Comment of the week from Tony Tull, IT director of Granbury, Texas

We get comments to our articles everyday and unfortunately, even the best ones get buried and forgotten. In the past week, there’s been a media frenzy over the alleged demise of municipal wireless so I decided to highlight this comment posted by Tony Tull, IT director of Granbury, Texas, in response to one of our articles. Tony’s department runs a municipal wireless network. We get comments to our articles everyday and unfortunately, even the best ones get buried and forgotten. In the past week, there’s been a media frenzy over the alleged demise of municipal wireless so I decided to highlight this comment posted by Tony Tull (IT director of Granbury, Texas) in response to Joe Panettieri’s article, Muni WiFi: The Paths Forward. Tony’s department actually runs a municipal wireless network owned by the city.

Comment:

“I recently gave a case study presentation at the Texas Municipal League 2007 Technology Conference on our wireless mesh project. I am the IT Director for the City of Granbury, Texas. In that presentation I made a point to the audience that while we had started our implementation in a private/public partnership we had now moved to a totally City owned network. I also made sure that everyone understood that I had run the numbers every way possible, and based on our costs (IT Staff, T1’s, hardware, software, maintenance) there is no way I can see to pay for this network based only on subscription sales.”

“Maybe this is why our private partner was not really responsive to keeping this network up and running. It was not a positive cash flow for them thus smart business decision to let it go. Has Earthlink come to this realization.”

“Is subscription sales the only way our municipality is going to see a return on our $500,000? Not really. We see other benefits. Police on the street longer because they can do their reports from the cars rather than the squad room. More information to our firefighters before they make scene on a possible structure fire. AMR project. Tourist access to city wide internet. These are all hard dollar and soft dollar returns that are real.”

“When I look at our customer reports and see daily users each weekend that are not from Texas, heck, not from the US, and think what is that worth to our tourist industry. That someone from another state or country has come to our little rural community and found ubiquitous internet connectivity. How does the commercial go, “Priceless”.”

“We took ownership 4 months ago and have been signing up new customers everyday. We receive at least 3 calls a week from folks that are in the process of moving to Granbury and have heard of our network and want to make sure that the home that they are moving into has access to our network. We are selling CPE devices to customers to enhance the signal inside to address the issue of poor indoor reception. We are continuing to evaluate our deployment based on usage and adjusting units based on usage trends.”

“Our current project is to deploy our vendor’s indoor routers into the businesses in town (Hotels, Resturants, Retail Shops) and expand the mesh indoors. The problem is we have more businesses wanting it than resources to deploy. I really think this is going to add a whole new dimension to the network.”

“I read a book quite a few years ago about the JPL Mars Rover project called Faster, Better, Cheaper. Maybe the Earthlinks of the world need to read it. We run the entire City, not just the wireless mesh network, all of our servers, users, 100+ desktops, websites, mail, you name it, with a staff of 3. I always tell my staff “Don’t tell what we can’t do, Tell me what we can do.” Until municipalities engage integrators that take this type of approach, and find that Faster, Better, Cheaper route, you will continue to see the Earthlinks of the world re-evaluating their involvement and bailing.”

“The real mindset that needs to take place in government is this: name one capital improvement project that municipalities, states, or even a nation can take on that has an impact on all tax paying citizens. I argued, yes purchasing this network back was expensive, $325,000. But show me another capital project for that cost that every citizen could use, or be impacted by.”

“Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong……” — Tony Tull

Comments

  1. Lee Samowitz says

    You are absolutely right. The big players like Earthlink may exit the market where they are dinosauers -too big an appetite to survive in a market where they do not own the the assets, but there are other creative players like Broadband Associates and Mad City who service government owed broadband networks and do a great job

  2. Tony,
    you could charge corporate clients for the service of deploying the network to their premises. That would be one way to generate additional revenues, and a rather fair one, too.