The city of Philadelphia and Verizon struck an agreement Tuesday that would allow the city to provide wireless Internet access as a municipal service even if Gov. Ed Rendell signs legislation to give Verizon the power to scuttle the project. It would allow the city to provide city-wide WiFi as a municipal service for a fee, according to KYW-TV and WNEP-TV. According to the AP, lawyers for the city and Verizon came to the agreement, today.
UPDATE: Governor Ed Rendall did sign House Bill 30, allowing incumbent telcos to kill municipal networks. Systems operational by Jan. 1, 2006 will be grandfathered in.
Details of a Philadelphia agreement were not immediately available, but it would guarantee that Verizon waives its right to bar the city from providing the service for a fee, both sides said. “We would waive our right of first refusal,” Verizon spokeswoman Sharon Shaffer said Tuesday, prior to an agreement being reached.
Ms. Shaffer provided Broadband Wireless Access World with this written statement , issued at 5:40 pm, Eastern Standard Time today, November 30, 2004, from Verizon:
“Verizon and the City of Philadelphia have reached agreement that resolves the concerns about the City’s ability to build a WiFi network in Philadelphia. The agreement itself is not being released. The execution of the terms of this agreement will make crystal clear that the City has the unimpeded right to build a WiFi network in Philadelphia as it sees fit. The City has communicated to the governor’s office that an agreement has been reached.”
This in-depth phone interview with Shaffer (about 20 minutes .wma) covers many details and implications.
Dianah Neff, the city’s chief information officer who is overseeing the wireless project, said the governor’s office had asked last week that Verizon and the city settle its differences over the bill.
House Bill 30 would have likely killed Philadephia’s “city cloud” project without a “grandfather” clause. November 30th was the final day he could veto it.
Verizon helped draft House Bill 30 [markup of bill], which would have essentially banned wireless “hot zones” run by municipalities in the state. Both Verizon and the city of Philadelphia have been discussing a compromise that would allow the city’s Wi-Fi plan to go forward, but would still ban other similar efforts in the state. Pittsburgh, apparently, will have to obey the Verizon Law — along with other cities in the state.
The Pittsburgh Wireless Neighborhoods Cooperative was formed to provide advanced network services to traditionally underserved communities. No cloud for you! Pittsburgh Wireless is the community lan group there (although pghwireless.com no longer seems to work).
Initiatives like ConnectKentucky.org, Kentucky Governor Fletcher’s prescription for a comprehensive broadband deployment statewide could come under fire if carrier lobbyists get there first. A Report of the Oregon Telecommunications Coordinating Council was presented to the Joint Legislative Committee on Information Management and Technology on November 16, 2004 for the Seventy-Third Legislative Assembly.
Other states have similar broadband plans. Most were created by legislators and carriers with the best of intentions. But the cost/effectiveness of WiMax and other wireless technologies is rarely factored in.
Philadelphia’s $10M Wi-Fi plan would expand access to the entire city — and to charge for it in some cases. The city projects a full deployment date of June 2006 with $1.5 million annually for upkeep.
Philadelphia’s Wi-Fi plan has received worldwide press attention along with some some bad press for Verizon and Pennsylvania legislators.
George Burrell, a top advisor to Mayor Street, says if Rendell signs the bill, some compromise with Verizon would likely be worked out:
“This is clearly an idea whose time has come, and it doesn t serve anybody well to be in the way of trying to create opportunities for people who would otherwise not be able to get access to technology. And I think Verizon recognizes that.”
Verizon, stung with bad publicity over House Bill 30, the bill to block Philadelphia’s WiFi “city cloud”, has marshalled their well oiled PR machine with a counter-attack:
Contrary to misleading claims by competitors, a recent telecommunications bill [House Bill 30] passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly represents the most aggressive, comprehensive broadband network deployment plan in the United States, providing significant benefits for the state s consumers, as well as its educational and business communities.
House Bill 30 provides the right incentives and mechanisms to foster telecom competition, accelerate broadband deployment to meet customers needs and stimulate economic development, said O Rourke. We will continue to invest in broadband as aggressively as we can to help Pennsylvania become a national leader in technology deployment and telecom policy.
… This bill recognizes the ongoing changes in our industry and provides for fair and open competition for all broadband providers, said O Rourke. House Bill 30 brings the recently expired Chapter 30 statute in line with the competitive marketplace and creates a framework that encourages investment, innovation and risk-taking by the state s telecommunication providers.
The bill began 19 months ago as a proposal drafted by lobbyists for telecommunications companies. Wall Street Journal reports, House Bill 30 was originally prompted by the fiber deployment of a small town called Kutztown in Pennsylvania. But people involved in the legislative process say the provision took on added importance for legislators and the state’s big phone companies after Philadelphia announced its Wi-Fi plans.
