ICT Infrastructure as Public Infrastructure: Exploring the Benefits of Public Wireless Networks
Posted: 20 Jul 2012
Date Written: August 15, 2006
To date, research on municipal and community wireless networks has focused on understanding types of network deployments, policy issues around network ownership, and technical issues of infrastructure design and capability. These are all necessary issues as this nascent form of public infrastructure becomes established, and as stakeholders understand the potential benefits of the deployment and use of wireless networks. However, public wireless network deployments do not always achieve the desired outcomes, resulting in networks that do not realize their potential value for citizens and municipalities. As such, it is also important to consider the extent to which such public infrastructure actually does deliver on its promises, by developing a set of criteria with which to assess public network deployments. This paper presents a "desiderata" for public wireless internet infrastructure. Developed from our understanding of the potential of wireless networking, the desiderata is intended to provide a foundation for a discussion of what public wireless networks should look like. Data from five Canadian wireless network deployments are presented when discussing the desiderata. The paper shows that different types of networks provide certain public benefits, but none of the networks we studied has yet realized the full potential of public wireless networks as outlined in the desiderata. The paper concludes with a discussion of policy concerns related to the development of environments in which public networks can best meet the needs of citizens and municipalities.
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