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Philadelphia Considering Municipal Wi-Fi

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the surfing-the-aether dept.

Wireless Networking 223

sebFlyte writes "The row over Muni Wi-Fi continues as cities and other municipal authorities consider building massive Wi-Fi networks to give lots of people low-cost wireless net access. CNET is running an article written by the CIO for the city of Philadelphia, explaining why she thinks it's time to break the telcos de-facto monopoly and for public agencies to start offering public services." We have previous covered Taipei's efforts along these lines to create a for-pay service

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What To Look Forward To? (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643516)

If Philadelphia suceeds you can count on the following:

People winging about how poor the service is.

Talkshow hosts berating the government for more give-aways of taxpayer dollars (sponsored by some telco)

Saturation and further complaints (my taxdollars pay for, won't stand for it, etc)

Ultimately it'll actually be pretty good service.

Why is this a good idea anyway? Look at the stranglehold Cable TV has on communities. (oh, sure you can go satellite, but it's still not price competitive because they're pricing to compete with near monopolies) If municipalities insisted cable could be laid under the condition a cable company will sell, at a reasonable price, bandwidth on their cable to competitors, would we be paying such huge prices?

You've never heard of PGW (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643576)

The Philadelphia Gas Works has the POOREST customer service of any organization I know. They continue to raise rates on those who pay while millions goes uncollected. Everything philly touches turns to shit. This will be know different. If they dropped the rediculous wage tax rates, techies might want to live here, rather than hit the burbs or some other region. Philly is a GREAT town, but it's government sucks ass.

Re:You've never heard of PGW (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643957)

Looks like Philly has bad schools and no dictionaries either. You can't spell 'ridiculous' and you can't use "its/it's" properly. Stay in Philly, OK?

Re:You've never heard of PGW (1)

Z4rd0Z (211373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644040)

The Philadelphia Gas Works has the POOREST customer service of any organization I know. They continue to raise rates on those who pay while millions goes uncollected. Everything philly touches turns to shit....

Was it your intention to prove the first poster's point, or can you just not help yourself?

Re:You've never heard of PGW (0, Offtopic)

Neward Rylet (634838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644112)

Perhaps you should mention that the mayor had has a wire tap for the past few years because he is under investigation for fraud by the FBI. There is something called pay-to-play that goes on down at city hall.

Sam Katz for Mayor!

Re:What To Look Forward To? (1)

Sierpinski (266120) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643711)

This is a good idea (implementation will be its success or downfall) because you can't just walk outside, down to the park and plug your cable tv into the tree next to you and watch your favorite show.

One thing you might be missing is the reasonable price part of it. There are (at least) two factors involved anytime a price for this kind of service comes up:

1. How much will the average person be willing to pay for such a service
2. What other competition exists, and what do they charge?

While #1 might be regulated by the local Public Utilities Commission or other (quasi-)governmental entity, its still a supply-and-demand market.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (2, Insightful)

morbiuswilters (604447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643734)

How again is satellite not competitive with cable tv? Are you saying that cable tv is so cheap that satellite can't compete against it? If so, it seems that the cable tv monopoly isn't hurting anyone, especially if no one is able to compete effectively. However, around where I live satellite is quite competitive with cable tv and the effect of many subscribers switching to directv or dish network, as well as a series of poorly-implemented digital cable upgrades by mediacom have put the pressure on the cable guys. Seriously, how can you complain if the price is so good that $25 a month satellite (with free installation to boot) can't beat it? Also, I would love to see a wifi isp in my area, but I certainly wouldn't expect everyone else to pay for it and I would also want to avoid the unavoidable political quid pro quo that taking public funds always leads to.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (2, Informative)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644129)

His point was that since cable has a monopoly (and therefore, it's assumed that they're gouging for all they can get), it's possible for the price of satellite service to be truly "competitive" since they base their prices on the gouge-price of the cable companies. They aren't required to compete with a market that's already competitive, so they retain the un-competitive price levels of the monopoly.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643746)

They'll also have 24/7 access to the receiver, though, so that's a good thing (tm)

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/INSERT\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)__COCK_|__(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\_HERE_/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

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Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (1)

RacerZero (848545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643775)

Cities should guarantee right-of-way for wireless and other data transmission. The only reason we have cable/telco monopolies is because cities have monopoly supporting contracts with them. Transmission tower restrictions also make it near impossible to have broadband cell systems. The cities have created the problem not the telcos.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (1, Troll)

Erwos (553607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643787)

"Ultimately it'll actually be pretty good service."

This time machine of yours - can I borrow it?

The fact is, you have absolutely no proof whatsoever of the veracity of your claim. Let me throw another unsubstantiated claim out: it'll suck, and badly.

"Look at the stranglehold Cable TV has on communities. (oh, sure you can go satellite, but it's still not price competitive because they're pricing to compete with near monopolies)"

What is your definition of price competitive? Your value of some service may lead you to believe it is overpriced, but someone who values said service differently may feel it is a fair price. These companies are competing, and they sometimes do it on price.

If muncipalities insisted on those conditions, cable companies wouldn't bother laying the cable to begin with. Why compete in a city that's hostile to you, when there's a hundred more that will give you whatever terms you want?

-Erwos

Re:What To Look Forward To? (1)

jimmy_dean (463322) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643928)

Very well said. Please mod the post I am replying to up! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (4, Insightful)

Enry (630) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644033)

What is your definition of price competitive? Your value of some service may lead you to believe it is overpriced, but someone who values said service differently may feel it is a fair price. These companies are competing, and they sometimes do it on price.

