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Municipal Wi-Fi Networks In Trouble

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time dept.

Wireless Networking 294

imamac writes "According to an AP story, municipal Wi-Fi is going nowhere fast. A think tank research director quipped, 'They are the monorails of this decade: the wrong technology, totally overpromised and completely undelivered.' Subscriptions to the services are much lower than expected and lawmakers are concerned that millions of dollars will have gone to waste that could have been better spent on roads or crime-fighting. Satisfaction with the quality of service has also been low, which give some insight into the low adoption rate. Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?"

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294 comments

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But if we don't have it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227053)

The WiFi will go to Shelbyville!

Say what you want about wifi (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227059)

But they put North Haverbrook, Ogdenville and Rockaway on the map.

Harry Browne said it best... (-1, Offtopic)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227061)

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (-1, Troll)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227137)

Why am I not surprised that the libertarian nutters popped out so quickly...

Me Too (1)

fistfullast33l (819270) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227345)

I thought they'd all be too busy advocating Ron Paul for President. [nationaljournal.com]

My favorite quote? We are not libertarians, we are constitutionalists. Suuuure you are.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (0, Flamebait)

gauss314 (640591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227469)

Why am I not surprised that the socialist nutters popped out so quickly...

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (0, Flamebait)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227623)

Just because someone isn't crazy enough to buy into libertarianism doesn't mean they're a socialist. It just means they aren't completely stupid. Admitting to being a libertarian is akin to admitting to being a Scientologist, it's a fairly clear sign of mental derangement.

Libertarianism: Because simple minds like simple answers to complex problems.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (0, Troll)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227707)

Maybe - just maybe - we noticed that everything the gov't does could have been done better, chaper and faster by private companies or individuals? Besides, anybody who is not an anarchap supports, by definition, at least SOME amount of gov't interference in people's and companies' business and as such is a socialist. Yeah, I know you don't like being called as such but realize that's what you are, if you support public schools, police, transport, army, public anything.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227753)

I like being called a socialist. Anarchosocialist, anyways. There is nothing wrong with caring about the important rights: the right to food, clothing, shelter, and medicine. Without those rights, all others are meaningless.

Libertarians want the right to economically enslave others. When all resources are privately owned, all non-owners are defacto slaves, and it is this goal that libertarians work towards: the enslavement of the poor, worldwide.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (0, Offtopic)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227899)

Right. I don't own any car manufacturing plant but I am not a slave to VW. I also don't have any CPU production facility, yet prices are falling every day and it's difficult for me to think I am being enslaved by AMD. I could go on forever showing how much your gov't regulated, police-enforced idiotic solutions do not work, never have and never will, but you would shield yourself behind your "I'm a socialist and proud of it". Maybe you'd like to take responsibility for the mass murderings perpetrated under Stalin yesterday and North Korea's gov't today instead?

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (3, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227927)

I like being called a socialist. Anarchosocialist, anyways. There is nothing wrong with caring about the important rights: the right to food, clothing, shelter, and medicine. Without those rights, all others are meaningless. Libertarians want the right to economically enslave others. When all resources are privately owned, all non-owners are defacto slaves, and it is this goal that libertarians work towards: the enslavement of the poor, worldwide.
1984 called, it wants its Newspeak back. We have a right to medicine? Suppose all the pharmaceutical companies closed their doors tomorrow. Where would your right to medicine come from then? The only way people can have a right to any good or service is if the government can FORCE somebody else to provide it through taxation. When you are forced to work to support others involuntarily, that is the definition of slavery.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (2, Interesting)

gauss314 (640591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227987)

Um, what gives you the "right" to food, clothing, shelter, and medicine? Are those people who are engaged in the manufacture of those products and services your slaves? Why not a right to free music, free sex, and free insert_whatever_you_want_here? You should really think about differentiating between "rights" like (life, speech, etc), and consumer products.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (3, Insightful)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228095)

You should really think about differentiating between "rights" like (life, speech, etc), and consumer products.

Good call.

Given that life at least requires food, and according to many, also clothing and shelter. having a right to life implies having a right to those things as well.

