The continuing saga in Toledo, Ohio

There was a sit-down this week in Toledo, Ohio, as the city council’s IT committee met with the city’s former IT director who demonstrated how the proposed municipal wireless network there could be built at no cost to the city. Now issues of legality have been raised. Stay tuned…There was a sit-down this week in Toledo, Ohio, as the city council’s IT committee met with the city’s former IT director, Dr. Patsy Scott, who demonstrated how the proposed municipal wireless network there could be built at no cost to the city.

The IT committee seems to be sorting through the politics and personalities. Hopefully, the review will return calm and reason to the scenario there. Dr. Scott spent nearly an hour with the committee this week reviewing the financial plan she developed to justify the nework as a budget-neutral enterprise that would pay for itself in the savings it returns to the city. At an earlier meeting, council put the project on hold after the Mayor’s office, in Dr. Scott’s absence, was unable to demonstrate the savings.

She also addressed Buckeye Communications’ protests about the contract. Buckeye submitted a letter in response to the city’s RFP, lost the project to MetroFi which submitted a real proposal and has griped about the project ever since with claims that typify those from companies that feel threatened muni projects. Among the usual not-the-dity’s-business complaits, Buckeye says Wi-Fi is not an appropriate technology and , instead, the city should use commerical cell phone cards and additional fiber, which Buckeye just happens to sell. Dr. Scott pointed out that the city’s cell cards and leased lines presently cost it about $650,000 annually and represent a large part of the savings that the proposed Wi-Fi network would return to the city

Buckeye, with the support of city council members sensitive to the company’s position as a media monopoly in Toledo, has also insinuated that the MetroFi contract is illegal because, it calls for the city to purchase service from MetroFi when the RFP called for service to be provided free. Well, who cares besides Buckeye? If, as Dr. Scott demonstrated, the project is budget-neutral and results in no additional spending on the part of the city–and, quite possibly, long-term savings from ongoing efficiencies–what taxpayer is going to complain?

This just looks like so much more sour grapes. As Esme noted this week, when you don’t win a contract you can always sue–or threaten to.

Click here to read The Toledo Blade’s report of the meeting.