In light of the lessons emerging from international experience, it is important to avoid local-government authorities from being tempted to sign exclusive agreements before becoming fully informed of the implications. What positive contributions can be made by higher levels of government? What network and facility sharing will be allowed? Is there value in providing general guidelines and model contracts, while allowing for normal negotiations to take place, perhaps backed up by some forms of low-cost dispute resolution mechanisms?
When lamp posts and similar public fixtures become sophisticated sensing devices that pull in massive amounts of data, questions of who has access to the data under what terms will become important. Issues of data protection, security, privacy, competition will have to be addressed. Location and tracking of individuals have obvious privacy implications; if entities other than licensed telecom operators collect and process data, the location of the data and safeguards against data breaches must be defined.
Competition can be affected by differential access to aggregated data that can generate insights on footfall and congregations which is vital for store-location and advertising decisions. In New York City, the city government was offering footfall and related insights to small businesses for a fee, hoping to level the playing field for them in relation to retail giants.
Especially because so much is at stake in the success of Port City, it is time to start thinking about what all levels of government can do to prepare for smart-city developments. First and most important is for those with authority over telecom policy and local-government authorities to understand the issues, while avoiding getting locked into exclusive arrangements. Focus must be on fiberization and on making spectrum available for last-mile connectivity.
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