That sets them apart from whatever_you_want

Hence. maybe you should follow your own advice before starting to sound like a fanatical non-thinker.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (0, Troll)

gauss314 (640591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228409)

Exactly how does not having clothes interfere with your right to life? Nudists seem to manage quite well without it, as do the few remaining tribal folks. Same for shelter, unless, you think that nomads and homeless people are dead. As for food, how can you stipulate, that someone who spends their life in the production of food, owes any of it to you? Doesn't your own socialist philosophy require that you "mix your labor" with it? In fact, to get to the core of the discussion, the socialist requires that others provide for them, and be forced to do so, if necessary. The libertarian does not. The libertarian ideal is that people should cooperate when it is to their MUTUAL benefit. Socialism, on the other hand, forces people to cooperate via the business end of the government. Hence, maybe you should be a little less dependent on using the power of government to force other to follow your advice, and provide you with all the luxuries that you seek, before starting to sound like a lazy fanatical thug.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228333)

Just because you allow a criminal and corrupt government to continue, doesn't mean that every government in the world is the same shit as you have. My homecountry has always had decent governments, no matter political flavor, who has done the best for the people and currently they have several hundred billions of dollars stashed away in pension funds that will benefit the people rather than a few already very rich people.

A libertarian society is the most vile and inhumane society you can imagine which is also why none such exists.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228497)

Give any bar/restaurant/coffee shop that install free wifi equipment in his establishment a 500$ refund on taxes. Oh, and make them buy larger tables also...

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227819)

Just because someone isn't crazy enough to buy into libertarianism doesn't mean they're a socialist. It just means they aren't completely stupid. Admitting to being a libertarian is akin to admitting to being a Scientologist, it's a fairly clear sign of mental derangement.
Libertarianism is the crazy idea that most human interactions should be voluntary, rather than compulsory or forbidden. Does not being crazy enough to buy into libertarianism make you a socialist? Maybe not. A statist? Most definitely. I am uncertain why I am being modded as flamebait above for stating the obvious. Spun's posts are clearly more inflammatory than mine...

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228369)

I'm not a statist either, I'm an anarcho-socialist of the anarcho-syndicalist variety. I don't want the state telling me what to do, but I don't want an oligarchy of owning class assholes telling me what to do, either, and that is a certainty under libertarianism.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

gauss314 (640591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227857)

Well thank you for the informative response, comrade. As a prototypical socialist, I assume that using various slanders like "crazy" and "stupid" is considered an adequate substitute for meaningful logic. I find it utterly remarkable how, someone who holds to a philosophy that people should be responsible for their own actions and not rely upon a nanny state to force conformity, is considered deranged. As for your definition of libertarianism, well, I don't remember any libs stating anything about the solutions to your mental problems, except that they are invariably easier to come by when the government is not pointing a gun at your head dictating theirs to you.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227645)

Wow, talk about false dichotomies... so anyone who thinks libertarians are nuts must be socialist? With that kind of simplistic thinking, I'm not surprised libertarianism hasn't caught on.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227699)

They must be a Democrat or Neocon then.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228257)

Adding 2 meaningless options doesn't make your answer less simplistic.

If you are so interested in voluntarely interaction between people, it might be a good idea to not think that everyone who has his own ideas (that might be different from yours) is by definition stupid, else you are just arguing everyone should be like you, and this whole voluntary interaction thing becomes pretty meaningless.

Something else, untill the invention of centralized government, humanity was stuck living in rather primitive and generally not to nice conditions. Government is the answer to a number of problems. That said, there is quite some discussion possible about what those problems are, and it should be clear that where it isn't the right answer, it shouldn't be used. You can also discuss how to optimize government so it works best. Believing that government is by definition evil and not needed however is showing gross ignorance of human (pre)history.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228399)

[My parent comment to you] WOOOOOSH

It was intended as a jest to compliment the offensive politically decisive parents posts.

Hello Friends! (0, Offtopic)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227539)

I'm your LiberNuttertarian Guy!
Are you tired, run-down, listless?
Do you pop out at parties?
Are you unpoopular?
The answer to all your problems is in this little philosophy!
LiberNuttertarianism!

