It started with a simple idea: the city of Portland could make money and improve the looks of the neighborhood by moving at least some of the large, unsightly cellular antennas on tall towers to smaller, neighborhood utility poles on the public right of way. The utility poles would be 10-15 feet higher than average and would have cellular antennas on them. While large cellular monopoles are on private property, utility poles are on the public right of way. It would provide revenue for the city of Portland. This resolution has two advantages; (1) The city gets money, (2) the need for large, unsightly towers is diminished.
Here is the draft franchise for leasing Portland utility poles.
At $3K/year per pole it could average $250-$350 EACH MONTH PER POLE. If 1,000 utility poles were converted, the city of Portland could generate $3 million/year. Maybe they’d keep $1M/year of that (I’m guessing) since the 50,000 utility poles in the Portland metro area are actually owned by PGE and PP&L. That would be roughly $1M/year per 1000 poles. Not bad. Of course this is way more money than any “free” network could afford. Which would be fine for cellular companies.
I think the ordinance ought to stick to cellular frequencies (800Mhz and 1.9Ghz) because offering other bands would amount to a cross-subsidy. My concern is strictly for the use of the unlicensed (2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz) ISM bands. Related bands might include satellite radio repeaters (2.3Ghz), MMDS (2.5Ghz) and VHF (700Mhz) bands. There ought to be a level playing field for those operators. Allowing Sprint to combine cellular, MMDS, and community 802.11b LANs on a single pole might upset Verizon, for example. Whether the lease on a utility pole would give “carte blache” on other frequencies may be mis-understanding on my part, however. I am currently trying to find out the actual details.
- Only cellular companies could hope to generate that sort of revenue/month. One pole might support 100-200 cellular users each generating $50/month. Unlicensed 2.4/5.8 Ghz service would be a freebie. It’s cross/subsidized by the cellular income.
- Wireless ISPs couldn’t hope for more than 10-20 broadband users per pole. With only 10 percent of the potential revenue and NO cross-subsidy from cellular, community LANs will be priced out.
Let’s say a $3000/year pole is shared by 3 parties (Voicestream, Sprint and a Wireless ISP). Each spends $1000/year per pole. If you need 1000 poles, you have to pay The City $1 million/year. If you served 10 subs per pole and had 1,000 poles that’s 10,000 subscribers. Mesh networking might inter-link 1,000 poles but the cost of the poles would kill you. If you spend $1000/pole and get an average of 10 subs, that’s a recurring expense of at least $100/year or probably $10/month.
Sweet Deal for Monopolies
Forget $20/month broadband. Cellular operators could cross-subsidize any broadband wireless service. Cellular operators could price Community LAN networks high while simultaneously shutting down the competition. They could extend their power with the blessing of the city. Preventing more cost-effective competition (using 802.11 or VoIP) from coming in may be the name of the game. It’s not competitive. It’s a sweet deal for monopolies.
The solution? Only cellular frequencies (800Mhz and 1.9Ghz) should be authorized on this ordinance. Another solution; create a “public access” fund with 20% of the city’s “windfall” $1M/year revenue placed into a “community network” fund. That would be $200K/year. It would provide 10GigE to schools and community centers and fund a non-commercial, wireless CityNet infrastructure.
For more information write:
Dave Soloos, Assistant Director
Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management
1120 SW 5th Ave, 3rd floor
Portland, OR 97204
———————- REPLY FROM DAVID SOLOOS, APRIL 25TH:
Sam, please recall that you and I already dealt with this issue by limiting the application of the Agreement to only wireless facilities utilizing spectrum ‘licensed’ by the FCC (See Definition, Sec 2.6). It therefore does not address or allow Facilities for unlicensed frequencies you are concerned about.
If carriers need antennas, our $3k/yr is a whole lot cheaper than having to construct multiple towers at $250,000 apiece, plus an average 18 month site development and public land use review. When/if unlicensed frequency users want to access the utility poles with Facilities, we can address that under separate agreement, which is as-yet undeveloped. Please review our earlier exchange, attached. Thanks,
Sorry Mr. Soloos:
My mistake. I wasn’t sure what your ordinance covered. I don’t have an opinion on what you and the cellular operators agree is a fair price. Your ordinance seem like a good idea.
I worried that there might not be an advocate for Wireless ISPs I was concerned that a Sprint or Voicestream might cross-subsidize their “pole position” with a “freebie”, unregulated service (such as 802.11a/b or MMDS) once they paid the pole lease. The revenue from cellular could offset the cost for delivering Wireless ISP service. That would seem to put independent wireless ISPs at a distinct disadvantage.
I guess I worry too much.
Thanks for keeping your process open. I have only one opinion but your thoughtful and deliberative process is open for everyone. I think it’s what makes Portland government so exemplary.
– Sam Churchill 1515 SW 11th #301 Portland, OR 97201 (503) 228-6459 ——————— ———————
Thank you very much for your time and input!
Thank you for your interest in drafting a “microcell” agreement that protects consumers, the city and competitors. Putting “microcells” on telephone poles seems sensible. Protecting competition in the unrelated, unregulated, 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz band also seems sensible.
I am a Portland citizen and wireless LAN hobbiest. I am not affiliated with any telecommunications business. My primary interest is bridging the digital divide with low cost, wireless broadband services. My proposal at www.universitypark.org/hope shows how neighborhoods might provide broadband wireless at low cost.
I believe the “unlicensed” 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz band offers new opportunities for the city of Portland, its citizens, and commercial and non-commercial entities. I think restricting the right of occupancy on utility poles to “licensed” cellular/PCS frequencies, will protect and encourage competition. I’m convinced that cellular providers will offer wireless LAN services in the unlicensed 2.4/5 Ghz band. I think that’s wonderful. But giving cellular carriers “carte blanche” access to the “unlicensed” band on utility poles could restrict competition and preclude access.
The public rights of way and competition should be protected. The “microcell” concept is also being explored by “unlicensed” 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. Protecting this precious resource for everyone – and for competitors – seems like a winning proposition. The city gets the right to approve and coordinate “unlicensed” carriers on the limited pole real estate while citizens get competitive new services. City approval of mounting “unlicensed” 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz nodes on utility poles could avoid lawsuits and bickering among cellular carriers. It provides a level playing field for competitors.
I want to be able to walk down 5th and 6th downtown and have city services like Tri-Met and Max schedules, events, maps and other “touristy” information available, free. Just like Jacksonville Florida does http://www.jaxwiz.org/. The city of LaGrange offers free Internet access to everyone www.lagrange-ga.org
A December 3rd story explaining the interest that cellular providers have in the “unlicensed” band is below. The merging of cellular and wireless LAN services may be likely. Maintaining an “open” system on the public’s right of way seems like a necessity to provide competitive services.
Thanks again for your interest and your public service. I believe your innovative “microcell” approach, is a good one. It provides increased cellular coverage without large, unsightly neighborhood towers. Providing citizens better service and lower cost is the name of the game.
To reply more directly to your question (below), I think “licensed” may be better wording than “regulated” to define cellular/PCS services since both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz band are “unlicensed” but they are still “regulated” by the FCC to conform to frequency and power levels.
Sam Churchill 1515 SW 11th #301 Portland, OR 97201
The Oregon Telecommunications Atlas www.sdots.com/telecom