The High-Tech Texan Blog

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More City WiFi News

So if you haven't been following my blog and radio commentary on Houston's progress of creating a citywide WiFi network, maybe you read the story in the Chron recently. It was an OK update. The fifteenth paragraph on the downtown network is not exactly accurate.

The downtown network was part of a request for proposals for parking meters issued in the summer of 2004. On April 4, 2006, City Council approved a $15 million contract with ACS for the meters and the network. The network cost is $300,000 to be paid out of the increase parking meter revenues and will be stood up in the early to mid-summer of this year.

If the city is successful in securing a private partner to finance and manage a citywide WiFi network, they intend to lease the downtown network to that entity and require that they scale it up to handle more than just the parking meters.

Mayor White is prepping a press release. In it he will announce that the city has received many proposals for the private financing and management of a wireless broadband infrastructure across the entire city. The proposals will be the subject of a three-phase evaluation/ selection process over several months. There will be an initial rating with the selection of the higher rated proposers being invited to submit responses to a 2nd phase proposal template to allow a meaningful comparison and rating based on the selection criteria included in the RFP i.e. value to community, value to City government, financial capacity, experience and deployment strategy and plan. The evaluation team will be executives with IT responsibilities from several City departments.

To recap, the objectives of this initiative include:

1. Reducing the City government cost for mobile computing, i.e. parking meters, traffic signals, maintenance crews, field inspections, video and photography in police cars, maps and building plans in fire and EMS vehicles;

2. Reducing the monthly cost of broadband for residential and small business users from $30-$50 to $10-$20; and

3. Bridging the digital divide for disadvantaged communities/ individuals and promoting economic development and conventions/tourism.

Houston’s network would have three tiers of service:

A. Public service includes parking meters, traffic signals, maintenance crews, field inspectors, etc.;

B. Public Access for households, small businesses, tourisms, and conventioneers at affordable rates available across the city/region; and

C. Public Safety, i.e., police, fire, emergency medical services as the technologies improve and security concerns are addressed.