Re:Hello Friends! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227759)

<ThickCubanAccent>LUUUUUU-CEEEEEEEEEEE!</ThickCuba nAccent>

Re:Harry Browne said it best...to sell his book (2, Insightful)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227425)

Right - interstate highways suck. I could have built the whole system solo in a week. National Parks - who needs-em. World War II. Give me 100 men with rifles and we could have beaten the Jerrys and the Nips. Nuclear weapons - HA - my own cousin has THREE in his garage next to his GTO.

Hey swallow some assholes book - he needs the money.

And the private sector does work? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227489)

A lot of these municipal wi-fi efforts have arisen just because the private sector has failed so terribly to bring decent Internet access.

Hell, scroll down the front page here at Slashdot and you'll see a story posted today about the failure of many ISPs to provide adequate service [slashdot.org] . Of course, we've seen many, many stories like that posted here. I'm sure we've all got our own stories to tell about the trouble we've experienced dealing with various ISPs.

So every time that somebody comes along and says that the private sector or corporations are the solution to the problem of shitty Internet service in so many areas, I want to laugh right in their fucking faces. Their solution has had a decade-and-a-half to prove itself, and it has failed! It has fucking failed outright!

Now, a government-backed solution may not be the best. But it's far better than what Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, or most other ISPs are offering. We only need to look to Europe to see how our American communication services should be. Over there, their governments tend to be heavily involved with making sure that a quality service is provided. And it's more than just stringent regulation, too. In the end, we see European consumers getting access to far better mobile phone services, not to mention much, much better Internet access than we usually have here in the States.

Sometimes the free market fails. That's usually the case with essential services, of which the Internet is quickly becoming one. So the government tends to be the only party who can step in and make a positive difference.

Re:Harry Browne said it best... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227685)

Let me say this, Metropolitan networks, whether Wi-Fi or otherwise need one thing to make them both competitive and financially viable; the metropolitan network needs to be owned by that cooperative body within the municipality's control. That means every last 'last mile' connection. As the gynecological exam begins, most doctors will tell you what he or she is seeing. If not, just ask what's happening. "Everything look normal?" is a great question. The doctor will first examine the external surface of your vagina, feeling for bumps or sores. These might be an indication of an ingrown hair, a blocked gland, a herpes blister, or a genital wart. Next a speculum, a device that holds the walls of the vagina open, will be inserted. The doctor will examine your vaginal walls for sores and inflammation and your cervix for discharge, signs of infection and damage. He or she will probably take a Pap smear, a little scraping of cervical cells. It doesn't hurt but might feel weird. Afterward, a little spotting is normal, but tell your doctor if it's more than a few droplets of blood. Next is the manual exam. The doctor inserts two gloved, lubricated fingers into your vagina while pressing gently on your abdomen. rectal exam-which one finger is in the vagina and the other is in the rectum. When the city/county (whatever) owns all the last mile physical plant/infrastructure and ISP's simply rent connectivity to end users the municipality will be functional and profitable. Yes, that is how we would see big bandwidth to every home, and each home would have the choice of ISP services. It is possible to do this and would instantly flatten the cost of entry as well as the rules of engagement. Then, if you ad Wi-Fi support to parts of the city that is subscribed to by users who already pay... well, it's not such a stretch to support financially.

Does anyone see any downsides to this?

the answers: (0, Offtopic)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227071)

Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?"
  • no
  • yes
  • no

Goatsee! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227111)

Goatseeeeee! [goatse.ch]

Gay Nigger Anal Action [gnaa.us]

Re:the answers: (4, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227279)

The reason that subscriptions are so low is that they've concentrated on the business districts.....

1) Most businesses have their own network (which, BTW, is faster than the service provided)
2) Most CBD's are "vacant" during the evening when individuals would be using it.
3) It doesn't make it to the 'burbs where I live.

Layne

A think tank research director quipped (5, Insightful)

Ice Station Zebra (18124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227105)

"I'll say anything if you give me money."

Or? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227117)

>> Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?"

Or that its something new, and will evolve in due time?

