Thursday, July 24, 2014

City of Mission Municipal Wireless In the Works


Mayor Beto Salinas has announced in several instances, the creation of a Municipal Wireless project. Such a project would be a great initial benefit to the community as it would be a great service to citizens who do not have broadband at home. But, as is in most networks of this type, it would likely start off in the business corridor where people shop and eat.

Such a placement makes sense because as a community we want to attract and retain shoppers to our local businesses. Free Wi-Fi in our downtown area would be a great benefit to help boost our local economy. With increased revenues, the City could then slowly expand the project.

Why not start the community wireless in the neighborhoods?

I have experimented in creating community wireless through Mission Wi-Fi, which was an out of pocket project. The project included hotspots in both commercial and residential areas. The results of the experiments are very distinct.

In commercial areas, people connect  to the Wi-Fi for a few minutes here and there on their mobile devices. These included phones and tablets. On occasion, you would see a laptop; but, not too often.

In residential areas, the use of broadband is much more demanding. Once people are in their homes, they are pulling down movies and other high bandwidth services. It severely impacted my own personal quality of service.

Therefore, if the City is going to launch Internet service for the community, it has to start where it has a chance to grow and not be ground down to a crawl while taking its first steps.

Mission has four main business corridors, Conway Avenue, Griffin Parkway, Business 83, and Shary Road. Presumably, these would be the ideal places to light up with Wi-Fi as they offer the best access to broadband service to be injected into the network.

From these four corridors, the City of Mission could slowly expand service into the neighborhoods; but, they do not necessarily have to do it. Projects in Europe, such as Guifi.net and Freifunk.net show that citizens can build their own community networks to bridge the gaps in coverage. In addition, many of the participants in those community networks donate their own personal bandwidth to the community.

Ideally, the City of Mission would create a very local fiber optic network that goes around the city just as Chanute, Kansas has done. Their network serves the same purpose as our city roads, to transport data from point A to point B. The network connects their utilities, schools, and government offices. In addition, they act as a way to carry broadband to businesses by buying bandwidth wholesale and reselling it for a markup that pays for network maintenance. More importantly, Chanute was able to build the network much more affordably on their own than if they had paid service providers to do it for them.

But, all that is a long way off. Mayor Salinas has kicked off what could be the biggest change in our city's history in his last term. We can only hope that his successors can take his vision and run with it.
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