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New Report On Municipal Wireless

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the he-who-owns-the-pipes dept.

Wireless Networking 128

PublicNet SF Coalition introduces us to a new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance called "Localizing the Internet: Five Ways Public Ownership Solves the U.S. Broadband Problem." It makes a strong case for municipal ownership of new wireless and fiber-optic networks. The history shows that there is a need for more aggressive public involvement in broadband deployment, and the affordability of wireless is a great opportunity for this.

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first wireless post (0, Offtopic)

chunky shit salsa (956359) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259672)

suck it

DREAMERS! (5, Insightful)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259696)

Haven't we been hearing for 5 years now that Muni-WiFi is going to solve all our problems? Yes there are some fools who think because they can setup Aunt Mildred's WiFi-router, that they are now well-equipped to cover a city! Issue of interference, maintenance, management of free-loaders, paying for 24x7 techs (think AT&T linemen) and consequent insurance costs, etc. never seem to enter their minds. I read the RFP for the City of Atlanta muni-WiFi and couldn't stop laughing. For all the freebies and conditions they wanted to layer onto it, there was no contract lockin as incentive. Meaning you could spend years and get a network setup, then the next administration rolls in and says hey we are changing contractors because my cousin knows all about computers, please hand over the keys. Now, where's my flying car?

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259716)

Well, there's a solution to that, it's called payment up front.

Just because the municipalities haven't figured out how much this stuff actually costs, doesn't mean the whole concept is flawed. They're politicians, remember -- and therefore, things take a while to sink in. Of course they're going to start off by making ridiculous demands. When nobody responds, they'll either get serious or move along. Eventually, some city is going to make a serious effort, which means paying for the infrastructure if you want to end up owning it.

It's not complicated, just expensive. It'll find its way through eventually.

Re:DREAMERS! (1, Troll)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259790)

Get back to me when that's working out for you buddy. I can count the number of fabulous free-internet-for-everybody on .... no fingers of one hand. Sure it's fundamentally flawed. Say someone says "I want free telephones for everyone, cause my Aunt Mildred might need to call 911, and I want her to be able to do that with guaranteed City service!" So everyone dutifully pays their taxes and gets a phone system installed. Designed by committees and politicians, and run by the same type of guys who fill the potholes in your streets. Yeah, when it works, it'll probably work okay. However, oh we didn't account for what happens when someone's 12-year old kid wants to use that phone 24x7 to talk to their friends in Sweden, we'll have to have more money to address that problem. Yeah, so your idea is you want to run a Grand Experiment, with vague promises that it'll be cheaper and better go right ahead. As I said, I'll be happy to read some of those success stories. I think we've had enough years by now where someone could have applied this idea. After all, the telephone has been around a long time, couldn't we apply it to a "simple" technology like that to get out feet wet? What makes people think computer networks are somehow special or different than other telecommunications networks? My point is for years we've been treated to theories about how somebody's got a Big Idea on how to run telecomm networks in the public benefit and do it better and cheaper. I simply don't buy it, that the EVIL FORCES have stopped them every time. There should be even one shining success somewhere we could point to, you know some medium or larger city that pulled off an idea like this. So why haven't we? Answer that if you can.

Re:DREAMERS! (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259884)

I don't think that anyone is realistically advocating free internet service for anyone. If they are, then I'll join you in calling them a bunch of twits.

However, what there are some decent proposals for, would be systems where municipalities pay for, and thus own, and absorb the risk of, actually laying the bare infrastructure. So the muni lays the fiber, or pays for the APs, or whatever. Then the municipality, in turn, sells capacity on that network to third parties, who actually provide service to customers. Now, it could be that there are multiple third-parties on the network at once, which IMO would be the best arrangement, because it ensures some customer choice, but practically it might be that there is some sort of selection process and then a recompete or review periodically, which is far less ideal, but better than being stuck with that company forever because they own the only fiber running to your house.

Certainly I don't want my ISP to be the same bunch of numbskulls who operate the DMV (although, they may actually be better than Comcast, it's sort of a tossup). However, I don't think that municipalities have a terrible history when it comes to the deployment and maintenance of infrastructure. While there are indeed potholes in my road, there is also a road there, and there are roads on each side of it, and there are quite a lot of roads elsewhere, which as a network, are in pretty good shape. (As in, I can pretty much get from any point to any other point without being accosted by bandits or falling into crevasses, or going through a lot of tollbooths, etc.) Looking around, I don't think there are a whole lot of other entities who I'd really trust to take over from them.

While I normally consider myself pretty far to the Right on the economic scale, I think there are certainly some areas where there are bona fide public interests, and where government is the most capable agency of completing a project (or is the only one you'd want to own and monopolize the finished product); in these areas it doesn't make sense to not do it within the public sector.

But just because the public owns the infrastructure doesn't mean they have to operate it. Think of the fiber as a canal. Just because the government paid for the canal, doesn't mean that they run the freight companies that ship stuff on it. As a consumer, you can ship goods on the canal using any number of companies, without any contact with the government. The government just extracts their pound of flesh from the companies who ply the canal -- taking the same from each, based on a standard metric -- in order to recoup the investment and do maintenance. The public benefit is in having the canal there in the first place, and in not having it monopolized by one company who is going to maximize profit rather than public utility. (The individual canal boats, in this example, will all seek to maximize profit, but since none of them own the canal proper, they can't monopolize things in the way that a single owner could.)

The U.S. has a long history of successful heavy-infrastructure projects that were initially funded with public monies, and which paid huge dividends in terms of direct tolls (the canals were huge cash cows, almost to a fault) and economic growth. There's no reason why modern informational infrastructure is any different, inherently, from transportation infrastructure 150-200 years ago. The same trade-offs exist, and the same risk, but also the potential for the same rewards.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259902)

As I have said other places, keep it simple. Point me to a PUBLICLY OWNED TELEPHONE NETWORK IN A LARGE CITY as an example. Just one. Roads and canals are quite different from telecommunications. Yes there are ways in which they are similar, there are others where they are not. A road doesn't require complete replacement because neighboring roads have switched to a new protocol. Networks and electronics are considerably faster-evolving and not well-suited to the leisurely pace that is an asset in some city projects. I want the dam or bridge well built, I don't care how long it takes. Again, there are many inappropriate analogies people will dredge up. My point is why bother? Pick something that IS very close. Or hell, just point to one city that is actually DOING THIS and not just flapping their gums about it.

Re:DREAMERS! (5, Informative)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260016)

... just point to one city that is actually DOING THIS ...

South Korea [wikipedia.org] funded a national project, not just city-wide, and now has one of the highest penetrations of Broadband in the world. I have also heard that they get 100Mbps standard connection speed.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260288)

South Korea has much higher population-density making it easier. Does that Wikipedia article indicate that the infrastructure is owned by the government. It may well be, but it doesn't state so in that entry, it just says "the government actively supports this" which can mean a lot of things. Are you going to tell everyone in the USA they need to move out of the burbs, and into apartment blocks because it's cheaper to offer internet that way? Or do we just absorb the enormous cost of running fiber to every single-family dwelling in LA's urban sprawl, because you know, it's the right thing to do and mere money shouldn't stop us from doing right things?

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261482)

How does the size of South Korea compare to, say, the size of the Boston-Washington DC corridor?

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

aliloln (973288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262348)

South Korea: Population: 48,846,823
Greater Boston - DC corridor: the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia Metropolitan Area surpasses 8 million, and Boston-Worcester-Manchester Metropolitan Area is about 7.5 million. Adding some for in between, and South Korea still has at least twice the population.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_South _KoreaSouthKoreaDemographics [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combined_Statistical_ Area#Largest_CSAs [wikipedia.org]

Re:DREAMERS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18262672)

When you add "some for in between" in the Boston-DC corridor, like say, 21,903,623 for New York-Newark-Bridgeport, and 6,372,799 for Philadephia-Camden-Vineland, one finds that the DC-Boston corridor is only about 4 million people short of South Korea when only evaluating the major CSAs in that zone.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

MrPeach (43671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262832)

I see no problem with taking a mixed approach - Fiber in the dense areas, and Wi-Fi in those less developed areas. As an area builds up, or if the demand dictates it, the capacity can be upgraded by adding more radios or selectively running fiber. It's not rocket science.