You know what I want to do when I see some goateed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227133)

hippy using wifi in a coffee shop? Kick him in the fucking teeth, that's what.

WTF? (4, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227139)

As a tech, I'm dying for these things. I'm getting more and more wireless networks where it just doesn't work because there's too many people with wireless devices in the area. I had one house with 6 wireless networks in range, cell phones, wireless security systems, 2.4 Ghz wireless on the land line, and even a few wireless mice and keyboards floating around. It was too much.

At the risk of being repetative (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227149)

Let me say this, Metropolitan networks, whether Wi-Fi or otherwise need one thing to make them both competitive and financially viable; the metropolitan network needs to be owned by that cooperative body within the municipality's control. That means every last 'last mile' connection.

When the city/county (whatever) owns all the last mile physical plant/infrastructure and ISP's simply rent connectivity to end users the municipality will be functional and profitable. Yes, that is how we would see big bandwidth to every home, and each home would have the choice of ISP services. It is possible to do this and would instantly flatten the cost of entry as well as the rules of engagement.

Then, if you ad Wi-Fi support to parts of the city that is subscribed to by users who already pay... well, it's not such a stretch to support financially.

Does anyone see any downsides to this?

Re:At the risk of being repetative (1)

Shaman (1148) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227253)

More than that, they need their own spectrum, and they need a lot of it. Which means they need proprietary cards which will connect to their spectrum.

Re:At the risk of being repetative (1)

davygrvy (868500) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227977)

That part is called the optical terminator.

Re:At the risk of being repetative (1)

Shaman (1148) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228437)

Haha... ok I get the joke, but I doubt that many people do... fibre and wi-fi are different things.

Re:At the risk of being repetative (2, Insightful)

Agent Smart (204871) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227397)

Sure. So the only municipalities that could implement this plan with success are those that have no current last mile connections within their boundaries. No cable co. No big bell.

The downside is that few municipalities are still free of these existing monopolies, so most could not execute that brilliant plan.

Suburb. developments locked into 75-year contracts (2, Interesting)

colfer (619105) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227895)

Ridiculous article yestersay in the Wash. Post about a large outer-suburban MacMansion-style development that is stuck in a 75-year contract for internet/phone/cable. Some years ago it seemed like a good deal since the company ran fiver optic to each house. Now it's a ripoff monopoly. Hard to feel sorry for the MacMansionites, who are busy violating their own association rules by sprouting satellite dishes, and should have known what a contract meant.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2007/05/20/AR2007052001724.html [washingtonpost.com]
If you don't know about these U.S. developments, almost all the "affluent" growth goes into outer suburbs, while the inner ones, not really built to last, start to peel and crack. Many or most new developments are private entities, with "association" rules and regulations layered on or replacing normal local law.
So if you're looking for virgin territory for high-speed internet service, that's where it is. Or was.

Re:At the risk of being repetative (1)

Erwos (553607) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227427)

Sure - who's got the incentive to upgrade the network?

Google's Wifi (4, Interesting)

James_Aguilar (890772) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227151)

Google's wifi here in Mountain View is not very good. I can't get any reception on it, and I live less than a mile from their headquarters. If even Google can't get it right, city governments probably . . .

The rest of the above sentence is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re:Google's Wifi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227399)

If Google can't do it right, then nobody can!

Maybe it's the Mountains? Are there mountains in Mountain View?

Maybe there's a big building in the way.

Re:Google's Wifi (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227485)

Well hell. 2 years ago Google announced WiFi for SF. Funny thing is, I still can't find it. Does it take that long to walk to Best Buy for a wireless router?

HA!

The major issue (4, Insightful)

Shaman (1148) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227169)

The major issue has been that they have given the contracts to implementors that are paid for the number of radios that they install and by gosh they will install more radios than anyone every imagined. But, see, the 2.4Ghz bands were already polluted BEFORE they started and installing 2.4G radios on every block for several square miles when each mesh radio has a practical range (line of sight) of around 20 miles is really not helping things. And just as bad, the backhaul of the mesh radios is almost always 5.2Ghz or 5.8Ghz, which have only a few channels each to choose from (5.8Ghz has more, but still...)

