A consulting firm engaged by the City of West Hollywood to develop a wireless strategic plan is recommending that it start small.
Magellan Advisors suggests that the city focus first on providing free Wi-Fi at Plummer and West Hollywood parks, at City Hall and on special event corridors such as San Vicente, Santa Monica and Robertson boulevards. Later it could consider extending the Wi-Fi network to cover commercial corridors. Magellan advises the city move slowly on the idea of providing citywide Wi-Fi service because of the large capital investment required and the lack of certainty that it could be supported financially.
The city engaged Magellan in October 2016 to help develop a wireless network plan. One goal was to provide Wi-Fi for the public and local businesses to promote economic development and make sure every resident had access to Wi-Fi for digital communications. Currently Wi-Fi is provided by commercial services such as Verizon Wireless, although the city does operate a limited WeHo Wi-Fi service. Another goal also was to help law enforcement officers and city employees, who use various mobile applications in the field, and to support West Hollywood’s “Smart City” initiatives, which are various programs to improve connections and access to information between residents and city government.
It its report, presented tonight to the City Council, Magellan said it recommended offering Wi-Fi access along Santa Monica Boulevard from Doheny Drive to La Cienega Boulevard, on San Vicente Boulevard from Santa Monica Boulevard to Melrose Avenue and on Robertson Boulevard from Santa Monica Boulevard to Melrose Avenue as well as in West Hollywood Park and Plummer Park. Magellan estimated that would cost between $500,000 and $700,000, which includes five years of operating expenses. It estimated the program could generate between $90,000 and $180,000 in revenue over five years.
Extending a wireless network along major commercial corridors would require the city to extend its fiber optic infrastructure. Magellan estimates that covering commercial corridors such Santa Monica Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, Robertson Boulevard, San Vicente Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard would cost between $3.3 million and $3.8 million, which includes five years of operating expenses. It estimated revenue of between $140,000 and $210,000 over five years. The goal of such an expansion would be to promote local businesses, provide Wi-Fi service to residents and to visitors and to support Smart City technologies such as pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle counters, air quality monitors, gunshot detectors and public safety cameras.
Magellan estimates that combining both efforts would cost the city from $3.5 million to $4.1
million, including which five years of operating expenses. It could generate revenue of $147,000 to $278,000.
Creating a wireless network that would encompass the entire city would cost a dramatically larger amount — between $29 million and $38 million, Magellan estimates. And over five years it would generate revenue of only $154,000 to $344,000.
Magellan also recommends that the City of West Hollywood not go it on its own. Working with a private service provider that would operate the network (the city would own it and related the equipment) would be much less expensive than if the city were own and operate everything. The low revenue estimates from Magellan stem, in part, from the assumption by many that Wi-Fi services should be free, which makes pricing difficult.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story erred in stating that Magellan Advisors recommended that the city work with a private service provider that would own the wireless equipment and pay for the construction costs, while the city owned the actual fiber network. In fact, Magellan recommended that the city enter a public/private partnership in which it would own the network and equipment and contract with a company to manage it. The story has been corrected.