Cheap wireless tops cable plan in Asheville, N.C.

Facing a higher state-negotiated deal for connecting its 22 public buildings via the local cable company's system, Asheville, N.C. decided to go off the board and build its own city-owned wireless network.

The city had been using a fiber network as part of a cable franchise condition. When new state legislation took price negotiations out of the hands of local communities and placed it into statewide contracts, that network's annual price climbed to $450,000.

The city, instead, decided to invest $2 million of its own money and build its own wireless network and then run it through local wireless ISP Skyrunner for $20,000 a year.

It's cheap but it's not fiber, admitted Jonathan Feldman, Asheville's IT services director.

"You want fiber where you can get fiber," he said. "We're not getting the data rates we would like in some places."

On the other hand, the network has been reliable.

"We've survived torrential rain, 18 inches of snow, 40-to-50 miles-per-hour wind, and we've had exactly one weather-related outage-we put a radio too close to the roofline and it was buried in snow," Feldman said.

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