By Steven Tavares.
San Leandro’s downtown fiber-optics loop, known as Lit San Leandro, is often viewed as the catalyst for the city’s transformation from factory town to burgeoning tech manufacturing hub. It’s no wonder city officials are concerned over a ruling issued by the Federal Communications Commission in late February that could potentially undermine the performance of the public Wi-Fi portion of the network in favor of major telecoms and their customers.
FFC commissioners voted Feb. 22 to authorize cell phone carriers to begin use of the unlicensed five gigahertz band for new devices known as LTE-U. San Leandro’s public Wi-Fi network operates on the same unlicensed band, although running parallel. Telecoms have pushed for this ability in order to ease periodic burdens on its own licensed networks due to Internet use by its customers. But there is significant disagreement whether or not unlicensed Wi-Fi networks will be affected by the new ruling.
“It uses unlicensed wireless spectrum in the five gigahertz range, which is the same as Wi-Fi,” says Tony Batalla, San Leandro’s Information Technology manager. “The concern is that independent testing was never done to evaluate the coexistence between LTE-U and Wi-Fi and, as a result, we don’t know what the impact will be of deploying LTE-U side-by-side with public Wi-Fi systems (such as San Leandro’s).”
“We’re concerned because obviously we’ve put a lot of capital infrastructure into place and this could be disastrous for us. So we want to protect what we’ve done,” said San Leandro Councilmember Corina Lopez, during a council meeting this month.
Lopez wrote a letter, dated Mar. 10, to the National League of Cities’ technology committee, which she is also a delegate, urging for support in opposing the FCC’s ruling. New York City is on record opposing the FCC’s decision.
The success of Lit San Leandro, a public-private partnership between cloud provider OsiSoft and the city, has subsequently grown through several state and federal grants. Its success in subsequent years has made Lit San Leandro the envy of several neighboring cities seeking to emulate or contract for its services.
Like many local East Bay cities that have declared sanctuary city status, the issue of the federal government pulling funding for Lit San Leandro is another concern, The potential issue has been brought to the attention of Rep. Barbara Lee, said Lopez, who added. “I doesn’t make sense for one federal agency to take away something that another federal agency gave us.”