The Information Communications Technologies Working Group — a 25-member committee composed of public officials, local telecommunications providers and non-profit advocates — say the question is not when but if the city should jump on the bandwagon.
Will the Pennsylvania legislation impact state-sponsored broadband initiatives and Regional Fiber Backbones? Michigan, North Carolina, Utah and Kentucky, to name a few, have Broadband Authorities that make ubiquitous broadband a priority.
ConnectKentucky.org, Kentucky Governor Fletcher’s prescription for a comprehensive broadband deployment statewide.
Michigan’s Broadband Authority improves the deployment and utilization of broadband service in the state. They offer low-cost loans to telecommunications companies willing to make investments in broadband networks and services, such as fiber, DSL, cable, and fixed wireless.
North Carolina’s e-NC is a grassroots initiative to encourage all North Carolina citizens to use technology, especially the Internet, to improve their quality of life and their economic prospects.
Smart Utah is a nonprofit corporation that was formed by Governor Leavitt to provide a coordinating function between business, government and education. Their UTOPIA Project will provide cable, phone and broadband service to some 723,000 residents in 248,000 households and 34,500 businesses via fiber.
The Oregon Telecommunications Coordinating Council recommended an Oregon Broadband Authority in their November, 2004 Report to the Oregon Legislature.
The Pittsburgh Wireless Neighborhoods Cooperative was formed to provide advanced network services to traditionally underserved communities.
Earlier this year, BellSouth and Qwest attempted to push for severe restrictions on municipal broadband service in Louisiana and Utah. Those bills ended in compromise, in some cases with existing plans being allowed to continue but new plans limited. Telecommunications companies are worried that hundreds of other municipalities will provide cheap, municipally provided Internet, both as an alternative for public service users [who now use cellular phones], as well as providing “digital divide” services as a social leveler.
“We looked at it as a way to be a city, literally, of the 21st century,” said Barbara Grant, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street. “We wanted to bridge the digital divide for residents who wouldn’t have access to the Internet, particularly schoolchildren.” A variety of high-speed access providers for its Wi-Fi offerings would be available through MCI, Sprint and Level 3, among others.
Comcast, headquartered in Philadelphia, is raising rates again. Cable subscribers in Southwest Washington and Oregon will see their monthly bill increase in January by 6 percent. The 71- channel standard cable package will go to $44.04 a month, up from $41.55., a move necessitated by increased services and offerings, according to a company statement. Changes to other packages will vary.
Verizon has announced fiber rollout in nine states. Verizon will spend $800,000 this year and $3 billion by the end of 2005. But NTT in Japan will spend $47 billion on expanding fiber to the home for nearly half the Japanese population. NTT’s plan covers some 30 million homes and apartments, in a country where double digit megabit per second speeds can be had for the same price many Americans are paying for dial-up AOL, says Broadband Reports.
Muniwireless has a follow up. Broadband Reports has all the news. Here’s a critical deconstruction of the bill.
NPR, which covered the Philadelphia story yesterday, is beginning a five-part series called, “Digital Generations”. It begins with a report on how some rural communities are installing their own high-speed Internet connections. New research indicates that speed is the determining factor in who uses the Internet. Hear NPR’s Rick Karr. Rick Karr profiles the Kutztown Community-Owned FTTH Deployment in Pennsylvania, which is where this whole mess began.
As everyone knows, cable television did NOT begin in Pennsylvania. It started with Ed Parsons in Astoria. He demonstrated reception of a Seattle television station, some 150 miles south in Astoria, Oregon, on Thanksgiving Day, 1948.
Today, entrepreneurs are ready to roll with Fiber To The Home. The Muni Consortium provides services to Municipalities and Utilities who want to roll their own. Optical Solutions was selected by Oregon-based Molalla Communications Company (MCC) to deploy its FiberPath 500 FTTP system in a new residential subdivision of Molalla, a community of 5,700 residents located at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, approximately 30 miles south of Portland.
DailyWireless has more on Philly’s Fight, Verizon Blocking Philly Cloud?, the Philadelphia Cloud, Low Income Housing Connection, Digital Divide Solutions, SBC Fiber Plans, Taipei Unwired, Unwired Countries, and the DailyWireless City Cloud Report
Other U.S. cities that are building city-wide clouds include Athens, GA, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Boston, Bellevue & Kirkland, Cerritos, Charleston, South Carolina, Durham/Raleigh, North Carolina, FreeBeeAtlanta, OneCleveland, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Datona Beach, Hermosa Beach, Indianapolis, Louisville, Long Beach, Kennewick, WA, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Washington, Hermiston, OR, Medford, OR, Louisville Kentucky, Washington DC and others. WiFi Planet’s Hotspot Hits keeps tabs.