Commercial providers once considered municipal wireless broadband networks gold mines because they could access government and public clients. But, when commercial operators failed to realize the return on investment (ROI) of broadband networks because consumers wanted to access excess wireless capacity for free, some cities and counties seized the opportunity to manage their own networks. They created efficiencies and increased the mobile government tools available to public safety, utility and public transportation agencies.

Now, municipal wireless broadband networks are supporting a wide variety of mobile government applications that field workers can access with tablets, laptops and smartphones. Code compliance officers can pull up records on the spot and update data on the fly through wireless networks. First responders can access data on the way to an emergency, and the public can use free space on the networks to pass the time in coffee shops. Although wireless broadband might not have been a gold mine for commercial providers, it has become critical infrastructure for local governments.

Local governments that began building their own wireless broadband networks started with the goal of making everyday services more efficient, specifically wireless meter reading, says Alan Shark, executive director of the Public Technology Institute (PTI). "They were looking for applications that could provide a ROI," Shark says. "Early adopters thought meter reading could work if they [built] out a network that could support meter reading and have excess capacity to do other things, such as public safety."

Read the entire story from American City and County, our sister publication.

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