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Interesting)

vic-traill (1038742) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260132)

Point me to a PUBLICLY OWNED TELEPHONE NETWORK IN A LARGE CITY as an example. [ ... ] Pick something that IS very close.

How about electrical infrastructure? Not the same, of course - I'm a inter-networking guy, not an electrical guy, but it strikes me as having some of the same fundamentals: high availability, ubiquitous, critical service, etc. w/ some real-time elements and danger of maintenance beyond that found in even telco networks. The regulated, monopoly environment was disassembled in a manner similar to the bust-out of incumbent telcos almost a decade ago here, so the business history is similar, too. Close enough - what do you think?

If yes, the Utilities Commission where I live in Ontario, Canada was a publicly-owned not-for-profit entity for 85 years, until 1998 (during the period of electrical deregulation in Ontario) when it was spun into a for-profit group of companies owned by the city I live in. Makes money, too.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260222)

Not exactly, those are usually government-granted monopolies. The government has oversight and sets some controls, but is not directly funding anything. In exchange they grant the company the protection of little or no competition so they have a stable long-term guaranteed profit. I rather suspect that if the City ran the power-plants and the substations, my lights would be on about 20 hours out of 24. There's a difference between planning a road network, and keeping the lights on or dial-tone available. I trust city governments very much for certain things, and not at all for others. The article and linked report look to me to be proposing something different from that. City ownership of the infrastructure with private companies involved at some vague other level. As I said other places, I can't understand enough about exactly WHAT they are proposing and the DETAILS of how it would work, to really say for sure. The devil is in the details.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262204)

I rather suspect that if the City ran the power-plants and the substations, my lights would be on about 20 hours out of 24.

I'd be interested to see where that estimate came from. Where I used to live, we had a direct strike by Hurricane Charley (the eye passed less than seven miles away), and we experienced some pretty severe weather from the other three hurricanes that hit my area over the next. My power (provided by a municipally owned/operated utility) was out for a total of 10 hours across all four storms. Others in the same area with power provided by a private utility saw outages as long as a week. This isn't an indictment of the private utility by any means, but I think it's silly to say that a government-owned utility isn't capable of providing quality service. Also, in most localities that I'm familiar with it's the local government that provides water service, and you don't often hear of outages or problems with water quality.

If it's something that can adversely affect either votes or the tax base, most smart politicians will try their damndest to get it right.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262466)

Democracy is not really the way to handle economic decisions, at least not with our current voting method. Voters, at large, do not have the free time necessary to monitor all of the government's actions in multiple industries to insure efficiency, growth, and lack of corruption.


For this reason, government administration should be avoided except where absolutely necessary.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260284)

It's happening backwards here in Australia (or is that upside down?) There was until recently a single government monopoly provider, i'll call them Telescum. Competition was introduced and Telescum privatised. Unfortunately for the competitors, Telescum owns the infrastructure and effectively kept monopoly status. This is also unfortunate for the Australian people, as our tax dollars had paid for every inch of that cable, which was now being used against us to extort ridiculous sums of money for sub-par services. At one point, Telescum advertised a $29.99 monthly broadband package at the same time as charging $32 monthly and more for it's competitors to access their customers. The situation is still grim, and we still pay through the nose for pathetically slow internet access. If the government, or any independent body still owned the infrastructure there would be a level playing field for all the telcos to compete fairly, and everyone would benefit. The government is a terrible telco, but would make a great owner of infrastructure.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260914)

Telescum sounds a lot like Comcast and Verizon.

Yes, in my part of the world, there are two companies as bad as Telescum!

Telescum sounds a lot like Comcast and Verizon. (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263972)

Yea, I keep hearing about how bad Comcast and Verison are. However, while my ISP is Earthlink, it's through what was Time Warner's Roadrunner but is now Comcast, and my cellphone service is through Verison and I haven't had any trouble with either service.

Falcon

Utah: iProvo and UTOPIA (1)

sadler121 (735320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261936)

I'll do even better and stick to the topic by pointing you towards two projects that provide municipal FTTH. Both projects prompted the telcos, to call the state legislature and attempt to legislate these projects out of existence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IProvo [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UTOPIA [wikipedia.org]

Re:Utah: iProvo and UTOPIA (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263830)

I'll do even better and stick to the topic by pointing you towards two projects that provide municipal FTTH. Both projects prompted the telcos, to call the state legislature and attempt to legislate these projects out of existence.

[wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IProvo [wikipedia.org]
[wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UTOPIA [wikipedia.org]

Ah, Wiki has an entry on UTOPIA. I read about it in the IEEE's Spectrum magazine, A Broadband Utopia [ieee.org]

Falcon

Re:Utah: iProvo and UTOPIA (2, Informative)

JazzLad (935151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264978)

UTOPIA is a beautiful thing. I had it for about a year and a half (Murray, UT - just moved, no longer avbl to me :( ). Lots of negative advertising by Comcast about how it will ruin/bankrupt/whatever our city, but they are obviously running scared. Reminds me of the movie Head of State ('He's for CANCER!').

On UTOPIA, I got 15mbit each way, seeing sustained downloads of ~11mbit from usenet (uh, doing a lot of reading ...). Comcast started offering their $70 plan for $33/mo (+ taxes) to try to compete (UTOPIA is $40/mo taxes included through xmission) but it's still only 7mbit (lucky to see 4 in my experience) down and 768 up (they actually get pretty close to that, again, in my experience).

Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this the sort of muni internet access talked about above? AFAIK (IMBW), the city ownes it & ISPs sell access to it.

Re:DREAMERS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18262530)

Not publically owned, but still municipal telecom: http://www.tbaytel.net/ [tbaytel.net]

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

Greg Lindahl (37568) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259914)

I don't advocate free wireless for everyone, but I did cancel my cable modem after I started using Google WiFi at home. You should move to Mountain View, CA, home of communism.

-- greg

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Insightful)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259936)

Yeah I guess a company that has umpty-billions in capital can subsidize wireless so their bedroom community looks leading-edge. What does this have to do with the rest of the country? Is Google going to un-wire the rest of NorCal this year? No, you say? Until then we'll have to come up with other plans. Besides I quite frankly couldn't afford to LIVE in Mountain View. Saving a few bucks on the ISP is hardly a reason to spend a million dollars for a 2x1 1960's ranch-house.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

Greg Lindahl (37568) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259968)

d00d, it's not my problem you're too poor to live in modern America. We communists with free wifi must be capitalist stud-muffins or something.

Which means you might want to stop calling us communists. And you might want to give a little more thought to how to bridge the digital divide.

Then again, we all know sarcasm never works on the Internet.

-- greg

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Interesting)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260030)

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To people in the Tech Industry, every problem can be solved with more computers, more network, and the right software. There are people in this country right at this moment, without telephone service, or cable-TV, or maybe even enough food or enough money for the rent. Those are real problems. Getting internet, not so much.

Re:DREAMERS! (4, Insightful)

@madeus (24818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260370)

There are people in this country right at this moment, without telephone service, or cable-TV, or maybe even enough food or enough money for the rent. Those are real problems. Getting internet, not so much.
Just because a small number of people are unable to feed and house themselves despite living in a prosperous western society does not mean that providing internet access to the *working* poor is not worthwhile.

Internet access to young families and the poor is potentially very useful to them, and all the more meaningful because of their circumstances (by which I mean they stand to benefit the most from free access). Added to which, they are the least likely of consumers to spend money on something like 'internet access' in the first place because they are spending what money they do have on immediate needs like food and clothing.

