that tough. Chris Holland thinks that for Hermosa Beach, a city he calls home, can do it for $200,000. Just a few observations. I think it has become highly fashionable to comment about Municipal Networks and how they will save the communities from being left behind. I find the business logic is missing from most arguments. The reality of the matter is that its easy to make these arguments now, given that there is no data available on the likely success of these projects. What about the operational costs of these networks? Remember op-ex not cap-ex is what killed the fiber boom. I like the idea of WiFi networks for all, but in the end its models like that adopted by Minneapolis makes the most economic sense. Sifry offers up an African village opting for a satellite phone instead of roads as an example. Different environment and different needs. Another thing which works against the muni wi-fi projects, (telcos don’t need to lobby for this!!!) is that they are lighting up parks, town-hall, depressed retail areas – i.e. all areas that the wi-fi target demographic avoids.

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