The city of Toledo may delay the deadline for bids to establish a citywide Wi-Fi network, but it still may not get all it wants from the winning provider.
Patsy Scott, the city's director of information and technology, said at a prebid conference yesterday that she'd consider pushing back the bid deadline if she gets requests for that in writing.
The deadline is now Feb. 20.
While about 22 people attended the meeting, at least four of the attendees represented Buckeye Express, a potential bidder and Toledo's main provider of wireless connections and cable television.
Buckeye and The Blade are owned by Block Communications Inc.
Many of those at the meeting represented equipment makers.
William Lockwood, of 20/20 Communications, was skeptical that any company other than Buckeye - which has a fiber-optic network other bidders may need to tie into - could afford to do what the city is asking.
20/20 is the company building Wireless Washtenaw, a 720-square-mile network in Wash-
tenaw County, Michigan, which includes Ann Arbor.
More than one bidder is worried Toledo doesn't have enough potential new wireless customers to make the contract pay.
Mr. Lockwood estimated it will cost between $5 million and $12 million to extend Wi-Fi service all over the city.
The city's bid request could face the same fate as one in Battle Creek, where no bidders came forward.
"This looks almost as bad as Battle Creek,'' Mr. Lockwood said.
The city of Toledo wants the winning bidder to provide city government with free wireless. It also wants free wireless service in parks and public housing.
It asks that low-income people receive service for $10 a month and other customers receive Wi-Fi for no more than $20 a month for the first year of the contract.
It also wants the Wi-Fi service provider to pay rent for using city buildings and traffic signals to install its equipment.
In addition, the provider must negotiate with the utility company to lease space on poles.
"We're giving all this stuff for free to the city of Toledo. What's the quid pro quo?" Mr. Lockwood asked.
"It seems we are dramatically limited by the [city's bid document] on what we are able to charge," he said.
In many other communities, the city becomes the "anchor tenant" of Wi-Fi networks, paying the provider for its service and guaranteeing an income.
In other areas, there is the possibility of opening up new markets to wireless.
Ms. Scott indicated many of the requests in the city's bid proposal are negotiable.
"We're looking for a proposal that will come close to what we're asking,'' she said. "But if the pricing doesn't work, ...you need to tell us."
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