Community Broadband Case Study: Folsom

WiMAX partnership between City of Folsom and Intel provides test bed for technology development

In 2005, Tellus Venture Associates completed a study for the City of Folsom, California that determined that a citywide WiMAX system was financially and technically feasible, and would help drive economic development. The study was jointly funded by the City and Intel Corporation.

The conceptual system design and business case evaluation envisioned a low cost WiMAX system with a multi-layered business model that would enable public WiFi access, next generation municipal and corporate networking solutions, entrepreneurial ventures, and innovative applications for new communities of users, such as health care providers.

As a next step, the study recommended establishing a pilot project that would bring together interested organisations to deploy a pre-WiMAX network as a proof of concept for the system itself, as well as for various new technologies. The Folsom City Council reviewed the study and approved the recommendations on 8 November 2005.

The pilot project had three primary goals:

  • Encourage new investment within the City of Folsom by creating a supplemental wireless broadband system to support innovative services and applications.
  • Promote the growth of existing businesses within the City by providing new network infrastructure that enables better communication and collaboration.
  • Provide public agencies with the option of using new wireless services and applications to improve services and/or reduce costs.

Initial interest from private companies, local educators and City departments was high. A kick-off meeting was held in January 2006 with representatives from several public and private organizations. As a result, four companies – Intel, Skytel/Verizon, Tropos Networks, Pronto Networks – contributed the equipment, software, expertise and labor necessary to launch the pilot project, at no cost to the City.

The City and its partners identified three geographic areas that had sufficient resources, including network connectivity, to support the pilot project at little or no cost. These areas included a variety of public and private venues where applications could be tested, and included the historic business district and municipal facilities such as the aquatics center and an indoor sports complex.

The project succeeded in demonstrating that WiMAX technology could support municipal and corporate applications, and was evaluated by key players in the development and deployment of WiMAX technology, including Clearwire and Intel. The collaboration between the City of Folsom and Intel in commissioning the study and supporting the pilot project also proved beneficial to the City’s economic development efforts as the partners showcased it to potential investors and new employers.