Saturday, April 25, 2009

Minneapolis Wi-Fi Community Benefits Agreement--Quick Summary

While traditionally Community Benefits Agreements have been used for real estate developments where developers have promised specific benefits to a community in exchange for support of specific zoning changes, Minneapolis used a CBA to specify the specific community benefits a private contractor would provide in exchange for a contract that made the City of Minneapolis the anchor tenant for a privately build, owned and maintained city-wide wi-fi system.

Brief History
The community benefits agreement was first proposed by Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Coalition--a loose group formed by the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability (using funding from the Minneapolis Foundation. In response to this group, the City of Minneapolis formed a Digital Inclusion Task Force that recommended specific items for the Community Benefits Agreements. To many people's surprise, the Mayor and City Council agreed to a Community Beneifts Agreement and made it a part of the contract.

Major Provisions
From the City of Minneapolis website, the major provision of the CBA are:
  • USI Wireless will provide $500,000 to create a “digital inclusion fund” that will be used to promote affordable Internet access, low-cost hardware, local content and training. In addition, US Internet will direct a minimum of five percent of the network’s net profits to a digital inclusion fund for ongoing digital inclusion efforts. In total, it is expected that about $11 million will go into the digital inclusion fund over the 10-year term of the contract.
  • Free limited-time service will be available in some public locations, such as parks and plazas in Minneapolis.
  • A free “walled garden” level of wireless service – Minneapolis Civic Garden – is now available to people throughout the city for important neighborhood, government, and community services information.
  • Designated community technology centers will receive free wireless access.
By far the most important benefit is the provisoin of five precent of the network's net profits to a digital inclusion fund. That fund is aministered by the Minneapolis Foundation (an independent community foundation) with the help of a Digitial Inclusion Advisor Board. That board is primarily citizens from the community (one member is a City Council member and one member is a representative of the system owner). This money goes directly from the contractor/owner to the Minneapolis Foundation. It does not go through the city or city council. The almost $400,000 in grants the fund has made are listed here.

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