Internet access opens up the means get cheaper goods and services (they can price compare, order good online for less than retail, etc), as well as an excellent educational resource for both informal and formal learning (with a wealth of government funded - and accredited - online learning initiativesm e.g. things like Lean Direct [learndirect.co.uk] , here in the UK).

Don't wait to lift the bottom 0.01% up out of abject poverty in a western society before you start helping the rest of the bottom 10%. I've got lazy deadbeat relatives in my own family, and they have had all the same opportunities I've had (some more, in fact). Some people just can't be arsed and there is a limit to the patience of others in a reasonable society when it comes to dealing with them - it's not as if they are in a developing nation and have been denied the chance to improve their situations.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260398)

Are you going to provide them a computer also?

I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone. To a lot of people, it really isn't. Nice to have yes, important no.

Re:DREAMERS! (3, Insightful)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260890)

"I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone."

Have you ever tried talking to one of your fellow citizens who gets information exclusively from the mainstream media? I cringe to think of what our collective world-view would be if we were still relying on NBC/ABC/CBS as our predominant source of information.

Call me an idealist, but I'm passionate about this, and about Network Neutrality. I think that the free flow of information is critical to any sort of democracy, and is at the foundation of capitalism.

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Interesting)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262264)

Working computers are clogging are landfills. It's a real problem. I have 5 PII-350 PCs that anyone who wants can have for free. They'll probably be gone in a few months. They work perfectly for browsing the internet, email, word processing, etc.

I set up a down-and-out friend with "pirated" wireless and a garbage PC and she suddendly had a much easier time job hunting. There are many jobs that are only posted online, there are many employers that require online applications. She's making good money now, and wasn't before. I'd say that's important.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262296)

That's not an insurmountable problem, but it is an important consideration. People have long wanted to be able to churn out laptop's for $100, cf. OLPC. The problem is that if you want a computer that just does office suites, web browsing, and media, you really only need 1995-era technology, and OLPC projects want a lot more than that. It's ridiculous.

What we need is for someone to make a "Fisher Price" type computer someone can buy for under $200 that has the bare-bones software and OS installed and ready to go.

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263950)

"I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone. To a lot of people, it really isn't. Nice to have yes, important no."

I was thinking along the same lines. I know lots of people that just have no interests or real need, actually of a computer in the home, much less one connected to the internet. My Mom, so far, is one of them.

Her job really doesn't involve computers at all...just enough interaction to clock in/out at the doorway, and for a few sales figures here and there.

I tried setting her up on a windows box a couple years ago...with a dial up connection to get her to start emailing with me, and tried to show how to surf the web. After finding out that actually just getting her to be able to control the mouse on the screen, and understand what to click...we gave up on it. With free long distance now on cell phones and some landline plans...well, we just talk. She really has no need whatsoever for a computer. I got her a tivo...and she has learned to use that decently.

That being said, I'm gonna try to set her up again, this time with a mac, which I think she can more easily start out with.

But, really, I've known lots of people, some definitely on the lower socio-economic scale, day laborers, that just really have no interest in computers or the internet, and frankly, just don't have the time after a long, hard day of manual labor.

Widespread broadband connectivity..Nice? Yes

A necessity? No, at least not yet in this day in age.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264372)

But, really, I've known lots of people, some definitely on the lower socio-economic scale, day laborers, that just really have no interest in computers or the internet, and frankly, just don't have the time after a long, hard day of manual labor.

I've worked with a number of poor people, having worked through day labor pools myself, and a number of them were homeless. For this reason and others they may not of been interested in having a computer never mind internet access. However many of those today would benefit very much from having access. Not only could they get an education but if that didn't interest them, they could also use the access to find better paying jobs. And if perchance a person working manual labor wants to improve their economic circumstances then they need to do more than just work. Though they may be tired after a day of labor if they spent a few more hours, heck only a couple of hours is really needed, a few days a week they could then inprove their situation. Even as I worked through a day labor pool I was still a college student taking classes. Then after I got a permanent fulltime job in construction by working through the labor pool I kept taking classes.

Falcon

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

@madeus (24818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264962)

Are you going to provide them a computer also?
I don't think it's as expensive compared to cost of on going internet access as you can get them quite cheaply second hard, from people who are giving them away and even get decent, cheap systems (at least for browsing, email) new from stores like Wallmart.

I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone. To a lot of people, it really isn't. Nice to have yes, important no.
Here in the UK, and pretty commonly in most other countries in Europe I would imagine (and I bet at least some local government offices in the state operate similar programmes), things like TV's are seen as 'basic fundamental goods everyone ought to have if they want one' just like other household furniture like a sofa, a cooker or a fridge. Even a decent cheap TV (or computer, for that matter) is no more expensive than any of those and it at least gives them access to the news and some form of cheap (free) entertainment, so I don't see why not.

I know some people think of something like a TV as a luxury, but at a 30 USD value, it's not as if a cheap old TV is a grand luxury we ought to be grudge people - especially when you bear in mind how much it's likely to be of value to someone who can't afford other entertainments. It's fair to say they could just go to the library and get some books, but being poor and reading for pleasure are not things than tend to go hand in hand, so for better or worse, you may as well give them a cheap TV than a library card they will never use.

And so, TV's are provided to the poor: single parents with children, those relocating due to domestic abuse, and those coming out of prison to set them up in a new home by local government. Typically furniture given out in this way is collected by donation. I think a computer and internet access is at least as useful as TV.

If you don't think a computer or internet access is important, I think you might be missing the revolution that's happening around you. It's changed the way I bank, pay bills, buy food, buy clothes, buy music, the way I keep in touch with friends and family, the way I work, the way I learn and the way I play. It is beneficial to me socially and economically.

Just because some people don't need it, or don't see how it could be beneficial to them is no reason not to provided it to those who could so easily benefit from it (especially when they are the most in need of any assistance they can get).

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263818)

If in ANY western country a non-mentally retarded person finds themself in a situation where they can't eat or pay the rent should anyone really feel sorry for them?

I mean isn't it kind of a test for life to be able to feed and house yourself?

I've never heard of incompetent lions receiving social benefits if they are too stupid to catch a wilderbeast to eat.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

rhakka (224319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264480)

that's true, they don't. And they fight each other for the right to breed.

Interestingly enough, humans rule the earth, not lions. I wonder if those behaviour tendencies might have something to do with it... co-operative capabilities do seem to confer some interesting benefits, no?

We live in a world where one of the greatest scientific minds of our generation would, in any other generation, have died years ago. That may illustrate that "survival of the fittest" means something a little different in our society.

Someone can start out in quite a hole in life... and many never rise out. That's too bad, and I agree there is a limit to how far we need to go to help them. But then again, purely pragmatically, if you don't help them, you pay another way in crime, or in another generation being spawned without those opportunities/without the education they need, and it perpetuates itself.

at least attempting to empower people, even people who do not necessarily "deserve" it, has direct benefit to society as well as some waste. Ignoring them really doesn't help though, and building prisons and caring for the children of those who do not care for them on their own isn't cheap either.

Re:DREAMERS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18260686)

The analogy used by newrules.org and yourself about running the roads doesnt mean running the shipping company (in your case you used canals) seems a bit off. The "switch" in the roads are the traffic lights and intersection rules. Who will run the switches, routers, etc? That is the question. The traffic on the network is guided by net neutrality.

Where's the capital? (1)

barutanseijin (907617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260774)

So you guys wouldn't mind if municipalities provided the capital (=network infrastructure) and absorbed the risks and costs of maintaining the infrastructure while ISPs took home the profits?

I guess i wouldn't mind that either -- if i were an ISP.

One other issue that hasn't come up yet is convenience. When i cancelled my parents' overpriced and underperforming Charter internet service, i had to drive an hour to Charter's "local" office to do it. I could have walked to city hall in 10 minutes.

