Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The City CIO and Wireless

The Independent is running another tech story this week centered on actually talking to the major participants, in this case Keith Thibodaux. The story, Lafayette CIO’s high-tech push, is Good Stuff.

But what is really amazing about it is that the Independent has been allowed to carry an exclusive on Lafayette moving toward a city-wide cloud of wireless connectivity for a whole week without so much as a peep from any of the major media. They broke the story with last week's interview of Durel and this week, should anyone have missed the point, the Chief Information Officer repeats the intention and underlines it.

Here is the relevant material from the story:
Durel recently announced his intentions of pushing Lafayette ahead in the race to become the first municipality to offer citywide wireless Internet access.

Thibodeaux says this goal can realistically be achieved in one year’s time, adding LCG should be putting out a Request For Information to potential vendors in the coming months to help weigh the available options.

“The big part of course is paying for it all,” Thibodeaux says, declining to provide an early estimate for the job’s cost. “And that’s where you really have to be creative in your partnerships and other opportunities.”

Thibodeaux says a citywide wireless network should become a reality regardless of what becomes of Lafayette Utilities System’s fiber-to-the-home proposal, though the two would work especially well together.

“They are in a sense unrelated, yet there’s tremendous potential to partner them and these two technologies should marry up at some point,” he says. “Having them both is the perfect world. There are other communities that are doing fiber-to-the-home. There are certainly a lot of other communities doing wireless. It’s hard to find a community doing both. So I think that’s the magic spot.”
I have to admit that as much as I LIKE, really like, the idea and think it the perfect addition to Lafayette's advances, it sounds a little not fully baked as recounted here.

For one thing, a wireless network isn't at all unrelated to the fiber. To build a decent WiFi (or WiMax) wireless network depends completely on getting big bandwidth to the wireless transmitter. Having a fiber-to-the-home network available makes that trivial--and cheap. (If you wait for the fiber build.)

It also sounds as if LCG itself will be considering building it or partnering on it. Maybe that is a misreading on my part because LUS would be the obvious entity to operate and integrate this into the city system. A huge opportunity would be lost by separating LUS' telecom services from a wireless network. Integrated services and applications, starting with cell phone/wifi programs, are the key to providing a cutting-edge environment where the next generation of applications can grow and be field-tested. Any partnership should be to provide out-of-system cell phone service, not to dilute ownership and thereby the control to enable this. Let's not miss the boat on this one. We are doing too well.

Regardless of my musings, this is a truly big deal. The other outlets need to hop on it. It isn't clear that the Indpendent knows what it has here--in neither article have they headlined the big news their subjects released. It is a sign of how big a deal fiber is that news that would rock any other city in the nation goes almost unnoticed here. It shouldn't.

Universal fiber under a wireless cloud with a major digital divide push? Lafayette is positioned to take home all the marbles.

1 comment:

GumboFilé said...

I have no problem with Lafayette having lots of marbles. I just don't want stolen marbles nor do I want to be forced to hold the marbles