My town has a contract with Comcast as the sole provider of cable TV. If I go about 100 yards down the road, I'm in the next town which has both Comcast and RCN as a choice. The price for Comcast the next town over about aboutg 2/3 the price of what I'm paying, meaning I'm paying 50% more because there's no competition.

Is that a fair price?

Re:What To Look Forward To? (2, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644123)

There's only one cable provider here in Iowa City. As a consequence, they charge about 10$ more a month than you'd have to pay if you were in Des Moines (which actually has some competition).

Monopolies exist; they're real; and they're annoying. I'm not saying that Mediacom is being anticompetitive; I don't have any evidence to that effect, and it may well be that we just don't have a large enough market for competitors to justify the cost of coming in here. But, given that Mediacom has the market to itself, they charge an arm and a leg.

Companies will charge users whatever they think they can get from them. It's just the way things are. Where I live, there's one cable company, one power company, etc. You don't have choices, and thus you pay a premium. I'd much rather have what is essentially a "nonprofit organization" (i.e., the local government) running it, even if they're less efficient (which I have trouble picturing in this case). Any money that they make either goes into local programs or reduced taxes. So long as they don't subsidize their service, Mediacom would still be able to compete - if they feel they can actually offer a fair price, that is.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643870)

I know you're trying to be cool and suave by trying to sound British or Australian and saying whinging instead of whining. But if you want your attempt to come off well you need to spell it right.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (4, Funny)

ShamusYoung (528944) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643919)

Ultimately it'll actually be pretty good service.

Why stop there? If we can get such great service from the government on this, why not other services? Taxpayer-funded ice cream for the disadvantaged! Subsidized soda machines for people that don't carry loose change! Free spice channel for people too embarrased to call up and order the service themselves! Government ass-wiping for really, really lazy people!

It doesn't matter if this is a good service or not. This isn't food or housing. This is Wi-Fi access for crying out loud. If the government should provide this, then is there anything the government shouldn't provide?

You seem confident it will be a good serve, but even if the service sucks and it turns out to be a huge waste of cash, you'll never get rid of it once it's in place. Rotten businesses go out of business, but rotten government programs just eat more tax money.

I know in the end you people will win. Its human nature to want to believe we can all live in luxury for free, to get things we have not earned or worked for, and to believe that we can make life wonderful but having the government take money from other people and use it to buy us nice things. A little bit at a time, you will get your way, and get all your "free" things from your government.

For my part, I promise to go kicking and screaming all the way.

(Unless maybe I can get in on some of the free ice cream) [shamusyoung.com]

Re:What To Look Forward To? (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644036)

I'm a fairly liberal person, and even I agree with this post. As a socially conscious liberal, I believe the government's primary role is to provide for the public welfare by providing for security through police and military, and by providing a safety net by which there is a standard of living we will not allow our citizens to fall below. This includes things like welfare and Social Security.

However, having said that, there are limits. The minimum standard of living includes such things as making sure families can buy food and afford reasonable housing, and making sure the elderly won't have to live on cat food after they retire. However, this minimum standard of living should not include luxury items like wireless Internet access. Internet access for the poor is already available through computers at public libraries, there is no reason we should be providing everyone with a WiFi connection. What's next, universal cable TV? Everyone gets a free laptop?

Re:What To Look Forward To? (1)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644218)

There is a system in place for dealing with this - write to your local representitive. If enough people do this, the city won't bother with WiFi access. On the other hand, if most people agree with the service, the city is fine to install the service. Democracy works like that, voice of the people and all.

In my opinion (UK here, so this isn't relevant to you but is relevant to the concept), the government should not provide additional cash to 'deprived' students in order to encourage their staying in further education. However, the general opinion seems to be that it stays. Now, I have written to my MP to voice my opinions and they will be weighed with everything else. They might make a difference, but I can guarantee that sitting on your ass bitching about it on /. won't help.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (3, Insightful)

DrZombie (817644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644237)

"Rotten businesses go out of business, but rotten government programs just eat more tax money."

If that were true, your post would hold more water, but since there are plenty of poorly run business out there who are still doing well because of government money going to them instead of to necessary services, your gripes fall apart.

Sure, Wi-Fi service isn't something necessary, but it's a city project, which is paid for by taxpayers of that city, who have far more control of policy than if it were a federally funded program. If the people don't want it, it won't happen. I personally think it's a good idea. There are plenty of "necessaries" that the government doesn't supply. Power for instance. Face it, people need power to live. You can't just "go without it" if you don't think the pricing is fair. It's not a morning coffee. So instead of dumping money into supporting poor businesses, why not set up a wireless network to allow anyone to use at a substantially reduced fee. It will create jobs in the process to replace those that are lost by the telco, and the city should see a revenue boost from it. Eventually they could put in their own VoIP network and start to turn the city into a business itself, supplementing tax income with service fees at a rate less than the telcos for these services.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643931)

If municipalities insisted cable could be laid under the condition a cable company will sell, at a reasonable price, bandwidth on their cable to competitors, would we be paying such huge prices?
That's not technically feasible, since no cable system has extra bandwidth they can sell. Which is a pity. We need to do something to break the cable monopolies. Probably a good start would be appointing FCC commissioners who know that "monopoly" is more than a board game.