Re:Where's the capital? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264572)

So you guys wouldn't mind if municipalities provided the capital (=network infrastructure) and absorbed the risks and costs of maintaining the infrastructure while ISPs took home the profits?

Simple to remedy the cost, don't offer access below cost. Instead offer a price point that allows you to recoup your cost as well as maintain the infrastructure. With open access to the infrastructure ISPs will be either working to provide the lowest cost service, the best quality of service, or a combination of the two. It's not a monopoly like the landline phone service where if you don't like how much you pay or the quality of service you get you can't just switch to a new company.

One other issue that hasn't come up yet is convenience. When i cancelled my parents' overpriced and underperforming Charter internet service, i had to drive an hour to Charter's "local" office to do it. I could have walked to city hall in 10 minutes.

You just pointed out another reason it's better for the infrastructure to be locally owned. If you don't like the quality of service or whatever you don't have to drive an hour to lodge a complaint. And since those you complain to are also locals they may very well be more willing to work to fix problems than a corporation headquartered on the other side of the country is willing to work with you.

Falcon

Re:DREAMERS! (3, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261262)

"The canals were hug cash cows."???

Surely you jest! The Erie Canal was profitable, but none of the subsequent canals built in NY generated enough income to cover the public money sspent on them. Socialism has always been a bad idea. Didn't ork for the Puritans, didn't work for the communes (e.g. Amana or Oneida), didn't work for the canals or railroads, and currently isn't working for government schooling. Give it a rest!

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262542)

Socialism has worked for communes and collectives, where are you getting your information from, capitalist propaganda. Ever hear of the Mondragon Collective in Spain? Socialism seems to work well enough for a number of prosperous Western states as well. You know, like most of Scandanavia?

I disagree that government schooling isn't working, and from what I've seen, attempts to privatize schooling have failed miserably, with greedy corporate schools treating children as cash cows to be siphoned dry of money. I could also point to the post office, the fire departments, police and military as examples of publicly owned and run services that function quite well.

In fact, recent attempts to privatize military services have been abominable failures *cough*walter reed*cough*. Attempts to privatize public services such as power and water in South America have also failed miserably.

So, you give it a rest. The free market is not perfect. It handles certain situations very well, others not so much. I know it is tempting to believe in a one-stop solution such as "privatize everything," but the real world is too complex for any single solution to work in every situation.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262200)

I don't think that anyone is realistically advocating free internet service for anyone. If they are, then I'll join you in calling them a bunch of twits.

The public libraries in my area have offered free internet access to residents using their terminals for more than a decade now. Are they twits? The county's wireless program is in the process of blanketing the entire county with free low speed (.5 Mb/s) wireless and it has been up and running in the high population areas for a year. Are they twits for offering this? So far they are within budget and seem to be doing okay, with a number of trials of users who have upgraded to a higher speed connection on that network. The whole system is run by a couple of commercial companies subsidized by the county.

While I normally consider myself pretty far to the Right on the economic scale, I think there are certainly some areas where there are bona fide public interests, and where government is the most capable agency of completing a project (or is the only one you'd want to own and monopolize the finished product); in these areas it doesn't make sense to not do it within the public sector.

Specifically, markets that lend themselves to natural monopolies, or where there is real, physical problem with not having one provider, are not suitable for the normal capitalist market. Capitalism works because of competition. If their is not real competition (not enough free RF spectrum for all comers or the government is not willing to subsidize all companies that want to run lines on public right of ways, but already subsidized one) then you have all the negatives of socialism as well as all the negatives of capitalism. Socialism is ineffective in most cases because it does not foster competition and innovation, but at least it also avoids needless duplication and is supposedly acting in the best interests of society. When you have only one viable player in capitalism, you still don't have competition, but anyone trying to solve the problem is duplicating effort and the entity is acting in the best interests of the shareholders, which is to take as much money from the people as possible while providing them with the minimum return.

There's no reason why modern informational infrastructure is any different, inherently, from transportation infrastructure 150-200 years ago. The same trade-offs exist, and the same risk, but also the potential for the same rewards.

The real difference is back then the government was not completely sold out. There were still reform candidates who exposed corruption and got elected to drive the scum out. Now, everyone in major political offices got there by shilling for corporations and certain special interests. They are all whores. The US has been and will continue to subsidize the information infrastructure to the tune of billions, but those funds and infrastructure are immediately sold for pennies on the dollar to private corporations who are pulling the puppet strings. The US has already paid more per person in tax dollars to fund our infrastructure than other countries with lower population densities that now have near 100% availability with higher speeds at significantly lower prices. We the people, were just screwed over on the deal because our government is more corrupt and less accountable to the people than other places. Throwing more money at the government won't solve the problem until we throw all the bums out and elect reform candidates.

economic freedom and infrastracuture (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263680)

While I normally consider myself pretty far to the Right on the economic scale, I think there are certainly some areas where there are bona fide public interests, and where government is the most capable agency of completing a project (or is the only one you'd want to own and monopolize the finished product); in these areas it doesn't make sense to not do it within the public sector.

I'm the same, though I am libertarian and believe in freedom including economic freedom I also believe local communities and governments should be the ones that own the local infrastruture. Otherwise you end up with government granted monopolies.

Falcon

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263404)

I can count the number of fabulous free-internet-for-everybody on .... no fingers of one hand.

Where in the world does "free" access come from? TFA does not use the word "free" once. However Google and Earthlink, both for profit businesses, are setting up wireless broadband access in San Francisco [com.com] . The two companies are setting up a wireless mesh wherein businesses and residences can signup for a free Meraki wireless router, and can buy a range extender for $50, to join the network. The free basic service is capable of download speeds of around 1Mbps, and there's a paid for service that offers faster speeds. If profitable businesses can offer free service what prevents governments from doing the same? That is other than said governemnt services make it harder for a business to enter the market if they wanted. However they don't want to do otherwise they step up to the plate and setup a network like Earthlink and Google are doing.

Falcon

Here's an RFP... (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260024)

Here's an RFP for Atlanta: Rather than build a completely new infrastructure for a city-wide WiFi system, let's pay all the cell companies to offer the service through their existing antenna locations. They already have most of the issues you've mentioned solved, merely increase the bandwidth to each tower, add a centralized login system, and you're gold.

Oh, wait...

Aren't the cell providers already planning high-bandwidth services? At least two different flavors? Don't they have it rolled out in a few places?

Why reinvent the wheel?

Re:Here's an RFP... (3, Interesting)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260064)

I already read the Atlanta RFP. If you had read it in detail, you would see one of the few things they are able to offer as incentives was use of THEIR towers as broadcast locations. However they aren't usually all that well-sited for this particular need. What's a good tower height and location for a HF-radio system, may not work at all well for a GHz system. We ran a quick budget because the Atlanta neighborhood WISP I work with was interested. The numbers quite frankly suck.

Again, many of the "wireless" versions of solving the last-mile issue boil down to one of these:
1) Duplicate a bunch of corporate services
2) Put a gun to the head of existing companies and tell them "offer freebies or else"
3) Nationalize private-owned networks

Anyhow, we took a pass on the whole thing. Quite frankly there are going to be some vultures who will suck up the funding for this. They are ethically-challenged enough to play the game where the city pretends they are getting a great deal on your service, while actually money is passing hands in all kinds of funny ways and creative billing lets you bury in some dial-tone fee or some crazy junk like that to actually make some money on the deal. Because you know the way the politicians have to pitch it to the voters is it'll be CHEAP. We ran the numbers and there were very few incentives, a LOT of risk, and absolutely no will from the city side to offer any guarantees. We could spend a lot of money, be forced to operate at very minimal profit levels with a lot of oversight and junk to deal with, with no payoff down the road. Ultimately any rational being has some idea that if I slave away for 5 years there should be some payoff for this. Not as far as we could see, it was just maybe you'd get to keep slaving. No thanks.

