WiNOG: Wireless Internet Network Operators Group (WiNOG)

Venue: Prospector Square Lodge and Conference Center

Location: Park City, Utah, United States

Event Date/Time: Apr 07, 2005
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The Municipal Broadband Network Phenomena

Long considered the domain of private-sector enterprise and the FCC, broadband access has emerged as an essential concern for America's local government. John Eger, professor of communications and public policy at San Diego State University, states that "Cities of the past were built along waterways, then, with information highways...Cities that don't have these broadband infrastructures of our time will atrophy and die. They will be cut off from the mainstream."

Building public sector (municipal, government, educational) networks is coming to the forefront as a method for fostering economic development throughout the community. Throughout America, both urban and rural local governments are doing whatever it takes to make telecommunications and broadband services - including high-speed Internet connections, telephone service, computer networks, and even cable TV - available to government agencies, residents and business.

Broadband Wireless Technologies (WiFi, WiMAX, Mesh...)

Low-cost, high-speed wide-area-networking broadband wireless technologies are revolutionizing public communications, spurring economic development and bridging the digital divide. With new wireless networks cropping up across the country every day, it is only a matter of time before one witnesses a massive transformation in telecommunications across America.

Face Off: Public Broadband Networks vs. Private Service Providers

Despite widespread consensus about the importance of broadband, service providers and local governments disagree about how communities should achieve the goal of providing ubiquitous high-speed Internet access. Local governments that have opted to become broadband service providers have sparked intense backlash from the telecommunications industry, with private operators battling municipalities through lobbying, lawsuits, and local and national marketing campaigns to sway the court of public opinion.

As of December 2004, 14 states, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have passed some sort of regulation banning or restricting local municipalities from providing broadband services.

Public-Private Partnerships: A Middle Road?

As more and more issues get tied up in the legal system, what is clear is that, like in all lawsuits, "only the lawyers end up winning." So, what are the options? Rather than wasting resources "fighting amongst one another" - let's meet, talk, work together and coordinate an action plan that both public and private sector can jointly leverage.

In continuing the WiNOG EXCHANGE tradition, this summer we will establish a forum to bring together both sides of the table, public and private, to stop the fighting and to discuss methods of working together to accomplish the task of "Bridging the Digital Divide."