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SXSW Panel: Taking Back Municipal WiFi


Bonewald (MuniWireless) / Ante / MacKinnon / Vos

(This turned out to be a difficult presentation to track. Maybe I’m tired.)

Ante: U.S. is largest market for broadband access, but we’re lagging behind in many ways.

Vos: Cost of municipal wifi underestimated in most cases.

MacKinnon: Created a model in Austin where every node had to find a way to cover its own cost. (Resistant to disaster or political crisis.) As a result if one goes bankrupt, the rest will be OK.

Bonewald: It’s not a technology problem, it’s a business model problem.

Q: Can you describe a model in another country, and can what can we steal from them?

Vos: Proposal in EU government to open up broadband to other companies… Structural separation. Different companies providing service and infrastructure.

MacKinnon: Montreal, Berlin (mesh networking), Barcelona. Spain has a nationalized phone system that hasn’t trenched the rural areas. Responded by basically building a giant wireless LAN.

Bonewald: Getting people addicted to using wifi is a key component to getting a network going.

Q from Audience: What about partnering with YellowPages business?

MacKinnon: Great idea. Good to go after local weekly, ad-supported ads as well. Compelling value proposition to say “we’ll also run your ad on hotspots all over the city.”

Q: Structural separation sounds like the way to go. Is there any serious supporters for that in the United States.

Vos: The moment a politician breathes the word “structural separation,” they stop getting money from the telcoms.

Q: What didn’t work in Philly? In Mountain View, Google provides wifi, so can you speak to that.

Vos: Earthlink decided to get out of muni wifi. Philly also had a lot cost overruns.

MacKinnon: If any wifi network has the chance to use ads to support itself, one run by Google is it. Austin’s ad rate is $200 per month (that’s $1 per hot spot)… And Austin has the largest network like it in the nation.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 3:22 pm

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