Riverside, California issues RFP for citywide Wi-Fi network

On April 25, 2006, the city council of Riverside, California (86 square miles; pop. 300,000) unanimously approved the release of an RFP for a citywide Wi-Fi network. The city will use the network for municipal purposes (meter reading, code enforcement, utilities, mobile office for its employees, public safety) and public access.

Bidders must propose a network that includes a public safety 4.9 Ghz solution and public access network for residents, businesses and visitors (with some level of free service and higher bandwidth paid-for Internet access). The city will not spend public funds for the network; however, it is open to proposals from bidders on the nature of ownership of the network (which can be owned by the municipality or the bidder or both).

What makes this RFP more interesting than most is that the city has its own electricity and water utilities. It also owns a fiber network (see the map included in the RFP documents). The city is willing to lease out fiber to the winning bidder. The RFP documents include a fiber use license agreement and a pole attachment and conduit license. To lower the cost of deployment and hasten the rollout of the network, the city will provide access and power to all traffic signals and light poles at no cost.

My commentary on the RFP

After reading through the RFP documents, I am convinced that to be considered seriously by the city, a vendor must propose a robust, multiple-use network for: voice (including mobile VOIP, as the RFP requires that the network not drop connections while going at 30 miles per hour), traffic management and control, automated meter reading, fast Internet access (preferably 3 Mbps and up) for indoor and outdoor locations, wireless security cameras, and a separate public safety 4.9 Ghz network.

Bidders should submit even more imaginative proposals that would save the city money on its operations, help it become more efficient and allow residents and businesses to make full use of citywide Wi-Fi. Hint: much more bandwidth than the usual 300 Kbps (free) with 1 Mbps (paid) because, frankly, what can you do with 300 Kbps? And very soon, 1 Mbps will be the 300 Kbps of today.

The RFP requires the network to be open to other service providers (wholesale model) on a non-discriminatory basis and prohibits the winning bidder from discriminating in favor of wealthier or more dense neighborhoods (“the City will not consider proposals that provide access and network upgrades only in parts of the City that are more densely populated or commercially attractive, or that leave entire neighborhoods uncovered”).

Here the city shows its preference for a truly open, competitive network (many service providers as opposed to only one or two, which is the problem today with wired broadband access) that does not further increase the digital divide.

The city understands that there needs to be a solid revenue model based on advertisement potential, premium services and commitments from the city and other businesses to use these new services. The RFP asks proposers to come up with suggestions on how to create a sustainable economic model for the network.

In a city such as Riverside, the opportunity — for the bidder to propose a network that (a) saves the city money, (b) lowers the cost of doing business for the city, its residents, businesses and visitors, (c) allows everyone to work more efficiently and (d) increases the overall skill and educational level of its residents — is much greater than in other cities that do not own their own utilities or fiber.

The city will be working with Intel to develop a Digital Divide program, as part of this project, to deliver free used PCs and low-cost bundled solutions from HP and Dell will a goal of getting a PC into every household with a child in the 5th through 12th grades within 5 years.

Again here, bidders should make serious proposals on how they can get all those children online onto a network that allows them to be content creators. This means bandwidth, bandwidth, and even more bandwidth – and symmetrical please! It’s important for us to have a vision of a network that does not turn our children into passive couch (or chair) potatoes, but into active citizens who participate, not just consume content fed to them by large entertainment companies. We all know how creative children can be, so let’s encourage that.

The ideas expressed above are mine and should not be taken to be those of Riverside, however, I feel that this is the time to push bidders to come up with better, more inventive proposals than the ones I have been seeing. Many have become stuck at 300 Kbps for free service – this is just not enough – and people will be very disappointed. 1 Mbps is now threatening to be that way, too. As for cities, the only way to go, I believe, is a multiple use network. And don’t be afraid to demand more bandwidth for your citizens.

Riverside RFP Schedule

A pre-bid meeting is scheduled for the Riverside Museum multipurpose room on May 18, 2006, from 10-12 at 3580 Mission Inn Blvd, Riverside, CA 92522. All questions will be captured up to that point and answered a week after this meeting.

Responses are due July 14, 2006.

The RFP is sponsored by SmartRiverside, a 501(c)3 (tax ID 33-0894236), which will operate the Digital Divide Program and also serve as a High Technology Economic Development attraction to bring in startup technology companies to the City’s Technology Research Park. SmartRiverside has a downtown hotzone operating in the city.

Comments

  1. Wow, talk about wanting the everything and not paying for it (and even getting money back).

    I’d be surprised if anyone bids on this without limitations.

    I find it amazing that these cities expect so much from wireless deployment when other services are charged for.

    Imagine a city where the minimum electric is free or subsidised. Where water, sewage, and gas are free. Ask yourself, why do the wireless providers get dumped on? What about all the other costs in the city. What makes internet access so special that it becomes FREE.

    Ironically, the existing telcos that provide service get a free ride. Guess these companies must be smarter not to give away service for free.

  2. Looks to be the same model that Tempe/Chandler AZ and Sacramento, CA have used with NeoReach (subsidiary of MobilePro).

    As a student at ASU I have to say the network in Tempe is great, and runs as advertised.

  3. James of ASU – I know that the investors in MobilePro/Neoreach would like to hear your input. Will you post a notice on this site?

    http://www.ragingbull.lycos.com/mboard/boards.cgi?board=MOBL

    If you prefer, you could use this site:
    http://messages.yahoo.com/bbs?.mm=FNNS&action=l&board=17928841&tid=moblmobileprocorp&sid=17928841&mid=99999

  4. […] Ontario has 170,000 people and covers 50 square miles. It is in Southern California, not far from Pomona and Riverside (which just issued an RFP). In Municipal Wireless Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2006 […]

  5. […] To see my original post on the Riverside municipal wireless project, click here. In Municipal Wireless/Bids Posted Friday, August 11, 2006 […]