Re:What To Look Forward To? (2, Insightful)

eyeball (17206) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644324)

If Philadelphia suceeds you can count on the following:

# People winging about how poor the service is.
# Talkshow hosts berating the government for more give-aways of taxpayer dollars (sponsored by some telco)
# Saturation and further complaints (my taxdollars pay for, won't stand for it, etc)



And as soon as the first user hits it, conservative groups will complain about government aloowing its citizens to download porn, and take measures to get content they see as objectionable censored.

Duplicate (3, Informative)

enoraM (749327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643517)

This has been on slashdot months ago:
http://ask.slashdot.org/askslashdot/04/09/25/22025 8.shtml?tid=193&tid=4 [slashdot.org]
with a reference to the original statement from Philadelphia
http://www.phila.gov/wireless/briefing.html [phila.gov]
--
from-the-sort-out-the-duplicates dept.

Re:Duplicate (5, Informative)

Xylaan (795464) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643608)

The concept is duplicate, but at the CIO letter was written yesterday, I believe this is more of an update to an ongoing story.

Slashdot has enough actual dupes that we don't need any false positives :)

Re:Duplicate (1)

sebFlyte (844277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643702)

It's not a duplicate.

The story has moved on alot since then -- including sevaral moves by telcos to get government agencies banned from such efforts -- the response from philly was this interesting point, not the news of the set-up.

fooshka (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643533)

404 File Not Found
The requested URL (articles/05/02/11/1458211.shtml?tid=193&tid=1) was not found.

If you feel like it, mail the url, and where ya came from to pater@slashdot.org.

Not allowed? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643541)

I thought that PA made a law banning that [slashdot.org] ?

Re:Not allowed? (2, Informative)

Neward Rylet (634838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643724)

On that same day, the City made a deal with Verizon. The headline sounds like this is uncertain, but the deal is already in place $2M has already been routed to this project by Mayor Street. All the while the transit system (SEPTA) is going bankrupt and threating to raise fairs AND cut weekend service.

Re:Not allowed? (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643985)

oh yea the semi-private group. SEPTA an organization that is privately held, but get's the benefits of a gov't organization and at some points as a non-profit.

Their inability to make a profit resides directly with their corporate attitude. Their customer service is far below acceptable, their police force (the only rent-a-cops I know of that have almost as much power as the police force) are borderline Nazi's, and their drivers are a menace to the roads.

I have lived in Philly almost all of my life - SEPTA is where it is because of itself.

Now even if you totally disagree with what I said above - this below statement does hold true:

Society (not just ours) has many problems. Our society also has many resources. Just because SEPTA is in dire straights does not mean we should ignore other issues - like providing internet access to the public at a cheap/free rate.

Re:Not allowed? (3, Interesting)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643881)

They have till 2005 or 2006 to get it up. Any network done before then isn't subject to the law that my asshat representative supported.

As for the law: There's nothing stopping a community organization from building one. I think the public broadcasting model would work for a mesh network: Like it? Donate! Get some companies to sponsor and we're cool. No muss, no fuss, no multi-million-dollar executive salaries or golden parachutes.

The law's ass-backwards anyway. I don't see anything wrong with local government competing with business. Hell, it'll make them get their shit together and offer something better than 3Mbps down/784kbps up with a dynamic IP.

I'm jealous of Swedes.

Re:Not allowed? (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644041)

You are bitching about 3mbps down and 784kbps up? I bet you pay less than $100 a month for that.

Do you know what a T1 costs and how fast it is?

Like it or not, at some point your ISP has to hook into a major carrier with peering, and those hookups aren't cheap. Verizon or whomever your ILEC is still gets a cut, usually almost half the price of that T1/T3/OC3 whatever.

Re:Not allowed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11644427)

RTFA. That's all that i can say.

(Yay) - Free ...... (4, Funny)

sammykrupa (828537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643555)

Public networks to fileshare on!

Wish my town... (3, Interesting)

robslimo (587196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643571)

would do something like that.

Starting the late 90's they were being very public about pushing to the front of being "wired"... even got a Yahoo! "Most wired city" award for 2000. That was all on an effort to get the city ringed with fiber. I guess once they got their high-speed net to all the city buildings and schools, their interest pretty much fizzled, leaving the city-zens still not quite on of the game... I still can't get DSL.

"Row?" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643655)


The only "rows" in Philadelphia are the rowhouses.

Why the hell are Englishmen submitting stories to Slashdot about American cities?

Re:"Row?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643776)

Bekause uz Amerikans kan't spell proprly, and kan't evn lowkate philli on a map.

And whut the hell does 'de-facto' mean anyways?
Go back to Englishand you fukin limey Baztards! Enjoy yer Freedom Fries! You suck, and we pulled yer asses outta da fire sixty-five years ago, you cheeze eating surrender monkeys! And anything else from the Simpsons that fits in here!!! You and your presiden Suck! Take that Chairak!

Re:"Row?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11644186)

The only "rows" in Philadelphia are the rowhouses.

Yeah, "row" isn't an appropriate term to use in this case, given that disagreements in Philly are usually settled with gunfire.

Potholes (5, Insightful)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643663)

I would prefer them to fix all of the potholes first...

Amen to that.... (1)

FirstNoel (113932) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643740)

PA in general has some of the worst roads in the Nation...

Re:Amen to that.... (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644017)

especially in center city philly. Over the summer, the left rear window in my car had the hinge that held the window break after I hit a pothole. I have had that fixed, my struts replaced, two tired blowouts (on one pot-hole). The city streets are a meance. The weirdest thing - I always see this one Lamborghini around 16th and sansom (every month or so)...why would someone bring such a gorgeous machine onto such a terrible road system.

Re:Amen to that.... (1)

evilmousse (798341) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644384)


uh... no. after growing up 17 years outside Philly, I've in the 10 years since been a couple other places with worse roads.

I really miss the PA turnpike & taking 30 between philly and pittsburgh, well groomed or not.

Who modded this a troll? (1)

eseiat (650560) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643963)

Anyone who has lived or visited the Philly area in an automobile will easily understand this statement. Sometimes there are simple, yet vastly under-supported, issues in urban areas that get overlooked by groups that are so quick to spend it on more frivolous things. Philly's roads are really quite bad and need attention far moreso than the city needing a WiFi network.

Re:Potholes (1)

Ratbert42 (452340) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644187)

In Philly? Before they get to potholes, how about picking up all the stripped, burned-out shells of stolen cars? And the piles of bricks.

Hey Asshat Moderator (1)

Trolling4Columbine (679367) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644230)

Have you ever even been in Philidelphia? The roads are crap, and there are husks of broken down cars all over the place. Lots of vagrants too.

Believe it or not, some cities have bigger, more pressing issues than a lack of free *COUGH* subsidized wireless Internet.

How about they hold back on the free service? (3, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643665)

I am OK with municipal utilities, I think it is inappropriate to make it free. If there is a need among the low-income, offer discounts or make it free for them on a need basis. Having your users pay by default would more likely pay for the setup.

I am no fan of the DSL / cable duopoly, but not giving them or other commercial interests a chance would be a disservice to tax payers due to the potential for waste and stifles competition from viable alternatives.

Re:How about they hold back on the free service? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643789)

I am no fan of the DSL / cable duopoly, but not giving them or other commercial interests a chance would be a disservice to tax payers due to the potential for waste and stifles competition from viable alternatives.

And creates a system, where due to immediate and widespread acceptance because of price, long reaching privacy violations and centralized censorship are likely to occur all at taxpayer expense.

Re:How about they hold back on the free service? (3, Insightful)

brian.glanz (849625) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643808)

Like the difference between municipal drinking water fountains and having municipal water in your office or home, cities do not need to offer access of equivalent quality and delivery method free to all users, everywhere. Could there be a less desirable, but workable version of the utility freely available on city streets (like the fountains), with a sweeter and for-pay version of the utility available within businesses and homes? The sweeter version can compete with private entities, while the basic service of lower quality access can be provided for all who cannot afford or are not positioned to use better.

Access to information is as important to life as water -- my honest opinion, a corollary of sorts to "Give me liberty or give me death."

BG

Re:How about they hold back on the free service? (1)

zuvembi (30889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644043)

Of course the overhead created by a billing structure addition would probably at least triple the cost. By making it freely open you vastly reduce the running costs.

very hard to do... (5, Informative)

Menotti M (846491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643668)

Muni-WiFi cannot work if they stick to current 802.11 technologies. WiFi was built for very small LAN deployments. As there are only 11 channels for 802.11, interference is going to pose a big problem with home users' own WiFi networks, as well as technologies that run in the 2.4 GHz band of the spectrum.

If they choose to use a technology more suited for a WAN deployment, like the unproven WiMax, this is more of a political move than anything else. The government is trying to look like it is hip with technology and attract the tech-savvy crowd. However, such a deployment is not good for competition, as governments receive special tax-exempt status and would either take many companies out of the market completely, or lend a huge advantage who whomever the government contracts. And what happens when the technology / project goes belly up? In the normal market, companies go bankrupt. The government, however, will just throw (and waste) more money at it.

Re:very hard to do... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643956)

As there are only 11 channels for 802.11

There aren't really 11 independent channels. There's really only 3 or 4 [extremetech.com] depending how much overlap you're able to tolerate.

Re:very hard to do... (1)

Menotti M (846491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644398)

Yeah I forgot to mention the overlap. Very true, once you start overlapping, you get much reduced QoS

Pre-N? (1)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643983)

And what about all these up and coming standards like 'n'? With 'n', you'd have far less deployments to worry about (increased distance), and improved bandwidth. Investment in old tech is what you get when you let Gov't handle (botch) something like this.

By the time it gets through 800 committees, the original idea is so watered down you begin to wonder why it was proposed in the first place. I think this would be a better job for the private sector with gov't investment and incentive.

For something that cannot work... (4, Informative)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644377)

..an awful lot of cities have already been doing it for a long time.

Including my town [wi-fiplanet.com] , which has had free WiFi covering a large portion of the city for over a year. I and I know for a fact that we aren't the only city doing this, plenty of others in the US already have simmilar setups.

If your home WAP had been using the same channel as the city, tough cookes. Change your channel. Is it really that freaking difficult? Took me less than 30 seconds on my linksys.

Philly Wifi?! (3, Interesting)

FyreFiend (81607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643676)

While I like the idea in general I don't think Philly should doing this. The city has been so broke these last few years that they're closing firehouses and talking of cutting the police force. Once the city gets its budget in order then they might want to look into this. Not before.

Re:Philly Wifi?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643894)

Agreed. The Philly detectives don't even have voicemail. (Call and leave a message with the desk guy, and hope that he passes the little note to the right person - eventually.) This is the city in which the police garage solved the problem of a "check engine" light being on in a patrol car by sticking a piece of electrical tape over the light. This is also the city with a multi-million dollar police and fire radio system that fails on a regular basis. Use the money for more essential services.

Re:Philly Wifi?! (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643946)

Wifi is more productive than police.

Cops are usually the biggest wastes in municipal spending... typically police have 20 or 25 year retirements @ 50% pay, so their effective annual salary after benefits and pension contributions is something like $160k+overtime.

In a big, old & declining city like Philly, you probably have a police force designed for the boom days of the industrial past. (ie too big)

Re:Philly Wifi?! (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644069)

Where are mods point to mark someone as Troll when you need them? Wifi more productive than police my eye.

So what if they have the retirement you speak of? They're the ones putting their butts on the line for you so you can walk around safely. They're the ones who track down who killed your nextdoor neighbor so the same person doesn't come after you.

People like you seem to think cops are a nuisance. You don't want cops, then don't call them when something happens to you and make sure everyone you know is not to call the police if you can't do it yourself.

Re:Philly Wifi?! (1)

Bohnanza (523456) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644219)

While I don't think big-city cops are overpaid AT ALL, it's true that Philly's "city services" are made for a city with a population almost 1 million greater than it actually serves.

Re:Philly Wifi?! (1)

brilliant-mistake (578880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644415)

Seriously. Of all the places I've lived, Philly was the most fscked. They need to get their act together before they attempt something like this. It's a tough place to get anything done since there are so many different groups/people who 'need' to get paid off or they'll stand in the way. This would work much better in a smaller town like Austin.

Not to knock the idea, but... (4, Interesting)

SparksMcGee (812424) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643687)

It seems that the comparatively extravagant cost of free WiFi versus the number of people who can't even even afford a computer in Philadelphia puts into question why this should be a primary initiative. I agree with the goals in principle but wouldn't those tax dollars do a lot towards helping city schooling? Just a thought.

Re:Not to knock the idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643883)

In any case, it's a pretty sweet deal for Sprint. Any citywide internet connection would presumably go through their NAP just across the river in Pennsauken, NJ.

Give 1.5 million people a free 54 Mbps net connection, and you can just imagine the bandwidth charges that will be run up...

Ramifications (5, Insightful)

popo (107611) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643722)


The ramifications of free wi-fi are greater than just web access... The upshot is of course, free telephone service as well.

This IMHO is where the real problems are going to begin. The telco's aren't just going to lose their internet business over this, they'd lose their businesses.

Not that we'd be sorry to see them go, but it should be acknowleged that we're talking about more than web browsing here.

Telco Monopoly (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643738)

Philadelphia's move does nothing to telco monopolies. The legislation that allowed the Philly project to go forward also gives Verizon the right to veto any other city in Pennsylvania from doing the same thing.

Ask Slashdot (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643744)

Dear Slashdot,

I have been expelled from the GNAA for announcing my affair with Kathleen Fent. I am largely gay, and have 7 nigger great-grandparents. As such, I feel that a single affair should not disqualify me.

Should I contact the ACLU?

Thank you.

Gary Nigger

As a Philly resident (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643755)

I hope this gets deployed before Mayor Street gets indicted and sentenced.

I guess this is a "stunt" to try to lure people to Philly and fight the flight-rate that increases every year (especially among 20somethings), to the point where Phoenix is bigger than us. I guess no one considered that having to pay a local wage tax of over 4% has something to do with why people leave...

Take away the tax and give me a 4% wage increase and I can setup my own private Wi-Fi with plenty of loot to burn!

They say this will get RID of monopolies?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643772)

CNET is running an article written by the CIO for the city of Philadelphia, explaining why she thinks it's time to break the telcos de-facto monopoly and for public agencies to start offering public services.

City-wide wi-fi is actually more of a monopoly than any telco offering.

In the present situation, the worst case is: if you want internet access, your only option is to pay Company X whatever it asks.

But in the proposed situation, you have even less choice! All taxpayers are forced to pay the government for internet access, whether you use it or not.

I'm not saying municipal wi-fi is a bad idea. But the monopoly angle really won't cut it with me.

I love how everyone is like "OOO FREE WI-FI" (-1, Troll)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643800)

It isn't free you dolts, nothing the government gives you is free, you pay for it all.

Re:I love how everyone is like "OOO FREE WI-FI" (1)

justkarl (775856) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643846)

True. Anybody know if they're -telling- you about the tax hikes which will probably go into effect to hire more SAs, net admins, techs, etc., just for the city gov.?

Re:I love how everyone is like "OOO FREE WI-FI" (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643913)

nothing the government gives you is free Only if you actually pay your taxes! In other words, it is free if you earn your living from gambling, prostitution, drugs, or welfare...

Re:I love how everyone is like "OOO FREE WI-FI" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11644366)

In other words, it is free if you earn your living from gambling, prostitution, drugs, or welfare...

That covers about 90% of the population in Philadelphia.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11644190)

'Troll' my ass. It's a perfectly valid point.

Kills free competition & contradicts market ru (1, Insightful)

O0o0Oblubb!O0o0O (526718) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643809)

Competition is what is supposed to drive the prices down. If the prices are high, that no only indicates that the providers are looking for return of their investments into the infrastructure but it also indicates that there is not enough public demand for the technology itself. If the broad public would demand a cheaper service and actually use it, I am pretty sure it would exist. In Germany, wireless networks became a hype too, but in reality they are not used nearly as much as the providers expected.

Also, our laws prohibit the public administration to enter markets where already enough private companies compete against each other. After all, the government is not supposed to use tax money to drive private competition out of the market. Tax money may be used to install wireless where private companies see no chance for revenue. On the other hand that would lead to the question of whether there's enough demand at that certain location anyway.

Additionally, the authorities would face huge network administration duties that normal providers face.

Last but not least, you could argue that there are privacy concerns if the public offices run a city-wide wireless network (big brother is watching you surf).

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Re:Kills free competition & contradicts market (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644277)

If the prices are high, that no only indicates that the providers are looking for return of their investments into the infrastructure but it also indicates that there is not enough public demand for the technology itself. If the broad public would demand a cheaper service and actually use it, I am pretty sure it would exist.
Doesn't quite work like that. When demand goes down, prices go down as providers try to attract more customers. When demand goes up, prices go up because providers can get away with charging more.

"low cost wireless net access"? (2, Insightful)

kwiqsilver (585008) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643827)

Is there any proof of this? Never in the history of the United States has the government done anything "low cost". Compare the true cost of shipping a package FedEx versus USPS.
It might cost less for the few hundred thousand subscribers who pay for it, but don't forget all the money taken from the people who don't use it, but who still get to pay for it.

A government granted telco monopoly is a bad thing, but a government run monopoly (amtrak, usps, etc) is worse.
And just imagine how great that customer service will be. It might reach DMV levels of greatness!
And I suppose we can trust the government to provide our network access and not snoop in on us.

Of course, if it does cost too much, has poor service, or impedes on your privacy, you can always switch to the competition...oh wait, they ran the competition under, because "for profit" has become evil.

Re:"low cost wireless net access"? (2, Informative)

StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643948)

The USPS doesn't operate on taxpayer money, except in the sence that generally the people sending letters also happen to be taxpayers.

One more time: USPS is not tax supported.

Re:"low cost wireless net access"? (2, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644045)

Compare the true cost of shipping a package FedEx versus USPS. The USPS has not received any government subsidies for the last 20 years. True, the USPS pays no taxes, but then, neither does Microsoft. Where are you getting this data comparing the "true cost" of FedEx vs. USPS? Also, bear in mind that the USPS is required to deliver to EVERYONE, whereas FedEx does not deliver to remote or rural areas.

Re:"low cost wireless net access"? (2, Insightful)

gmcgath (829636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644048)

Nicely put. Lots of people want free stuff paid for by taxing someone else, and don't bother to think ahead to the consequences. Nor will they ask why they're entitled to a free ride at someone else's expense; waving the word "public good" around is a sufficient justification -- after all, those other people are too dumb to realize the benefit they're getting, so they have to be forced to pay for it. With the government as the wireless carrier, the opportunities for governmental censorship and spying are much higher. But with the sweet smell of someone-else-paying waved in their noses, people will cheerfully walk into the socialist pen.

Re:"low cost wireless net access"? (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644119)

Never in the history of the United States has the government done anything "low cost".

Class, open your textbooks to the chapter on the TVA. They electrified a good-sized chunk of the south providing cheap power when private companies wouldn't do it because they were going to charge too much for the power.

Now, I'm not saying their history after the 1940's is perfect, but they at least started out well.

You could also look at the water companies in Chile. They used to be government-run, and water was cheap. They were privitized, and water is now extremely expensive. Many municipal utilities in the western US provided power/water for a price much below what consumers are now paying private companies.

Yes, it's in vogue to claim that anything the government does is going to be more expensive than private enterprise, but that's not always the case. Keep in mind government has the luxury of being able to hold massive debt and no need to make a profit.

Re:"low cost wireless net access"? (3, Insightful)

kwiqsilver (585008) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644264)

The TVA provided "low cost" electricity in that it didn't charge much per kilowatt-hour. Of course if you include the massive tax funded expenses to build the whole thing, it actually was quite expensive, which is why no private company wanted to touch it.

Another type of mesh plan (4, Insightful)

owlclownish (553387) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643842)

The city itself shouldn't be talking about forming a monopoly, supporting a monopoly or operating a utility. Instead the city should be doing what it needs to do to facilitate the creation of city-wide mesh networks by private providers.

There are several impediments to the creation of city-wide wireless mesh networks. The first, and perhaps most important, is right of way. The second is cost.

A good model would include the city throwing out an RFP asking for proposals to create a city-wide mesh network that accomplishes the following:

  • Covers at least X% of the city, where X is a large enough percentage to ensure that poor areas of the city are at least partially covered in mesh.
  • Provides at least X mbps throughput to all users
  • Allows independent providers to use the network to provide their own brand of wireless mesh services, for appropriate fees
In exchange, providers get:
  • The right to borrow money at favorable rates through the use of the city's credit. The city floats bonds, and then loans the money to the chosen provider(s) at the same interest rate as the bonds themselves
  • Streamlined approval of right of way throughout the city, probably using the city's lamposts
  • A temporary monopoly on some types of premium services on the network (i.e. the provider is forced to allow the rebranding of the regular tier of service, but a higher tier of service [twice as fast?] is the sole province of the provider for X years).
New York City has an interesting plan out there for better cell phone coverage under a similar model: offering right of way on the city's lamposts in exchange for certain guarantees. See New York Times coverage [nytimes.com] on the subject.

Why.... (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643863)

...don't we download enough pr0n already???

Isn't this illegal now? (1)

SamMichaels (213605) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643912)

Linkage [slashdot.org]

Two problems: (3, Insightful)

Wordsmith (183749) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643929)

Aside from the philosophical discussion on whether this SHOULD be done, I see two implimentation problems:

1) This is going to cause major interference with pre-existing wi-fi networks. I don't use of want my private network degraded by the ever-present WIFI service set up with repeaters throughout the city.

2) It's going to be VERY difficult to get people to be smart about use, and avoid giving out key personal information over the airwaves. Identity theieves already collects lots of information in Starbucks and ball fields. Can you imagine how bad the problem would be with access city-wide?

Legitimate Concerns (Esp. Security) -=Troll??? (1)

buddhaseviltwin (786340) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644207)

How is bringing up two legitimate concerns (especially a SECURITY CONCERN) a troll?

Philadelphia hasn't exactly given out any detailed specifications that have allievate these concerns, let alone made any promises that these issues would resolved (if they keep their promises)

I'm as anti-defacto-telco-monopoly as anybody else here, but shouldn't ANY proposed alternative to the defacto-telco-monopolies be vetted first with legitimate concerns?

Choices... (1)

theid0 (813603) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643969)

This story could almost go into the politics section. Ms. Neff is complaining about the incumbent carriers and their slow, impartial approach to providing universal access. It may very well be that the incumbent carriers aren't handling things the way they should, but that doesn't mean the alternative is any better.

Options:
1) Competitors move in to provide different/better service: prices fall slightly and the poor still don't have access.
2) The city takes charge: prices rise (inevitable with government-owned enterprises in a position of monopoly), and capacity becomes a big problem as the city struggles to build their own infrastructure or share with the ILECs. Everybody pays based on income/per-person/whatever. The poor get their mediocre service, and everybody else pays extra on top of the municipal cost because they want better (alternative) service than what the city provides. It boils down to the middle class paying for internet access for the poor. I've seen it happen... wireless doesn't mean necessarily mean high-speed, it's just a different way to hook up.

Public WiFi (1)

ModernDayRasputin (810062) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643971)

Several observations: 1. this will not put verizon out of buisness. Philly still needs to buy the bandwith from an isp(ultimatly verizon). 2. If they charge money, some home users will still want high speed(i.e comcast). 3. Buisnesses will still need real bandwidth and QOS. 4. people will take the municipal signal and share it in their home with their linksys WiFi routers and people like me will still pick it up for free from their neighbors. 5. If philly's government does it it will suck. 6. maybe the DRPA will pay for it and it won't be paid for by tax $$ but where funding for a project like should be coming from ... bridge tolls. my 2 cents. (PS if they do it at all it should be free) 2 more cents

This needs to be stopped. (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 9 years ago | (#11643989)

I post the same reply nearly every time it comes up. The local governments have no business getting into providing internet service let alone WIRELESS internet service.

I read what he had to say and I call BULLSHIT. It is the same politically correct crap they use all the time to slip more government programs. The routine is to use words like underserved, monopoly, and eventually "redlining". They claim that cable companies, telcos, and similar don't provide service to those who cannot afford it or will even use it yet at the same time they claim there is a need!

This is a vote buying scheme with little difference from how senior centers, libraries, and even police precincts are placed.

Here is what will happen. The contracts will be awarded to those companies who can show they adhere to some contrived quota system of workers. Being in philly this might require union workers, specific health benefits, living wage, or even political affliation. These types of companies are usually nothing more that shells held by friends of the mayor or similar placed people (see Atlanta airport for examples of a big city nepotism).

The contract gets awarded. It delivers inferior service requiring even more consultation by people who just happen to be friends of the same people who authorized it or screwed it up.

So eventually it mostly works. We then find out that most of the target people don't have the equipment to use it. So we buy it for them, to include pc and router from "approved companies". We then have to provide training for those who "did not win lifes lottery" of course by those who meet the nepotism requirements.

Then we stuff the administration of the whole shebang by favorites and such.

So we will end up with an overpriced solution that is staffed by people who have no business touching a net. We will pay to stuff pcs and equipment in homes where the people really won't get the true benefit.

I'd rather let a corporation do it, at least they can be held truly accountable. The government will just make your life miserable if you complain or such.

As a resident of Philly (1)

Stalyn (662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644006)

I think its a great idea. Its great for the center city types who trade stocks in Love park. Or the north city types who are poor and want to look up lines on wagerline.com. great for everyone.

This is old news (1)

GatesGhost (850912) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644023)

this has been floating around philly for at least a year now. the last thing we need is for some crap isp to run things. i'd rather pay a tax and have the government run it than be ripped off by some crappy isp (ahem comcast cough cough).

We have one of these in my hometown... (1)

Master_T (836808) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644096)

We have one of these in my hometown, and it is really nice to get free wireless web wherever you go downtown. However the security is a nightmare. They do a horrible job of it where I live. I have a friend who now has memos and legal documents from several major businesses and I think even from city hall on his computer all because the security is virtually non-existant. The potential for:

a: wrong-doing

b: hilarious wrong-doing

is very high unless this is done right. Philadelphia could have some trouble on its hands if it doesn't go about this in a very careful manner. Free-internet is good and all but maybe this is one of those situations where the bad could outweigh the good...

Thanks Mr. Rendell (1)

asv108 (141455) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644098)

Rendell pushed a bill written by Verizon, banning public sponsered wifi access in the state of PA except for Philadelhia. You can read more about about here [freepress.net] .

He lost my vote. [alexvalentine.org]

Re:Thanks Mr. Rendell (1)

DrZombie (817644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644269)

WTF is up with that!?!?!

The guy gave away legislative powers of the state to a private company. That is disgusting.

Summary (1)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644107)


Local Goverment decides on big-ticket infrastructure spend in market already (relatively) well served by existing commercial vendors.

I don't get it. Do we seriously think that an internet connection is something the state should provide to every home ? Is it more important than a phone line ? Water ? Gas ? Electricity ? And all the other things supplied by the commercial sector.

I'm glad I'm not in Philly, there is one goverment official there with WAY too much budget.

Welcome to socialism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11644146)

Clearly private industry can't step up to the challenge; in the face of a challenge that private industry doesn't want, government must step in!

Say what? Tons of money is being invested in wireless hotspots, zillions already exist, and it's not the government's job to provide wireless? Oh. Nevermind.

I see two sides (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644163)

I see two sides of this. First, one problem I have with governments period now and even other organizations is that they continually try to push people to the web. When it snows, the local radio stations do not even read the closings on air anymore unless it's a brand new one. Then they only call it once. This is a problem. EVERYBODY frickin assumes oh just look it up on the web. Well, what if we don't HAVE or WANT a computer? I have computers and it's not a problem for me but others depend on the normal media channels for getting pertinent information about things like closings and the weather alerts. It takes 5 minutes to read them off. If you cover a larger area, then say we will read off for the metro area and go to our sister station in timbuktu to here your area. The point is a radio can be had for LESS then a dollar if you get a cheap one. A computer costs alot less. TV's cost less then a computer as well. At least the TV stations run a crawl. The radio is how we used to find out if we had a snow day when we were kids, It's still a very accessible form of media and it should not be abandoned jsut becauses it's easy fo ryou to remind people to check the web.

That was not even the government, but here's another example....the IRS....

It's well known the US government MUCH prefers electronic returns to paper ones. So much so taht you actually get your money earlier and without having to get a RAL. Yet there are STILL a significant amoun t of people who don't have and don't want computers. It's even been mention in some circles that the IRS should not accept or process paper tax returns. Again, this is a problem.

I frankly think free wifi isn't going to get low income folks anything if they can't get a computer anyway. If the government wants to put all this stuff on the web and have our interaction with them be always on the internet, then they must provide more then just free wifi....free computers. I don't see that happening. Until computers are so intrenched into society that even the lowest income can afford one, then we must still have the old avenues open.

I see this is a good idea, but I frankly would nto want my tax dollars spent on a section of society who can't even afford the device they need to use it anyway. It's almost like putting a free wifi network in a 3rd world country where they don't even have phones. Why waste our tax dollars on something that won't be used.

One other way I think is bad when they governments start going this way is the government could then censor and CONTROL what we see. This one reason is another reason I don't see free muni wifi working. We don't like the government SPYING on us.

What about channel overlap? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11644177)

I live in Philadelphia. From the front of my house, I can see 5-8 networks (about half of which are unsecured, but that's another story). From the back of my house, another 5 or so. I'm already having too much trouble trying to find the least-interference-prone channel of 12, of which only 1, 6, and 11 don't overlap with the others. If Philly deploys a city-wide mesh, private networks will have only 2 non-overlapping channels to swim in.

Difficult (0, Redundant)

Peridriga (308995) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644188)

Muni-WiFi cannot work if they stick to current 802.11 technologies. WiFi was built for very small LAN deployments. As there are only 11 channels for 802.11, interference is going to pose a big problem with home users' own WiFi networks, as well as technologies that run in the 2.4 GHz band of the spectrum.

If they choose to use a technology more suited for a WAN deployment, like the unproven WiMax, this is more of a political move than anything else. The government is trying to look like it is hip with technology and attract the tech-savvy crowd. However, such a deployment is not good for competition, as governments receive special tax-exempt status and would either take many companies out of the market completely, or lend a huge advantage who whomever the government contracts. And what happens when the technology / project goes belly up? In the normal market, companies go bankrupt. The government, however, will just throw (and waste) more money at it.

telcos de-facto monopoly??? (2, Insightful)

acoustix (123925) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644203)

The last time I checked I could also get Internet access from my cable TV company, independent dial-up providers, independent wireless providers. In fact, in my town of 26,000 we have approximately 10 ISPs that are not telephone companies.

Makes me wonder what the hell they're doing in Philly if my little town in Iowa has all of these options available and all of the companies are making profits.

-Nick

In other news, the House... (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644278)

... has passed a Law banning State and Federal Government from "competing" with private businesses in Telecom, Music and Movies. The measure is pending in Senate...The Administration spokesman said "Businesss are unable to compete and provide better, cheaper alternatives to those services. We welcome this move which makes the playing field equal for all corporate players and this in the best interest of all consumers [sic] concerned."

We don't have 'rows' here. (1)

glrotate (300695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644372)

This is the US. We have fights.

compromise (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 9 years ago | (#11644437)

Why not let the telco's run it, but allow the city to pay for a minimum level of service that's available to everyone? If a person wants more features, speed, whatever, then they can pay to upgrade. This can be something that's an 3-4 year contract and can be put up for competitive bid near the end of each contract. I certainly wouldn't want my city trying to run a wireless network because whatever they do touch ends up being screwed up.
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