In this chapter, we explore the evolution of wireless broadband networks in cities. We examine the technological alternatives for city-wide implementation, and the governance arrangements for such implementation. Several wireless infrastructure technologies, such as Wi-Fi, WiMax, and Mesh networks have quickly evolved during this century. In terms of governance, we identify different models of ownership and deployment of wireless networks. Although the municipal provision of wireless broadband is controversial, we argue that the municipalities have a crucial role to provide such network infrastructure.
Evolution Of Wireless Broadband Networks
Infrastructure, in general, is a public good, where governments have a stake in developing it. There is an extensive coverage of basic infrastructure such as the telephone and power lines (overhead or underground) across the country, having evolved over more than a century. Telephone lines (e.g. copper wires) represent the basic component of telecommunications infrastructure. With the exponential growth of Internet based services that require high bandwidth (i.e. broadband), the traditional communications infrastructure has proven to be insufficient. Traditional dial-up modems used with telephone lines, for example, can hardly handle the emerging data, audio, voice, and video demands. Coffman and Odlyzko (2002) observe that Moore’s law1 is applicable for the internet growth, wherein the data traffic almost doubles annually. According to Pew Internet Research, the percentage of American adults online crossed the 50 percent mark by April 2000, and reached 71 percent by March 2007 (Horrigan, 2007). The Internet has become a crucial component for communications.