The Philly plan suggests non-profit, wholesale model: Philadelphia's business plan for their wireless city-wide network is out. Esme Vos interviewed the CIO of Philadelphia on her site, linked above. The report and the RFP are available for download in PDF form.
In its broadest form, Philly proposes to create a separate non-profit organization which will conduct fundraising and obtain bank loans. Its finances will be separate from the city by charter. The non-profit will not operate as an ISP, but will handle infrastructure. This is a model that I have suggested in the past is ideal for municipalities because it promotes competition for the customer among many entities without requiring that each entity build their own infrastructure as a cost of entry into the market.
The business plan includes extensive technical and financial details that now must be factored into the very broad and often inaccurate criticisms of Philadelphia's plan. For instance, previous criticism suggested the plan didn't include WiMax in its thinking. Oops. It does. Extensively, in both pre-WiMax and certified WiMax forms.
Much of the criticism suggested that the city was going to give away Wi-Fi to everyone, thought that Wi-Fi receivers inside laptops wouldn't receive signals indoors, and that the number of nodes was unreasonably small. My reading of the report finds these criticisms specifically answered in depth.
Update: Coverage of the announcement
- Reuters gets the story mostly right. The article specifically delineates the city's separation from financing and operation.
- Philadelphia Business Journal story; they get this detail correct.
- Glowingly positive account from The NewStandard.
- The Associated Press misstates the rates that businesses would pay, although it's correct on residential rates ($16 to $20 per month); businesses will pay more.
- Carol Ellison thinks the plan is too comprehensive: that too much broadband already exists in Philadelphia except in pockets to make this plan worthwhile. But she also makes the error of stating the city is spending $10 million, which isn't the funding plan at all. She quotes a cable industry poll, which is impossible to lend credence to because we don't know the methodology or fairness. She says the plan doesn't resemble any elsewhere, but she should look at Tacoma Power's fiber/coax network which operates on a wholesale basis. (Update: Carol later updated this column.)