You want my favorite bit from the crazy laundry-list that was the Atlanta RFP? Read the bit about maintaining WiFi service in moving vehicles. Obviously written by politicians without technical oversight. It simply is not possible to have continuous WiFi signal in a vehicle driving rapidly around a large urban area. Someone was thinking, well it works for my cellphone so those smart-boys can make it work for the WiFi card in my laptop too right?

Re:Here's an RFP... (2, Insightful)

galego (110613) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260780)

What is proposed about network security? Do you want the municipality/state handling the security of your connection and the helpdesk? To get adequately skilled staff and support, they'd have to pay well ... means more taxes of course or less often garbage pickup.

And this is /., so I can't believe someone hasn't raised the issue of a government entity (local nonetheless) overseeing the network. Of course ... we, the people, are supposed to constitute the government, and should hopefully be more involved at the local municipality and state level. This issue would at least get the geeks involved in local politics.

But lest I get too far off ... yes, the cell providers would just as soon become the WiFi providers, or make WiFi obsolete and provide access over their WANs etc.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

jotok (728554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261672)

there was no contract lockin as incentive.

Whatever company steps up to the plate to provide this is going to make money hand over fist. Make no mistake about that. They're also going to be positioned to snap up bids from other cities. Why whine about having to compete with other vendors after the install, when the incumbent is almost always favored (incompetence notwithstanding)...

The only reason why companies haven't jumped on this is that they're waiting to see what bigger fish (ie, telcos) are planning.

Re:DREAMERS! (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262030)

Bla Bla Bla, are you done spreading fud?

I help with a working community WiFi setup using "aunt millies routers". we have point to point setups and quite a few hotspots that cover what is needed where it is needed and it works JUST FINE. none of us are FCC certified technicians or are using overpriced cisco crap, our current darling is a buffalo $49.00 wifi router running a custom openWRT install for each hotspot, and yes placed right you can get 4 of them to cover a park very well all on the same channel.

anyone that can understand the basics of ham radio, WiFi and can organize a few people can do this and do it with (gasp!) consumer grade hardware.

Want to see the REAL problems with it? corrupt city officials that sign "agreements" with cable TV and Cellular companies to make community wifi illegal, or they decide you are a new revenue source and try to extort money out of you. We just meet operating expenses and atill have to fend off assholes in government on a monthly basis because they have dollarsigns in their eyes, or believe because they can balance their own checkbook they can run the city and everyone should listen to them.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264222)

Actually I work with a small neighborhood WISP myself, so I wouldn't characterize it as FUD but informed opinion.

We use a dozen Linksys AP's. Can we cover all areas in our neighborhood? No. Maybe 60%. A lot of that has to do with interference in the 2.4 GHz spectrum. With only 3 usable non-interfering channels and cordless phones, baby monitors and microwave ovens, there are swaths of areas where interference is so intense no amount of fiddling we have tried would let us cover them. Things may be different for you, but in a downtown Atlanta neighborhood, Universal WiFi is just not feasible.

Advocacy pieces like this always have 2 elements they are touting right up top. Cheap and Universal. It's usually neither cheap nor universal.

Our little WISP is run on the cheap. But we don't offer 24x7 support, or climb on towers during bad weather, or any of the things a city-wide ISP would be expected to. Extrapolating from running a small WISP to providing a city utility isn't valid. Hell I don't even have enough spares for a few crucial parts, if they blew we'd be a week fixing it.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263116)

Meaning you could spend years and get a network setup, then the next administration rolls in and says hey we are changing contractors because my cousin knows all about computers, please hand over the keys.

As you say, contracts can stop this. IEEE's magazine Spectrum had an article about a group of communities in northeast Utah who were creating a "A Broadband Utopia" [ieee.org] to be owned by them. It's speed will be capable of 50 Mbps, it can even be 100Mps. Though the infrastructure is owned by local governments, it is open, meaning anyone who wants to and has the capabilities can offer services using the infrastructure. These services be any combination of internet access, phone service, tv, or other services that come up.

Falcon

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

jackedup (1058444) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263594)

I travel a lot and wireless is really hit and miss here in the states. When I go to Europe, I have absolutely no problem at all with wireless access. But then again, they're not as smart over there as we are and they're in to all that social democracy crap where everyone has tax-supported health care and other garbage like that and most of them think that's OK.

Re:DREAMERS! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18265592)

We already have a municipal wireless infrastructure to support utilities operations (like meter reading, SCADA, etc.) police and fire operations, traffic control, video surveillance and more.

The only reason I'd cry 'Dreamers!' is: Dreamers! Who do you think you are that AT&T and Verizon won't stop you dead in your tracks through the strategic purchase of a few key congresspersons?

killer idea. (2, Informative)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259704)

this is a great idea. It's not about ownership of the network, but innovation on top of that baseline platform which is important. When everyone has access, the quality of services increases for everyone through competition. Well, at least, ideally.

Infrastructure (1)

speardane (905475) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259760)

To my mind there is a debate about building infrastructure so that innovative and agile enterprise can develop new business models (a concept I'm sure I heard about wrt web 1.0), or securing monopolies to make it easy for big business to take it easy and stifle innovation.

I'd like to see this work, but I worry that the power of the lobbies will take will hand the benefits to big business

Having grown-up in post Thatcher UK, I think many of us have been forceably persuaded of the benefits of capitalism, so it is strange with this report and the earlier one about cellphone companies seeking to smother wi-fi, that the USA is often moving from capitalistic competition to a (post-capitalist) monopoly

This is a worthwhile dream...

Re:killer idea. (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259882)

I'm afraid I can make no sense of your argument. Something about everyone getting access, and somehow this leads to good things.

Did submitter RTFA? (4, Insightful)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259738)

The article mentions wireless as a solution, but is not the focus of the article. Overall, this is an incredibly vaugue policy puff-piece. It seems "for" city ownership of networks mainly by comparison to things cities already own like roads and sewer systems. I'll note that it studiously avoids the obvious comparison... TELEPHONES! Why don't we talk about case-studies of cities owning phone systems in the public interest. That would be directly applicable experience to running a complex network. It is conspicuous for it's absence.

Did *you* RTFR? (4, Informative)

modeless (978411) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259922)

The article may be vague, but the report is quite specific and detailed. There are many case studies of publicly-owned communication infrastructures, some offering telephone services. There is also debunking of industry-funded studies claiming failures of projects which are actually succeeding.

As I read the report, I found myself constantly nodding my head. It sounds like it was written by a Slashdotter (but then edited for clarity). This report lays down in plain language every single good reason why communications infrastructure, including both wireless and fiber, should be publicly owned (not necessarily publicly operated). Every public official from city council members up to Congress needs to read and understand this report before they make policy decisions on these issues.

Re:Did *you* RTFR? (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260010)

Yes I did, and it's filled with more words but the same determined and deliberate vagueness. Lots of hand-waving and analogies. Let me give you a SPECIFIC example, the "FR" talks about WiFi as an easy and cheap method to provide access. I work with a small WISP and I can tell you there are streets we simply CANNOT cover, because the people who live there already have private 2.4 GHz devices in large number and enough strength to make it impossible. Not difficult, IMPOSSIBLE. Is the city going to mandate that all 2.4 GHz usage of cordless phones, X-10 cameras, private AP's, and baby-monitors must cease or be subject to fines? You can't simply hand-wave this one away with "oh that greedy ISP isn't trying hard enough". It really is that simple. Universal WiFi in an urban area is a pipe-dream. Yes you can point to tiny examples here and there like Mountain View where a company with more money than God can make it work, but that's hardly a fair comparison. Downtown Atlanta is not like Mountain View.

