June 28, 2005

What happened in Orlando?

Orlando put its downtown wireless access on hold, according to the Orlando Sentinel, because the service wasn't well-used, averaging only 27 logins per day.

Rich MacKinnon, the president of the flourishing Austin Wireless City project, explains the differences between the languishing Orlando model, and the successful Austin model.

Orlando discontinued because they averaged 27 logins per day. In contrast, in May, the Austin Wireless City Project had nearly 400 average logins per day. The Orlando example highlights two problems we sought to avoid:

  1. Single-payer: The City was the single payer for the $1800 monthly broadband expense. When the City withdrew its support, the service was discontinued completely. Our monthly broadband expense is about $5000 (approx $50 x 100 venues). Each venue is responsible for providing and paying for its own broadband. If any one venue withdraws, the majority of the service still remains.
  2. Hotzone vs hotspots: Orlando invested in a hotzone to "blanket" a downtown section. As it turns out, there was not enough interest/user density to justify the fixed broadband expense for the hotzone. There may have been interest and users outside of the zone. The hotspot model expands incrementally to meet demand wherever it is--at the core, in the suburbs, or wherever. Not surprisingly, most of our hotspots are concentrated near our city core. That said, our Arboretum hotspot is among our Top 3 busiest, indicating strong interest, or "pent up demand" outside the core.

The City of Orlando says that it is evaluating the results of its pilot program, and considering re-introducing the service with a different model.

There are many different models for publicly supported internet access. The experiments will create patterns of best practices, and practices to avoid.

Posted by alevin at June 28, 2005 09:59 AM