Hello again my friends. We are blogging to you live from a misty and cool sidewalk table at Breaking New Grounds in Market Square for an important announcement from the eCoast Wi-Fi Project. The Portsmouth Herald has the basics covered in this front-page article.
This, of course, is coming at a time when municipal wi-fi is under siege from seemingly every angle. Quite correctly, Esme Vos of Muniwireless.com says that despite Earthlink's step back, the reports of wi-fi's death are greatly exaggerated. This Q&A in particular is required reading. Moreover, there are several big differences here in Portsmouth that make ours an uniquely viable model.
1. With the new Cisco and UNH-IOL partnership, our wi-fi network has a built-in raison d'etre as a real-world testing facility. This inherent value eliminates that "why should we do this" haranguing, leaving us residents and tourists with the remainder -- free, simple, public-access wi-fi for us to use and enjoy.
2. Thanks to NH Gov. Lynch, George Bald, Michael Vlacich, et al, and the hard work of the Portsmouth Chamber's irreplaceable Ginny Griffith, we now have some funds in the form of DRED's $10,000 matching grant. But our network continues to be funded and equipped by corporate donations of equipment, bandwidth, and professional services. This way, the "what's the business model" money thing question is essentially off the table. What's more, although it's conceivable that it could be in the future, advertising is not part of this wi-fi project. The only advertising going on here is the free kind -- the good-will publicity generated for the group's sponsors, the city, and the state.
3. Demographically, geographically, economically, politically, and size-wise, Portsmouth is proving to be an ideal place do to muni wi-fi. We're a fairly (but not too) affluent city, with a well-educated citizenry. We're not out in the boonies, so we have a solid base of technology infrastructure and we're not starting from scratch. We've got a nice mix of both locally-based and tourist-driven business, both of which have and will continue to benefit from the open Internet access. We're left-leaning and forward-thinking politically, but with a strong dose of old Yankee sensibilities -- pride of local control and in doing things our own way. Finally, Portsmouth is not so large that our wi-fi clouds can't cover key areas, but we're not so small that it wouldn't matter if we couldn't. Really, the only downside to wi-fi in Portsmouth is all this quaint-but-non-conducive brick we've got around here!
In the meantime, stay tuned. You know the nay-sayers will come out of their holes now that our plans are a front-page story, but our plan is solid and our intentions are both noble and reasonable. I have a feeling I'll be blogging on this a lot in the coming months.