Mayor White had his chat about the city's WiFi plans last night.
Mayor White, who is in no danger of setting speed records, nonetheless gamely manned the laptop and personally answered dozens of questions from some of the 650 people who participated in the event.
"When the mayor types, people listen," Garfield said, adding that the online turnout far exceeded his earlier expectation of a few hundred. "I am pleasantly overwhelmed and surprised."
Many of the questions dealt with the cost of equipping the city with WiFi - $30 million to $50 million; when the project would be completed - sometime in 2007 or 2008; and how far the network will reach - 600 square miles.
A citywide wireless network is more than just bytes and connectivity, White said.
"We are a massive technology user," White said of Houston, "but a lot of people don't think of us that way." With a wireless network in place, Houston would take in big step in enhancing its image as a tech-savvy town, he said.
"This kind of interactive display," White said of the online chat, "means that the public is excited to see it happen."
The city is considering bids from five companies seeking the contract. The bidders include: Earthlink Municipal Networks, Redmoon Broadband Inc., Convergent Broadband, nextWLAN Corporation and Houston Wi Fi Ltd. Company. The company charged with building the network will do so at its own cost, sparing taxpayers. It would then sell the service to users.
Dwight also has background info on the companies that submitted bids to provide the service, plus a link to a spreadsheet from the city that gives contract information and other details. I too wonder how SBC and TimeWarner will respond to this. The issue of municipal WiFi may not have survived the process that led to the passage of telecom legislation last year, but I'll be surprised if it doesn't come up again in 2007. There's too much at stake for it to not get resurrected.
By the way, I'm blogging this from the Orlando airport, where they conveniently provide free WiFi access. See how much more productive we can all be when the Net is widely available?Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 18, 2006 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack