Cities continue to look for ways to monetize their infrastructure. The new frontier: street lights.
The poles can serve as billboards where companies buy ad space.
5G providers and others can pay monthly fees to hang their equipment on light poles.
The brass ring for cities is to compile data from smart street lights and sell it for profit.
The bottom line: “We’re seeing a lot of cities buying back their street lights from utilities,” Gardner tells Axios.
“Because all of a sudden, they’ve woken up to the fact that, hey — you know, the boring, kind of arcane corner of the municipal infrastructure space, the street light poles? They’re actually critical assets that we need to own and control.”
This could be the dream of city managers and public works directors everywhere: the same infrastructure that serves the residents of the community can also be used to generate revenue for the city. Imagine covering the maintenance and construction costs of the infrastructure and possibly even adding to the community revenues.
Residents could like this too. However, they might have a few concerns:
-Billboards in even more places? What about visual pollution? What companies are allowed to advertise on government owned property?
-Some communities already have controversy over 5G. This could raise the conflict from it just being present in the community to being officially endorsed by the municipality.
-Sell data about residents and visitors? Is there any expectation to privacy while driving, walking, biking in public?
It will be interesting to see how far this goes across different communities.