High Tech Texan: City sends out RFI on muni wi-fi network

Remember back when Mayor White first announced his municipal wi-fi initiative with great fanfare, media cheerleading, and a general feeling of the utopia that would result from our mayor taking such decisive steps to bridge the "digital divide" (oh, and to get the City of Houston free -- at the time -- use of the wifi network)?

Utopia sort of landed with a thud after Earthlink backed out of the arrangement, concluding that a payout to the city of several million dollars was better than actually trying to make the deal work financially.

But the effort to bridge the "digital divide" and make Houston world-class apparently continues. Michael Garfield reports on his High Tech Texan blog that the city has quietly sent out an RFI to potential vendors:

Just when we thought the City of Houston learned its lesson from trying to unwire the city from the tangled cables of the Internet, it looks as if they are giving it another try.

Less than six months removed from the unraveling of the Earthlink deal, the City's Digital Houston Initiative has released a Request for Information/Interest to prepare for a competitive solicitation to expand the current municipal wireless network. This RFI was released without the fanfare of the original muni-wireless RFP back in February 2006.

The details are posted on the blog. Garfield also asks,

Do we really need a citywide network with more Hotspots popping up at affordable costs or even free access (i.e. AT&T/Starbucks)? Are consumers and businesses willing to pay for not-so-speedy access?

Good questions.

As I suggested in Garfield's comments, I suspect the only way that a private firm can make this workable is if the City of Houston signs on as an "anchor tenant" (meaning it wouldn't actually pay to construct and maintain the system, but it would pay significant amounts of money on an annual basis to use it).

Still, some people will be happy to know that The Dream lives on!

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 03/01/08 09:30 AM | Print |

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