Capitol Weekly runs a column in which Daniel Ballon suggests that the Sacramento network would cost $550m to build: Readers of this site know that I am pretty dubious that the Sacramento network will ever be built by the consortium that won the bid. Still. Please. Wi-Fi networks are estimated to cost around $150,000 per square mile. These numbers are well known. You add more nodes and costs go up. If you look at the now-well-received Minneapolis, Minn., network, US Internet now estimates $24m (up from $20m) to put 45 nodes per square mile. The 55 sq mi city will cost a whopping $440,000 per square mile to build, although that was supposed to include some fiber buildout (those details are sketchy in the documents I've found).
So, gentle readers, where does Ballon get the $550m figure? By looking at the cost to build the Sacramento airport and extrapolating its cost for its limited area by the city's dimensions. Ballon, as is disclosed in his linked bio but not on this page, works for the Pacific Research Institute, which is a think-tank that receives funding from Verizon and SBC, but that wouldn't be salient to disclose here, would it? (Ballon's background is in very small things, by the way: molecular biology and biochemistry, not telecom policy.) PRI has links to Big Tobacco, and ties to the Heartland Institute, which I have extensively covered in years past.
Now the issue is not that I disagree with Ballon's conclusion that a Sacramento network might cost vastly more than predicted. The original estimate doesn't contain enough nodes, and more than doubling the number from the 18 to 20 nodes planned (as reported in the Sacramento Bee 5-Nov-2007, and not refuted as far as I can tell) to 40 to 45 nodes would increase costs. They wouldn't double, because nodes are just a part of the overall cost of the network. But it's more likely a $15m to $20m network than a $7m to $9m one. (An anonymous commenter tried to tell me that the 18 to 20 nodes per sq mi figure was incorrect, but didn't reply to a request for the source of their information.)
Rather, the point is that Ballon has ties to beholden interests. It's fascinating that he mentions an existing competitive fiber provider in Sacramento with such positive praise--I never heard of SureWest, but he says they have 30 percent of the region's market, although not which market. I checked SureWest's site, and they have 30 percent of about 200,000 homes they pass--about half the households in the city. That's significant. And there's no comparison between fiber and Wi-Fi. The availability of Wi-Fi is in no way a challenge to the voice, video, and data triple-play and triple-threat that SureWest offers.
Ballon wants to paint the Metro Connect Sacramento network as government subsidized because the municipality may--but has not committed to, to my knowledge--shift some services from one set of private companies to another set of private companies. I thought that was the point of competition?