Re:Did *you* RTFR? (1)

modeless (978411) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260252)

The fact that the report doesn't go into detail about technical problems with WiFi deployment doesn't make it "vague". The report's major purpose is not to advocate any particular technology for Internet access, so a critique of Wi-Fi's problems is not directly relevant. This report is not a blueprint for constructing municipal WiFi; it is an advocacy piece for a policy of public ownership of infrastructure.

That said, overall the report is rather cautious about WiFi. It does in fact quote a 90-95% coverage rate (i.e. 5-10% no coverage, is that consistent with your experience?) and notes that mesh network solutions are proprietary. It also notes that WiMAX is really more suitable (though constrained by spectrum ownership issues) and really sounds much more optimistic overall about fiber.

The "hand-waving" and "analogies" you complain about are necessary evils because this document isn't aimed at Slashdotters. It is for city council members who care nothing of bandwidth and latency, spectrum and interference. But there's plenty of facts and hard data in there, especially in the case studies at the end.

P.S. You don't have to convince me that wide-area WiFi deployment is a bad idea, municipal or otherwise. It's obviously a terrible idea. You need far too many routers, mesh networking is a mess, it'll be obsolete in no time (WiMAX, other 4G), and as you say interference is impossible to avoid. Plus if there was already a commercial WiFi provider in my area, I'd never advocate pulling the carpet from under them with a tax-funded WiFi deployment. OTOH, municipal fiber vs. entrenched telecom monopolies makes all kinds of sense.

Re:Did *you* RTFR? (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260350)

In our urban area, I would consider 30% of the area not feasible to cover due to interference and similar issues that are beyond our control. Notice how the headline used "wireless"? Notice how the article and report both mention wireless? Hmmm..... Is this like a loss-leader in sales? We don't actually have the item you posted in the flyer, but now that we've got you in the store we'll sell you on one of these other items that maybe isn't quite such an unbelievable deal... You see it as a simple marketing or sales tactic, I see it as more business as usual.

Re:Did *you* RTFR? (1)

modeless (978411) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260454)

The wireless hype in the headline is just typical Slashdot summary sensationalism; don't blame the report for the deficiencies of Slashdot's editors. But of course the report does mention WiFi; what kind of report would it be if it ignored the most common technology in current municipal broadband deployments? I don't know what "business as usual" you're accusing them of; are you insinuating that this report was bought by supporters of WiFi over other municipal broadband possibilities? If so, they forgot to edit out sections like this:

Wireless offers a short-term cost advantage over wires. But we shouldn't think that wireless is a substitute for wires. As Jim Snider of the New America Foundation writes, "For a point to point link, the capacity of a single fiber optic cable is greater than the entire capacity of the radio spectrum...
And:

Households and businesses in cities that are touting low cost city-wide wireless are learning there are often additional hardware costs. Although Wi-Fi is installed in most laptops, and Wi-Fi cards are widely available for desktop computers, many users will require additional equipment to connect to outdoor wireless from the interior of their homes or businesses.
WiFi is hardly portrayed as a panacea, and other technologies are given equal time. I just don't see any systematic bias there.

wifi in urban areas (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18265334)

Universal WiFi in an urban area is a pipe-dream. Yes you can point to tiny examples here and there like Mountain View where a company with more money than God can make it work, but that's hardly a fair comparison. Downtown Atlanta is not like Mountain View.

Okay instead of Mountain View, let's try San Francisco [com.com] . That company with "more money than God" along with Earthlink is offering free, as well as a paid for service, wireless there.

Falcon

Re:Did submitter RTFA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18260008)

>studiously avoids the obvious comparison... TELEPHONES! Why don't we talk about

duh! because they are making the argument against the telco owning the last mile? Possibly you know because over the last hundred or so years the telco monopoly over the infastructure has been a complete disaster. It made the cost of communication excessive and adoption of new technology moved at a glacial pace. That was up until the internet became open to the public over dial up, and there was actual competition to deliver service to the end user, then there was massive investment in new fibre and development of ever faster switching equipment. So perhaps there is an important lesson here, if the last mile is owned by the government and the services over it are delivered by private companies much like you know roads... communication could become even cheaper and faster with all the other attendant benefits to the economy?

Re:Did submitter RTFA? (2)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260140)

That's a lot of "ifs" and suppositions. Somehow if the government runs it and resells it, it'll be more efficient. Somehow.

I remember when I lived in Atlanta and there Altanta Gas Light that sold you gas, and that was that. Service was actually quite cheap, I lived alone and rarely recall my bill being above $30/month.

Suddenly they decided it should be deregulated because competition was good for the consumer. Except, now there were all these little companies reselling service from the single-provider. How's that? Well now you've got more paper-pushers to fund. The providers and the resellers and they have duplications internally. You know when it's just Atlanta Gas Light there's just one big happy company and certain limits. Now we've got to have enough accountants to keep an eye on things for the 30 reseller companies. And they've got to have accountants to talk to our accountants. And we all have to have lawyers and secretaries and customer support people, etc. etc.

So at the end of all this "reseller" business which was supposed to save us money, my bill was usually about double what it was before.

Re:Did submitter RTFA? (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263204)

Have you considered that gas prices have doubled over the last decade because of other factors, such as increasing energy prices and inflation?

Re:Did submitter RTFA? (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264516)

The price of the GAS didn't go up that much from one year to the next. I looked at my therms values on the bill, which actually became a smaller and smaller percentage of the bill. Consistently about $10 of it was the gas. The majority of the bill became various fees for overhead of all sorts.

Re:Did submitter RTFA? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260462)

Possibly you know because over the last hundred or so years the telco monopoly over the infastructure has been a complete disaster. It made the cost of communication excessive and adoption of new technology moved at a glacial pace. That was up until the internet became open to the public over dial up, and there was actual competition to deliver service to the end user

For 100 years the U.S. had the best phone service in the world. It is not too much a stretch to say that the history of communications technology in the 20th century is a history of Bell Labs.

Re:Did submitter RTFA? (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263398)

How do you say one phone system is better than another?

The usual eejits will oppose it (3, Interesting)

Louis Guerin (728805) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259744)

The Wellington (NZ) council is looking at rolling out a regional fibre network, on top of CityLink (http://citylink.co.nz/) to ensure widespread broadband access because a decade of private enterprise has singularly failed to provide it. However local whiners the Association of Progressive and Residents' Associations says they will fight it ... because of visual pollution caused by an additional overhead cable.

For anyone who's been to Wellington, a dense, hilly city built on hard clay and rocky soil, there is no other feasible way to connect properties - and there are *already* shitloads of cables, so one more ain't making a damn bit of difference.

This'll be blocked by a combination of private interests saying stupid shit liek `public ownership == communism' and short-sighted interest groups.

L

Re:The usual eejits will oppose it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18259786)

Actually, it will be opposed because it's a stupid idea, with no funding. Raising taxes to pay for it will be extremely unpopular.

The politicians will support it because it's an election year, and it gets them press. It will be underfunded and eventually die.

I love hearing how stringing fiber around Wellington will result in cheaper international traffic rates and magically solve all of the peering issues.

Re:The usual eejits will oppose it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18259846)

Well of course private enterprise has failed to provide it. Probably nobody wanted to PAY for it.

So now you'd like all your fellow citizens to pay for YOUR wireless internet everywhere, great idea.

Well, here's another one: if all those biggy baddy enterprises didn't build a network, and you really think it's THAT profitable (i.e. there is demand at a price that covers costs), then why don't YOU with other people in the city (thousands of interested people?) get together, each pay a few thousand bucks, get some bank credit, maybe some venture capital, and do it yourself?

Re:The usual eejits will oppose it (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259856)

"I'm sorry Mrs. Lee, we cannot fund your orchestra this year because we are putting up fiber for our new city-wide data network. Choices must be made, and the people have spoken that free internet is the most important thing on the agenda. After all, we can listen to music on computers now what do we need you for? My teenager Bobby showed me websites where I could download music."

