Friday, January 11, 2008

MPS' "Free" Broadband: WHAT Benefit?

Interesting deal, here.

UWM, MPS and MATC plan to lease a dozen channels of educational broadband to Kirkland, Wash.-based Clearwire Corp. Under the deal, each institution will get $4.2 million up-front and monthly payments of $55,000 that increase annually, for a total estimated payout of about $36 million each over three decades.

MPS, in turn, plans to use its lease royalties to buy Clearwire's broadband service and broadband cards for MPS families, giving all students Internet access at home, said MPS Director of Technology James Davis. The district would still need to find more computers for students who don't have them, but it's a step forward, Davis said.

That's very nice, no?

Well, yah--except for the property tax payers. It doesn't seem as though MPS has any interest in actually, you know, reducing proptax. Nor, for that matter, will they seek a reduction of State taxpayer subsidies, which are very large.

Here's the real fairy tale:

Ware said the district has long aimed to address the digital divide among its students, and the educational broadband has always been seen as a resource that would help achieve that goal.

Just exactly what "educational benefit" is derived from having a laptop and a wireless connection? Does a computer improve one's spelling? Math? Are there no libraries with encyclopedias? Is ALL research material now available on the Internet?

"We are meeting MPS' long-term goal at no taxpayer expense," Ware said. "Were it not for this asset, we would still have to sink taxpayer dollars into meeting this goal."

In other words, MPS WILL spend money for this "benefit"--whether it adds to your tax bill or not.

As to MATC:

Milwaukee Area Technical College spokesman Jim Gribble said the school has yet to determine how to spend the lease royalties, but the one-time payment [$4.2 million] will go into the school's reserves for now.

"There's really been no decision at this point as to how the money will be used," Gribble said. "Always, our intent is to keep the tax increase to a minimum."

Notice the phrasing. There's no HINT that the money will directly offset expenses--just that MATC's profligate Board will "intend" to keep tax "increase[s] to a minimum."

Damn generous of them!

Never a mention of tax reduction, nor of spending reduction.



John Foust said...

What benefit? I'd say the question is better phrased as "Cui bono?"

MPS had a license for a slice of the public's airwaves for a particular purpose. (I would guess it's in the valuable 2.5 Ghz band, just above WiFi.)

Now they think their license is transferable or sublet-able to a third party, who will also sell the resource to the public. Maybe they'll bribe MPS with low-cost access for the families of students, but is this how we'd like the public spectrum to be sold and resold?

Clearwire would love to get easy access to a large segment of the market who, through sheer market inertia, will get hooked after their taste while the kids are in school.

Dad29 said...

Well, YAH, John--your analysis is dead-on as well.

But it's "for the chilllllren" so who cares?

omniobso said...

Your comment is so uninformed that it deserves only to be classified as a relic from a neolithic fossil as you so aptly describe yourself in your profile

Dad29 said...

And proud of it, omni.

I await your recounting of the "benefits" of 9-year-olds being online for school.

Three or four, empirically proven, would suffice for starters.

John Foust said...

1. A kid who is on MySpace or Runescape all night isn't outside dealing drugs!

2. They'll learn about cooperation while fighting for turns at the computer with their siblings.

3. Everyone else in the house gets to use the Internet connection.

4. MPS will be blamed for any failures of the product that Clearwire offers.

5. Clearwire opens an office in Wisconsin, providing jobs.

6. MPS is praised by those who think selling off public assets is a way to make up for current shortfalls, thereby teaching more kids about the benefits and downfalls of payday loan stores?

7. As anyone in the retail computer business will tell you, nothing provokes a computer upgrade like going from no Internet or dialup to high-speed, so there's all that computer-store trickle-down to think of.

Dad29 said...

John, I think we can cede "empirical" proof to your suggestions #2,3,6,& 7, if one considers common sense and experience as 'empirical' proof.

But I'm holding "omni" to a standard (I'll also accept peer-reviewed proofs)--so you, TOO, must adhere.

John Foust said...

I'm sorry, Dad, I can't do that. My entire list was tongue-in-cheek.