Minneapolis' WiFi Community Benefits Agreement

The city of Minneapolis is in the process of rolling out a city-wide WiFi-based
Internet service that will provide wireless access from anywhere in the city
starting at $20/month. During the bidding phase, which was eventually won by a
local ISP, US Internet, a group met to create a Community Benefits Agreement to
tie into the contract.
Here
is a previous post from 14 months ago regarding a CBA meeting I attended where things were still in a brainstorming phase.

CBAs are a relatively new phenomenon where community members work with
developers or contractors to proactively create business relationships that are
healthy for both the business and the community.

In the case of the Minneapolis WiFi contract, community members were interested
in increasing access to the Internet to a larger percentage of Minneapolis
residents by closing what is often referred to as the, “digital divide.” Below
is a list of criteria that made it into the final agreement between the city and
US Internet:

Minneapolis WiFi Community Benefit requirements
include: *

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  1. $500,000 up front to a new Digital Inclusion Fund (to be administered by
    the Minneapolis Foundation).? The Fund will be used to promote
    affordable Internet access, low-cost hardware, local content and training.

?

  1. Annual contribution of 5 % of ongoing pre-tax net income to the Fund (this
    Fund is estimated to grow to as much as $11 million over the 10 year life
    of the vendor contract).

?

  1. 2 % of additional profits from adjacent community contracts to the Fund

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  1. Subsidized services to over 100 nonprofit agencies, and vouchers for trial
    accounts to CTC’s to distribute to constituents & volunteers?

?

  1. Free limited-time service will be available in some public locations, such
    as parks and plazas in Minneapolis (5% of city area will be designated
    “free hotspot zones”)

?

  1. A free “civic garden” level of wireless service will be available to all
    city residents featuring ?important neighborhood, government, and
    community services information – such as neighborhood portal pages, city
    web sites, and public safety information

?

  1. 100 % of portal page advertising revenue will be directed to the Fund

?

  1. A content management system, and community server, for use by
    neighborhoods and community groups

?

  1. A guarantee of network neutrality (fair access to the system for all
    ISP’s)

?

* from the Wireless Minneapolis web site; the Digital Access web site
(www.digitalaccess.org);
and from the “Digital Justice” report by the Institute on Race & Poverty,
December 2006

The benefits of the CBA are closely tied to the success of Minneapolis’ new
network. I’ve mentioned before that it may be a
tough
sell to current cable Internet subscribers who’ll give up a lot of speed to
save $20/month while gaining portability. It’s an obvious upgrade for people
still on dial-up who happen to have a computer capable of using the WiFi signal,
but they’re clearly not first movers when it comes to technology. It will be
interesting to watch US Internet sell a techie service to non-techies without
endorsements from their techier friends who’ve experienced the service. This
feels a bit like WebTV’s challenges to me.

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