I was checking out a few random stories from the Weblogs, Inc. network of blogs, when I came across this story from Information Week over at The WiFi Weblog.

These guys apparently had a 6-hour internet outage as Verizon experienced some problems up the line. Since their entire business is based on the internet, there was more than a slight problem here. During the outage, their CIO decided it was time for a back-up ISP, just in case this kind of thing happened again.

Wireless was the wave of the future. From a tower on top of the Empire State Building, they’re now beaming their backup connection right through their office windows. If you check out the story, you can see a picture of the antenna, bolted to the wall, right inside the window. It’s oddly cool looking. Ours at work is on top of the building, and all rusty and old… nothing of interest.

So I’ve decided this is what I need. The company they got their backup connection from offers service up to 19 miles away, at speeds from 1.5 to 3 Mbps. When are we going to get that around here? Sure we don’t have anything remotely like the Empire State Building in the upstate of South Carolina, but we’ve got water towers every 20 feet in most cities…

Hell, the City of Greer even has wireless downtown now, fed by a repeater that’s linked to an antenna on top of the water tower down the street. It’s a lousy 256 kbps link, but there’s no reason we couldn’t take it up a notch, right?

Just think… You contract out with the City of Greer to use their antenna, get a faster link to the water tower, and start offering service to the entire city. We could encrypt all the traffic, and require that everyone connecting to our service have a special base station, which simply serves as a VPN-endpoint of sorts, providing their access. For $20 a month, we’ll give you 2 Mbps service. Can you imagine how many small businesses and even home residential users would jump on this?

I could pay $50 a month for my DSL, plus another $30 or so for the phone line it runs on, or I could just pay $20 a month for this wireless service, and dump the phone and DSL entirely.

So you start this service with a DSL link. Pick up 3 or 4 customers, and now we’ve more than covered our base monthly expenses. So we add another DSL line. A few more customers, and we’ve once again got our monthly expenses covered. Before you know it, we’ve got several dozen customers, all more than happily paying $20 for their 3 Mbps service each month, and we’ve upgraded to a T3 line to provide full-duplex service so we can start enticing more businesses to jump on-board (for a slightly higher charge each month, of course).

Honestly, at the prices these guys are charging for DSL and cable service (*cough cough* BellSouth, Charter, Verizon…) do you really think you’d have a problem getting people to switch? Even the marketing would be bloody simple. We’re talking a very limited geographical area to start with. Get a few initial small businesses on board and have them all put up a sign “Free Wireless provided by ” with a pretty logo. You could even replace the city’s free wireless downtown (under contract with the city, of course), and have those same signs put up all over downtown.

Now, if only I had the time and capital to pull something like this off…

Originally published and updated .
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