UPDATE ON WIRELESS FOR CHAPEL HILL

Last January the Council designated “exploration of a municipal wireless network” as a top ten Council goal for 2006-2007; Chancellor James Moeser sent the Town a letter dated February 3, 2006 stating that Dan Reed, Eminent Professor of Computer Science and Vice Chancellor for Information Technology at UNC,  had contacted him about the Town of Chapel Hill exploring a wireless community, and he thus would be happy to provide the Town with technical assistance in this matter, and that Mr. Moeser added quote “ It struck me that this might be a very fruitful way for us to provide some important assistance to the Town in this endeavor if it would, in fact,  be helpful.  Please let me know.”

 In April of 2006 a meeting of Town officials ( Kevin Foy, Mark Kleinschmidt, Laurin Easthom, Bob Avery and Liz Parham) occurred with UNC’s Dan Reed and his I.T. department to initially discuss a municipal network for the Town;   The Council held a public forum on the benefits of a municipal wireless network in March of 2006 with distinguished panelists in the field, locally and nationally; The Council decided to first engage on a master technology plan for the Town in which a municipal wireless network is a part in June 2006.I felt that the council decision to engage upon a master technology plan first, before committing to a municipal wireless exploration committee, was a major setback and a major delay.  It may or may not be.  I’m continuing to pursue this for the Town, and keep it on our future council agendas and discussions.   At our last council meeting, I read the above history of wireless in town, and gave our new town manager, Roger Stancil, the opportunity to begin a process.  He appointed a staff committee headed by Flo Miller to keep the process alive in exploring a municipal wireless system within the context of a technology master plan.  Additionally at that meeting, when the Town was discussing the timing of the fiber optic traffic signal system, Kevin Foy reminded David Bonk of our desire to study and consider the laying of fiber along with our upgraded system (for a possible future municipal broadband network backbone.)   Now we have a council discussion of wireless and our master technology plan scheduled to be on our agenda at our next council meeting.

THERE IS AN INTERESTING UPDATE ON WINSTON-NET AND THEIR NASCENT MUNICIPAL WIRELESS NETWORK.  FROM MUNIWIRELESS.COM:  ” The WinstonNet Wireless Initiative chose a consortium consisting of IBM, Cisco and Azulstar to build and operate the citywide wireless broadband network that will expand to include outlying communities in Forsyth County. The city will also use the network for municipal applications such as public safety. Contract negotiations will begin this month. WinstonNet issued the RFP last May 2006.The press release says they are offering free Internet access but it’s not clear whether it’s all free or free up to a certain bandwidth or free only in parts of the city. They say that services such as VOIP and video streaming will be fee-based but what does this mean? Is this their way of saying that you will need to pay for higher bandwidth or only for the VOIP and video services?In addition, the consortium will have to negotiate with Duke Energy, the local utility that owns rights to the light poles. We’ve already seen how several muni Wi-Fi projects were stalled by the local electric utility’s lack of enthusiasm. We will see how quickly this project gets underway. “

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8 responses to “UPDATE ON WIRELESS FOR CHAPEL HILL

  1. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date and being a strong supporter of equal access to the Internet for all.

  2. Thanks Laurin. I posted about this on citizenwill.org but the trackback didn’t post to your site.

  3. Now let’s hope that it shows up on our agenda, and stays on the agenda! 🙂

  4. Let’s hope this moves along!

  5. A small silver-lining is the tech gets cheaper as time goes on 😉 I haven’t seen this on the planned agenda – did it get torpedoed?

  6. The packet the council got has agenda item #8 as the “Master Technology Plan Development: (staff presenter: Bob Avery, Director of Information Technology) Estimated time: 15 minutes”. The usual information we get is “to be distributed”. That means we don’t have anything to read before the meeting on Monday, and I don’t personally have any idea what Bob will present. As everyone knows, I asked for a council discussion of municipal wireless exploration(its future) at our last business meeting, and Roger appointed a staff commmittee for work in this area. My request for further information and discussion on wireless was suggested for our meeting on Oct.23. What we apparently have is a master technology plan discussion (which we do need, too). Obviously, wireless should be a part of that. Apparently the discussion will be “initial steps in developing a master technology plan” and “recommendation of a consultant to draft needs assessment”. All I can tell you is, I will have to wait and see as much as everyone else as to what will be presented on Monday. Certainly the door is open for a discussion on municipal wireless, since the broad issue of technology is on the agenda. What I would like to see is the continuation of active exploration of wireless for Chapel Hill and next steps for the Town, WHILE the master plan is being developed, so we don’t waste time. To me, the words “master plan” in anything mean “much time spent”, and advancing technology waits for no one.

  7. Thanks Laurin. I guess the citizens that worked these issues before, that drafted two plans, are cut-out in favor of a consultant and current staff?

    We have a saying in the tech biz that goes by the acronym GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.

    Unfortunately I’ll be in Boston Monday. Good luck on the discussion.

  8. More information was added to the Town’s website under the agenda item for the master technology plan. I encourage all interested to come listen Monday, and offer suggestions.

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