Intel champions community networks

Intel, the big chipmaker, has jumped on the muni broadband train and is helping communities take the issue to state legislatures.

In one sense, this is good news, because like it or not, legislators are more likely to listen to an Intel lobbyist (who can make campaign donations) than they are to the citizens that elected them (for the most part). Intel and other tech companies can provide a counterbalance to the enormous influence of the telephone and cable companies.

But has Intel just suddenly decided that they should do this for the good of communities everywhere. No. Instead, they are angry that the wireline broadband providers are busy arranging de facto service monopolies that are locking out wireless systems, which are the current darling of a lot of vendors out to make a quick buck by selling huge wireless systems to unsuspecting community leaders.

Intel has invested millions in WiMax, the emerging new wireless system that overcomes some of the limitations of WiFi. Intel wants to make sure they sell lots of WiMax equipment to communities and systems integration vendors who are busy telling communities that wireless will solve all their broadband problems.

Wireless has an important role to play in community broadband, but it is not a panacea and it is not a replacement for fiber. The two are complementary, and communities will want and need both.

Beware of "free" advice from vendors. It looks cheap and quick on the front end, but I rarely see it turn out well, and quite often, vendor "solutions" turn out quite badly.

Make your own plans first, using a qualified vendor-neutral consultant (like Design Nine), and then invite vendors in. It takes a little more time on the front end, but your community will save time and money on the back end.

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