Put yourself in the shoes of a city mayor. You have constituents at your door questioning why their property taxes just went up. The new intersection you were about to put in is on hold because it encroaches on some environmentally sensitive land. The school board is asking for your support on a controversial issue. And, you are running for re-election late this year.
In the midst of all this, you are being asked to participate in the decision as to whether your town should support municipal broadband, and if so what "flavor". People are spouting incomprehsible words for and against acronyms you've never heard: Wi-Fi, WiMAX, FTTP, GPON and HFC. Do you really want another term in office?
Broadband Properties Magazine approached us several months ago to write an article for their special issue on Municipal Broadband. Our role was to help municipal officials who are increasingly faced by discussions involving myriad broadband technologies and concepts. Our challenge was to make some sense out of the broadband landscape, suggesting what should be included in a rational discussion. We were not asked to advocate or oppose municipal broadband, but to clarify a complex topic and help municipal officials ask intelligent questions.
The resulting article A Mayor’s Guide to Broadband: The Six Leading Access Technologies ( www.broadbandproperties.com/2005issues/may05issues/Sandy_Teger_and_Dave_Waks_A_Mayor_s_Guide.pdf ) appears in this month's issue of Broadband Properties Magazine. It explains some fundamental broadband concepts and terms like "symmetry" and "multiplexing" and gives a brief introduction to six different access mechanisms which can be used to provide broadband services.
A key point of the article is that there is no one "right" answer. The "best" technology alternative is determined by what unsatisfied needs your town is trying to satisfy, and the timeframe and costs which could constrain solutions. As in any complicated question, the answer always seems to be "it depends...".