Re:The usual eejits will oppose it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18260758)

This'll be blocked by a combination of private interests saying stupid shit liek `public ownership == communism' and short-sighted interest groups.

Hey, at least the people like me (who actually believe in individual liberty and the right to NOT participate in government programs) have somebody on our side.

Why not? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18259774)

The government has done a great job operating the public school system, maintaining the levees in Louisiana, and keeping civil order in Iraq. Why not have them run the Internets and everything else as well?

MOD PARENT NEUTRAL (1)

Comboman (895500) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261234)

I don't have any mod points today, or I'd mod the parent post up; not necessarily because it is a great or insightful or even funny post, but because it doesn't deserve the 'Flamebait' mod someone gave it. "Macz rule, PCs sux" is flamebait. "George W Bush is a baby killer" is flamebait. A factual, on-topic post like the parent is not flamebait, even if you happen to disagree with the opinion it presents.

Public Ownership? Who will maintain and expand? (2, Insightful)

systemBuilder (305288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18259862)

It is not simple to plan and deploy a wireless network. You need to secure broadcast sites, do frequency planning, power planning (too much power and a neighboring cell will see too much interference), and cell planning (which includes specifying sectors and antenna directions), and this is typically done with specialized and often proprietary topological modeling tools. And then there are the issues of lost connections - either from a poor deployment or new-building construction that can lead to shadowing of your signals from a transmission tower. Finally, just whe you get the bugs out ~ time to upgrade and add more cell sites. As far as infrastructure (computer & transmitter) costs, one sees maybe 20% for equipment, and 40% for site rental, power, and backhaul costs, and 40% for frequency licensing on a monthly capitalized basis. So owning the equipment is not a big deal ~ owning the spectrum and owning the rights to the transmit locations and backhaul is really what you're owning. Most importantly ~ making it work 24/7/everywhere is NOT EASY.

If each locality tries to develop their own expertise in site planning and deployment and maintenance, I fear that municipalities will be overrun by a sea of mediocre engineers with an overly limited worldview ~ that cannot be improved by deploying networks in tens or hundreds of cities, with lessons learned which are reapplied to new deployments.

I see it today in our cable television monopoly, which is municipally 'outsourced' to a cable provider. This is what most municipalities will end up doing if wireless is publically owned. Our service provider, Time Warner, is too stupid to make our cable modem work. One day, the signal is 20dB at the house, the next day, -15dB at our house. Ok, forget the cable modem. We recently upgraded from analog TV to digital TV and now they are too stupid to make all the paid-for channels work. I am talking literally 5 separate visits from field technicians with no progress (except one technician dumped a DVR at our house an upped our month bill!) As a result, we are going to switch to a satellite provider. The satellite provider has a Network Operations Center (NOC) and can afford to staff the NOC with the PhDs who built the system so that everything in the satellite system works, period, end of story. Unfortunately, a municipally owned wireless network will probably be staffed by yahoos with little knowledge of what it takes to make a system work.

Re:Public Ownership? Who will maintain and expand? (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260950)

So what you're saying is that because one profit-driven monopoly failed, a service-driven monopoly will also fail.

Re:Public Ownership? Who will maintain and expand? (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263694)

Because individuals nearly always seek profit, the two are almost indistinguishable.

Re:Public Ownership? Who will maintain and expand? (1)

0x0000 (140863) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262826)

this is typically done with specialized and often proprietary topological modeling tools

Could you give an example of what sorts of tools are used [for Wireless network topology design]? It sounds as though you're talking about cellular phone networks, which may be a viable model for muni WiFi design, I'm just not aware of exactly how cell networks are designed...

40% for frequency licensing

It was my understanding that WiFi networks use "public" frequencies (54Ghz, 900Mhz, etc) - what frequency licensing are we talking about, here? Again, this sounds like a cellular data issue...

I see it today in our cable television monopoly, which is municipally 'outsourced' to a cable provider. This is what most municipalities will end up doing if wireless is publically owned.

Your point about the ineptitude of the cable companies is well taken - Time-Warner is bad, and Comcast is worse, in my personal experience. They have shown themselves to be wholly inept at data network deployment and management, and greedy to boot. Their stupidity is codified right up front into the user agreements, in fact - they try to claim that some particular processor speed and RAM requirements are "minimum system requirements" for network access - as though a DHCP client and a TCP/IP stack required a half Gig of RAM to function...

While many of the slash/geek crowd typically responds w/ l33t h4x0r tales of how they spoofed the system requirements mandated by e.g. Comcast, the fact remains that Comcast will lock users out of the network for showing the temerity to e.g. run Linux or BSD. Again, despite the so-what attitude of the geeks, the problem here is that the [artificial] connection requirements imposed by [specifically] the cable companies are a major component of the so-called Digital Divide.

Comcast declines to provide universal access (i.e. low-income neighborhoods are not served or are underserved) citing lack of users - then proceeds to ensure that no low-income users are "eligible" to use the network, since the minimum system requirements are set to support the $1100 system price-point.

That is, while the low-income customers in my hood may be able to afford the $50/month cable-modem, they probably cannot afford to spend more than $500 for a the computer that will connect to it - if that. So while I can set up and network all the $25 salvage computers we can lay hands on through-out the hood, we can only get hackhaul connection either thru the phone company, or at some point where there I can afford to set up a spanking new Windows box - and if Comcast finds out it's the drop at that point is working as a backhaul gateway, they will shut down the entire neighborhood by shutting down the backhaul network [and probably prosecuting the unfortunate individual in whose name that node is registered].

There is an additional problem that - Comcast explicitly forbade us from using one high-end laptop to provision multiple cable modems. Again, this was not for techinical reasons - they simply want to make sure that no one on their network is spending less than $2k to get conncected, or less than $100/mo for service.

Muni WiFi is the [trivial] solution to this - if the city owns the backhaul connection, and they tell me I can't connect to it, I will sue them. Suing Comcast or Time Warner is problematic, since they simply say "sure you can connect, as long as you have the h/w we specified - it's in the user agreement, if you don't like it, don't buy the service". Which brings us full circle to the real root arguement: Is network access a vital utility as I claim, or is it supplementary consumer entertainment [a function of cable TV], as the cable giants claim?

Note that the experience I'm describing here w/ Comcast is not theoretical - this is [fairly] recent experience - Time Warner didn't prohibit low cost connections, but does not support them - which is basically the same position the telcos have taken, in my experience, altough I would bet the current, more cellular-centric companies (Verizon) will take an extremely dim view of any community networking efforts using them for backhaul services - this based on recent events in e.g. Philadelphia, PA.

The main reason Muni WiFi is so necessary is simply to secure democratization of the backhaul links - ordinary folk are quite ready, willing, and able to "design" and deploy the "last mile" segments if there is something there to connect them to. I know, cause I've been fighting this particular battle for almost 5 years now in a variety of locations around the Midwest.

Furthermore, if the city/county/state/whomever is the provider/owner of the service, and they do in fact sub-contract the provisioning of it, the sub-contractor will be bound by the same constraints that bind the governmental unit involved - I.E. non-discrimination, universal service, etc - and legal recourse will become an option when services are not provided to otherwise eligible persons - the playing field would be leveled a bit more. Right now, Comcast (or any of the monopolist players) decide who gets access and who doesn't, and there is no recourse if they decide you - or your neighborhood, or your school, or your income bracket - don't.

40% for frequency licensing on a monthly (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18265640)

capitalized basis. So owning the equipment is not a big deal ~ owning the spectrum

Is this a redhering? TFA says nothing about what radio spectrums will be used and not all radio spectrums are licensed. For instance the wifi frequencies aren't.

I see it today in our cable television monopoly, which is municipally 'outsourced' to a cable provider. This is what most municipalities will end up doing if wireless is publically owned. Our service provider, Time Warner, is too stupid to make our cable modem work.