Don't believe this could happen? Ask anyone that has tried to use the Toronto mesh network downtown. It's flat ugly.

Re:The major issue (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19228087)

It's obvious that the implementors haven't got a clue about RF compatibility.

The 2.4GHz band (in the USA) is a SHARED BAND, and under the current FCC Rules
and Regulations, the Wi-Fi stuff operates as a low-power, Part 15 device. This
means that its users are considered secondary to the various other services
who are permitted to use that portion of the spectrum. And there are other users,
such as microwave ovens in the ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) service,
which are on a center frequency of 2450MHz, but can (and certainly do) wander
around a bit. The Amateur Radio Service can use 2390-2450 MHz, and as a licensed
radio service has precedence over the Part 15 devices, but is still secondary to
the primary user, the Government Radiolocation Service (e.g., radar). And, just
to make things interesting, many of the cordless phones and similar household
appliances operating under Part 15 that use the spectrum as well. So, yeah,
there's a lot of noise up there.

Even without those considerations, even if that spectrum were devoid of the radars,
hams and cordless phones, etc., there's still only a handful of channels available,
and unless the planners carefully analyze the coverage of each wireless box and
assign channels appropriately, you're bound to have a mess. Even if it's optimally
structured, a handful of network bandwidth hogs can ruin it for everyone anyway.

The amount of time and effort (==$$$$$$) to analyze the resulting problems is
likely to be a massive financial sinkhole whose cost/benefit ratio is unjustifiable.

Anecdote (3, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227173)

Subscriptions to the services are much lower than expected and lawmakers are concerned that millions of dollars will have gone to waste that could have been better spent on roads or crime-fighting. Satisfaction with the quality of service has also been low, which give some insight into the low adoption rate. Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?

Internet as a utility needs time to develop if it is ever going to be adopted. Take a look at my situation. I pay for a cable modem and not for a municipal wi-fi connection. Why? Well, because I occasionally like to watch television and television service is bundled with internet service. If I buy them separately I'm paying a whole lot of extra cash. What would make me change my mind? Well, if I could rent legal TV episodes over IP for a very, very low price akin to that portion of what it costs to see them on cable TV. Until that time, however, why should I pay extra?

Information Week (0, Redundant)

dlhm (739554) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227191)

There is an entire article on this in yesterdays "Information Week" that I recieved today. Page 41.

Muni wireless done right: Oakland County, MI (3, Interesting)

XorNand (517466) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227237)

Here in Oakland County, Michigan [wirelessoakland.com] , they took a different approach. Our nascent, county-wide wifi network was almost entirely privately funded. The county agreed to provide the space to mount the antennas (on land already owned by the county) and to promote it. The actual design and implementation was bid out to the private sector. The winner agreed to pick up the infrastructure tab and to provide free wireless to everyone in the service area. In exchange, they are permitted to offer plans with more bandwidth and traffic prioritization to those willing to pay for it. It's a win-win: It didn't cost the taxpayers anything and we all get free access, and the private company gets to keep any profits that they make from the premium service.

Profitability, or lack thereof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227757)

It didn't cost the taxpayers anything and we all get free access, and the private company gets to keep any profits that they make from the premium service.

And what's going to happen to it once the private company ends up making next to zero profits from it and that it will cost boatloads of money to implement and maintain it?

/sarcasm on/
Especially in Michigan where the economy is flourishing so vibrantly these days... /sarcasm off/

No demand for it (2, Informative)

meatmanek (1062562) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227243)

There are only a few groups of people who want wireless everywhere:
  • College students. Most colleges already have wireless for their students, and students spend most of their time on campus. Time off-campus is typically spent working or finding some other form of entertainment.
  • People who need internet for work who already have blackberries or cell data cards.
  • People who want wireless where they hang out, but many of these places (coffee shops, etc) already have wireless.

Most other people might have a slight interest in being able to get on the internet anywhere, but not enough to pay for it.

