Ownership has advantages

Even as some municipal wireless projects are falling apart, many other communities are still pursuing the risky "direct to vendor" approach. Instead of identifying broader community goals and needs first and then selecting systems and technology that support those goals, community leaders are going straight to a vendor and letting the vendor specify what the community should buy.

These "solutions" are typically expensive wireless systems, offered to the community in some kind of bundled business deal. There are two common approaches. The first is that the local government buys an expensive wireless system, usually with a combination of public safety wireless and data wireless (WiFi) for residential and business use. The second model is that the wireless firm builds the network but obtains a lucrative long term contract from the local government for public safety wireless and usually some WiFi services for government agencies.

There are two problems with this direct to vendor model. The first is that what a single vendor offers may or may not be well aligned with the long term community and economic development goals of the town or county. As an example, wireless (WiFi) is not a business class service and does little to help with economic development.

The second problem is that the vendor ends up deciding the economic future of the community, not the community itself. It is as if water and sewer were managed privately, and the water and sewer vendor gets to decide when and where water and sewer lines will be be upgraded or added. If the company decides it is not profitable to make such upgrades, the community is out of luck if said upgrades are needed to retain existing businesses or to attract new ones.

Local leaders are handing the keys to their community's economic future to a third party; they are doing so in part because they don't feel competent to make technology decisions. But the solution is to educate local leaders on how to make wise decisions, rather than avoiding them altogether. In fact, communitywide fiber and wireless systems are less expensive and less complicated than your average community sewer system.

Design Nine provides seminars designed specifically for community leaders and economic developers, and provides technology advice for communities that is technology neutral.