Checking In On Metro-Scale Wireless

It has been nearly a year since I published an article examining how orchestras could benefit from the burgeoning metro-scale wireless programs across the country so it is high time to see how far things have progressed…

metro-scale_wireless.jpgLast year’s article proposed a few scenarios suggesting how orchestras of all size could benefit from finding new ways to connect with audience members that also utilize reliable high-speed wireless internet access. All the same, I found myself wondering if there are any cities that have wireless networks up and running and if so, are there any orchestras which have designed some programs to take advantage of such a system.

Although metro-scale wireless programs have been moving ahead at varying speed across the country, there are a few notable examples. In the weeks following the Katrina disaster, New Orleans successfully instituted a wireless video surveillance system that operated across an early metro-scale wireless net. Beyond that highly publicized effort, other cities from San Francisco to Portland to Corpus Christi are all beginning to roll out initial efforts in metro-sale wireless networks.

Unfortunately, like many good things, metro-scale wireless development may slow down to crawl in the near future until a number of legal battles between private wireless providers (such as Verizon and Sprint) and municipal governments are completed. Furthermore, many cities experimenting with metro-scale wireless programs may inadvertently limit usability due to adopting a system sustained by advertisement supported access as opposed to free and clear access.

Regardless of these hurdles, I’m not aware of any professional orchestra implementing a broadcast or outreach programs specifically designed to take advantage of a metro-scale wireless net. If there is one out there, please take a moment to send in a comment to tell everyone about it.

Nevertheless, until the legal clashes between private companies and governments are settled, orchestras can benefit from having some additional time to begin designing programs that take advantage of what will undoubtedly one day become a mainstay of contemporary life. As such, every orchestra should begin talking about this issue; LIOC teams will need to work out compensation details, board members will need to identify funding sources for initial R&D efforts, etc. If your organization waits too long, it will only end up missing out.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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