Re:No demand for it (1)

MorpheousMarty (1094907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227659)

Municipal wifi should be free, otherwise there isn't much of a point in having the government doing it. And as far as who could use it, everyone, if it were standard. If everyone in the country had wifi around every paved street, how long before almost every aspect of the society took advantage of this? Especially public transportation, imagine you could log on to the city's web site and select your location and destination, and get an ETA, and then start playing poker with your buddies online while you wait.

Re:No demand for it (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227779)

I'm in the second category, but as I'm self-employed, I'm too cheap to buy a cell data card. (There have been enough free WiFi hot spots in town, and now there's a municipal WiFi going in.)

But even without constant WiFi, I manage fine without it. The only times I really miss it are when I need to look up new directions on the road, and I have to rely on EDGE-speed cellular (over Bluetooth from my cell phone) to do my Google Mapping.

Re:No demand for it (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228115)

I think the main problem is that people who might use something like this want service both anywhere and anytime. If they have to sign up for it first, it's not anytime, which means it's really only going to be useful where they live, and where they just as well can sign up for DSL or cable. And if they want it on the go and not just at home, they might as well subscribe to an UMTS service and get service anywhere. If you've bought a laptop recently, it might even have a built-in UMTS card, and all you have to do is make a phone call and have it activated instantly.
Or, you might just continue to use someone's open WiFi network. There's plenty of them everywhere.

Pros and cons of municipal WiFi:

- Limited speed
- Limited availability
- Limited support
- Limited compatibility (some of these fuckers assume you use Windows and a Web Browser)
- Only available if signing up ahead of time
- Guaranteed to be monitored
+ Price (but it doesn't beat free)

It's because (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227261)

the project get sent to a private company who uses it as a tool to gather demographic information, annd is overly paranoid about the right kind of information.

Let people connect. If you MUST have something, put a 1 page explaination. Period. Then let people use it. If somene crosses the line, deal with them.

Re:It's because (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227765)

...a private company who uses it as a tool to gather demographic information, annd is overly paranoid about the right kind of information ... If somene crosses the line, deal with them.

Um... if you don't have accurate information about your users, how are you supposed to deal with them when they abuse the system? Fleets of roving, packet-sniffing vans with directional antennas trying to track down the mac address of the kiddie pr0n guy that keeps popping up all over town... or? Or, how about: if you want to spend all day using a facility that someone else is paying for, maybe it's not so bad to have to actually say who you are. You can't take books from the library without ID, can't hang out at the county gym or swimming pool without ID, can't use the dog park without proof of vaccinations, and so on. "Not coming over wires into your house" isn't the same as "guaranteed anonymity at someone else's expense."

Re:It's because (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228029)

You can't take books from the library without ID

I can read books in the library without ID. And depending on which library I visit, I can use the computer without displaying ID, too.

Re:It's because (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228473)

I can read books in the library without ID. And depending on which library I visit, I can use the computer without displaying ID, too.

But reading books in the library doesn't really lend itself to launching DoD attacks, maintaining your Russianm kiddie pr0n site, following up on your phising project, etc. And most any library that allows anonymous computer use runs filters, proxies, and logs. Regardless of how appropriate the comparison is to other utilities, the GP's notion that municipal WiFi isn't taking off because The Man is teh Eeevil for wanting user accounts in place before you can use the network is: ridiculous.

Even if.. (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227265)

It was a good idea in some ways, and I'm sure it can be improved more than one thinks. But, more money going to "law enforcement" and other uses is probably not going to happen... even they did, it's not like the streets will be safer. They'll figure out some way to blow it.

"Trillions"? C'mon. They're using networks and getting breaks on prices at the same time. It's not like it's acutally going to be 45Mb connections for each person connecting in the city, as much as a free shitty connection for whoever is desperate.

I understand they're spending loads of cash on this, but it's also a bit of a selling point for bringing new people to the area, and it looks good on paper. They don't care if it's a lot of money, as long as they're known as a tech-savvy town.

Reasonable requirements but premature technology (2, Interesting)

dgym (584252) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227285)

Municipal WiFi is hard. Municipal WiMax would be a lot easier.

