With all the attention being lavished on large municipal wireless networks such as the one being built by the city of Philadelphia, or the one proposed by San Francisco, the fact of the matter is that it is small towns which are (and rightfully so) being more aggressive in embracing MuniFi.
This week alone three tiny towns – Vail in Colorado along with Rockland and Thomaston in Maine – unwired their future. Vail, selected CenturyTel to build its system following a competitive bid process that included proposals from six other companies. The deal is pretty much the same as in other towns that have been unwired.Free Internet access up to 300Kbps (kilobits per second) anywhere in town by the end of 2006. Vail will also offer higher speeds on a daily, weekly and monthly pay cycle.
The situation in Rockland and Thomaston, both communities in Maine the situation was the one faced by many small communities. There was little or no broadband. The two towns teamed up with RedZone Wireless, that built the network, and now sells broadband in the $19.95 to $50.00 per month range. (All three deployments are using Skypilot Networks’ equipment. WiFiNetNews has more details on the Maine deployment. )
“While larger Internet Service Providers have targeted tier 1 markets for their initial municipal mesh roll-outs, RedZone is pursuing the other 25% of the marketplace, which is made up of towns having populations of 5-50,000,” said Jim McKenna, president, RedZone Wireless. “Many of these communities are presently underserved and a community mesh network is the fastest and most cost effective means to extend high speed Internet service to these areas. After only six months of service, our penetration rate rivals that of local DSL and cable providers,” continued McKenna.
I like that the small towns are taking control of their broadband future. I have recently made an acquaintance with someone in a small town in Idaho, and they are still on dial-up. Now that is a tiny town of about 2,500 that is crying out for broadband. It is deplorable that in 2006 we have places in the US where there is no broadband. Shouldn’t FCC be allocating some of the USF dollars into these rural MuniFi networks? For once tax payers’ money would be put to good use.