A free wireless network for NSW’ major cities and commercial centres seems in doubt following reports that the project is confronting legislative, technical and financial issues.
Following a pre-election announcement in January this year, the NSW Government released an EOI for a high profile project to provide free, wireless broadband for Sydney CBD and surrounding commercial centres. In making the announcement, the Premier, Morris Iemma emphasised that the planned infrastructure project would make NSW the first state to offer free, universal broadband access in major CBD areas.
The EOI called for the provision of wireless broadband in Sydney CBD (including North Sydney), Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool, Newcastle, Wollongong and Gosford. It specified that the supplier will be expected to build, own and maintain the network that was likely to comprise a commercial user-pays service as well as a free community service.
The State Government is now assessing 15 “expressions of interest” and has announced that it expects to make an announcement by the end of this month.
However, a report in Computerworld claims that the Government is struggling to decide on the best framework for the network, and that “experts” predict that it will be crippled by support costs and legislative problems. “The real problem is the cost of overheads for user administration, specifically creating, assigning and supporting unique user identities, with experts warning it will create a "financial blowout". The article quotes Scott Sinclair, technical manager at the University of Queensland's ISP UQconnect, who says that various requirements make free wireless networks untenable, mainly because of the overheads associated with installing and administering authentication policies.