Your cable is a government granted monopoly. Wireless on the other hand can allow competition. Unlike cable, where you're locked into one provider, wireless tech allows you to choose who will provider your service. "Your service sucks so I'm switching! And you can't keep me from switching because you don't have a monopoly."

Falcon

The forces for and against (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260034)

The forces for this are those who stand to benefit from it the most, obviously...we the [geek] people. The rest of the world think they will get better service by paying for it.

The forces against this are the usual suspects who also, coincidentally, require the pressure of law to require that they build infrastructure to slowly escallating minimal standards. They also work the hardest to prevent the municipality from owning the infrastructure they, themselves, do not want to build. If they build it, they will have some control over it. Why they aren't rushing to build these things up themselves, I can only guess. First guess would be because it's cheaper to hire lawyers and lobbyists to prevent the infrastructure from being built than it would be to build it themselves to prevent the municipalities from building. If I'm guessing correctly, then I'd say this is just another example of howcorporate interests are too often detrimental to the public interest. They need to be checked.

Re:The forces for and against (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260098)

Last I checked any city owns all the right-of-way it needs to lay all the fiber into the ground it wants to.

So what you are saying is your politicians, all of them, in every city have lacked the WILL to spend the money put fiber everywhere.

Sounds like a problem you should be taking up, by talking to your politicians.

Again, I come back to the point of "just do it and let me know how it works out!"

Quite frankly to most rational people there are pressing problems on their list that outrank internet service and how it's funded. You know, schools, roads, crime, things like that.

Re:The forces for and against (1)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260826)

Based on the number and frequency of your posts, it's clear that you've got some major issues with the concept of publicly owned communications infrastructure. Technical issues, risks of poor implementation, spending priorities, etc. All valid points.

It's clear that you have some expertise in the matter however, so let's change the tone of the discussion slightly. If funding broadband with public $$ is inherently flawed and unworkable, what's your proposal for providing access to those of us who currently don't have it and can't get it? If you fail to see lack of access as a problem worth examining, then this discussion is pointless. It's much easier to shoot someone else's proposal full of holes than it is to come up with a workable alternative solution.

Re:The forces for and against (1)

MilesNaismith (951682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264574)

This reminds me of a guy who proposed I should come up with a plan for winning the war in Iraq instead of criticizing George Bush, and that if I didn't have one I should just shut up. I think that criticism in public policy is useful. You disagree.

Broadband problem? (1)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18260800)

What exactly is the Broadband problem? You mean the hysterical stories spun here on Slashdot every 3 days or so?

The Broadband problem that... (1)

poormanjoe (889634) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261292)

could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons...

Re:The Broadband problem that... (1)

Rotten168 (104565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261404)

profiteering gluttons

Sounds like municipal city employees to me. ;)

There are successess... (2, Interesting)

CompMD (522020) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261268)

I volunteered with Lawrence Freenet [lawrencefreenet.org] (LFN) when it was starting up. Its a 501c3 nonprofit organization that has collaborated with the city to provide low cost and free wireless internet access in the city of Lawrence, Kansas [wikipedia.org] , the sixth largest city in the state with a population now close to 100,000 (based on growth and the last census). LFN provides linux or windows based PCs and Internet access to needy families. Users of the service have a no-maintenance box with an antenna mounted outside at their residence and a cat5 cable coming in. The main downtown area is soon to be lit up as one giant WiFi hotspot thanks to LFN. Anybody downtown can use the connection.

There have been some successes. Lawrence Freenet has been running for a couple years now. The service is reliable and costs less than the local cutthroat cable company. The staff is friendly and works for LFN because they love the idea of a community wireless project. Its been great to watch them grow from the office in the founder's garage and the only vehicle his beat up Winnebago into an organization with an office, high-end equipment, quality staff, and some nice new vans. But they still have the Winnebago. :) As screwed up as the state of Kansas is, we got this right. Community wireless internet that works. There is a consulting company founded by the same guy that dreamed up Lawrence Freenet called Community Wireless Communications [civicwifi.com] that helps set up municipal wifi networks. They are a good resource for cities that want to enjoy the same success Lawrence has with community wireless.

Not many (1)

DavidShor (928926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263770)

Good will and charity are unstable in the long term, and it would be foolish to base national policy off expectations of altruism.

Not a legitimate purpose of government (0, Flamebait)

ssssmashing (1063390) | more than 7 years ago | (#18261304)

If people want city wide WiFi they should start a company and sell subscriptions. Cities should not spend a single dime of tax payer's money for this nonsense. If WiFi is such a good idea investors and consumers will embrace it and it will grow. The city should be worrying about arresting and prosecuting criminals and making sure that people can walk outside. Legitimate purposes of government are defense and justice - everything beyond that is theft.

Re:Not a legitimate purpose of government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18261814)

Remind me to cut your house's water connection and tear up all the roads in the neighboring mile.

Re:Not a legitimate purpose of government (1)

ssssmashing (1063390) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263470)

If you cut my taxes by 97% you'd have a deal. The city does not supply my water by the way. A few years ago it was privatized and the cost was cut by 70%.

Re:Not a legitimate purpose of government (1)

Reluctant Wizard (984280) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263062)

Agreed!

Now, for all the fans of municipal ownership/operation of the network: you liken this to the roads and/or the water systems. What is missing in this analogy is that these things are simply Layer 1 equivalents. You need to remember that without competent management of the other layers of network, there will be nothing but chaos and disarray. Also, the already-existing utility-type systems spoken of are not constantly under attack and stretched to the limit by their equivalents of spam, DDOS, high-bandwidth movie & music downloading, customers (knowingly or not) introducing nasty viruses to the system, and the like.

Quite frankly, I do not believe that a municipality would or should have the type people on staff to properly run a network of this magnitude. Nor do I believe that very many of the type of people who "work" in the government have the personality traits of focus and intensity of purpose it takes to build and maintain a wireless, community-wide network. I know a number of people who do this type of work, and the typical "it's 5:00, time to go" attitude of government workers would never fly in their high-availability, high-pressure environment. It takes dedicated people with a vision of what they're building and delivering to their customers. I've been there, done that, and I greatly admire the people who build and run the networks.

In my experience, the qualities that are necessary to do it right are not the government's strong suit.

Support OSS Wireless Meshes (2, Informative)

mailseth (227177) | more than 7 years ago | (#18262258)

Time for me to link to the locally spawned OSS mesh software. The basic idea behind it is that everyone is a node, or can mount a node up on their roof. The software utilizes the HSLS algorithm to self-optimize the layout of the network. So once you've installed your node, you *are* the last mile solution.

http://cuwireless.net/ [cuwireless.net]

trade offs ... (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263082)

Sure a public network might be more likely to provide universal access (IMO, that's the only valid point in the whole article). OTOH, a public owned network would almost certainly be BAD at: controlling costs, customer service, innovation, network maintenance, and quality. If all you want is universal access, leave it private and legislate that one aspect. If you want to ensure "net neutrality", you can legislate that as well. Personally, I don't see why this is something that needs to be regulated. I live in a rural area, and while I can't get cable or DSL, we get WDSL from a private, local company.

Another way to provide public access.. (1)

quackking (566916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18263356)

I wrote an OpEd piece a while back which touches on this whole issue. I argue that instead of auctioning all of the spectrum, the FCC ought to hold back some of the analog TV stuff for Open Spectrum, and instead auction off naming rights. I still think this is a good idea. http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6318921 .html?display=Op+Ed [broadcastingcable.com]

Wifi already works in Lompoc, CA (1)

Serveert (102805) | more than 7 years ago | (#18264392)

Not much fanfare.. It's cheap, works, and no need to worry about ISPs gouging the consumer with pricing and routing.

http://www.lompoc.tv/ [lompoc.tv]
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