Municipal wireless network initiatives have been proposed, attempted, shut down, celebrated, maligned, and utilized since Wi-Fi went mainstream back in the day. Each attempt at Muni WiFi is it’s own case study of politics-meets-technology, and many have done OK while others have tanked hard. In the aggregate, this is an interesting space.
Through the last decade or so, I’ve written a number of pieces on municipal wireless for Network Computing Magazine (NWC), and the now defunct Cabling Business Magazine. As I was researching for a recent NWC blog on the new Ruckus Wireless/San Jose, CA Muni Wi-Fi initiative, I came across a number of resources that are dynamite for anyone interested in the whole municipal wireless thing. Again- it’s politics, technology, different use cases, and people when it comes to Muni Wi-Fi, which also means it’s pretty darn interesting.
Muniwireless.com is my new favorite place to follow goings on in this space, followed by the Community Broadband Networks web site. Going through each, I was floored to see just how contentious the topic of community wireless is at the state level in many states, usually where carriers lobby hard to eliminate perceived competition. Both of these sites get into the political foofa at the right depth, and are easy reads while giving a lot of information.
I really do hope that the San Jose network powered by Ruckus Wireless can end up as a good example of contemporary Muni Wi-Fi done right technically, with proper political handling. There’s just so much potential for wireless to serve communities, and given that we all live in a wireless-minded culture that didn’t exist during earlier unsuccessful attempts at community networks, it would be nice to see more in the muni win column.