Re:Reasonable requirements but premature technolog (1)

Shaman (1148) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227339)

WiMax has its limitations too, and plenty of them. Chief amongst those is that it doesn't work as advertised (3 miles non line of site? In absolutely perfectly ideal conditions, perhaps). It's good... but it's basically good old OFDM re-packaged into multipoint.

Re:Reasonable requirements but premature technolog (1)

codemachine (245871) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227535)

That is my thought as well. Though WiMax sure is taking a long time to ramp up.

Cellular internet may have already taken over by the time WiMax is ready. Though WiMax may get a boost if the cellular providers are the ones providing it, which is likely what will happen around here (WiMax base stations on cell towers, telco offers yet another package to their users).

Re:Reasonable requirements but premature technolog (1)

Erwos (553607) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228247)

You bring up a good point, which is that the space municipal WiFi is supposed to fill is already being filled by cell providers. Right now, I can choose between any of four providers for 3G access anytime, anywhere (or at least as good as our own teensy municipal WiFi network provides). As far as I'm concerned, areas with decent EVDO/HSDPA coverage have no business going down the municipal WiFi path - government has no business competing with private business.

Is it as cheap or fast as some people want? No. But then again, you're paying the _real cost_ of such service, not just subsidizing it by force. And, personally, $15 a month for Sprint data access over EVDO seems OK to me.

WiFi obsolete as a public WAN... (2, Insightful)

Wonderkid (541329) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227287)

...if a broadband or near broadband wireless connection is not available everywhere, then it is pointless. People cannot run their lives hoping to find a connection. Far better to put up with a slower but acceptable 3G or equiv connection through the cell/mobile providers where coverage is often assured. I reside in the UK and have a Vodafone 3G connect doo dah connected to my Macbook via USB and it works like a dream, anywhere I go. Even when it slows to GPRS, it is fast enough to surf most websites. I only use WiFi when back home or at the office where I am more likely to waste time watching YouTube videos and downloading stuff. :-) Seriously, my point is valid and when 4G is introduced (Google Samsung 4G trials), that will be it for public WiFi.

It's the marketing (3, Insightful)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227293)

When the internet was taking off, we had great catch-phrases like "Information Superhighway"." Now that's a name I can get behind.

"Municipal Wi-Fi", in contrast, sounds so lackluster, like "Deparment of Leisure Services". Proponents use lame slogans like "Wi-Fi? Wi-Not?" and "Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not useful."

We need something that will make folks excited, like "Naked Bimbos Everywhere".

In trouble? Seriously? (1)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227337)

It may be a matter of scale and what you are trying to accomplish. Spokane, for example, has a muni system downtown that is free for X hours. They use it as a convention/tourist draw. Bremerton is installing one as we speak for the same reasons. They are trying to revitalize the downtown area with a new convention center/hotel, etc. If the goal is to get people to sign up and pay money so we can make a profit, maybe it won't work. But if the issue is to draw people to the area with a wi-fi infrastructure to suck up tourist convention dollars, then that's a different take on the issue.

London municipal wifi (1)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227349)

There have been various articles about it, but I only found one that talked about pricing - $17.70 per month [blogs.com] (via thenewsroom.com).

Also some safety FUD/not-FUD in the UK press today (1)

colfer (619105) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227523)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6676205.stm [bbc.co.uk] "The BBC programme Panorama is to highlight concerns about a lack of safety research into wi-fi networks. "But the Health Protection Agency says emissions are within safety guidelines." etc.

Suprised? (2, Insightful)

folstaff (853243) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227351)

The government nearly always performs at this level: substandard. Why?

1. Unlike the free market, they only answer to the people every couple of years. The sellers must respond to the buyer every single day.

2. When government screws up they spend your money to figure out what happened and to come up with a solution. In the free market, you can just change providers.

Re:Suprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227655)

And yet various euro municipal areas have fine wifi service. I think the truth is american government sucks - not because governments in general suck, but because american corporatists make it suck.

Re:Suprised? (1)

samweber (71605) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227941)

I've seen this argument many, many times. It might make sense for products like ice cream cones, but for little else.

Let's take these two points:
  1. "The sellers must respond to the buyer every single day." Really? Okay, lets say that you are in charge of a large company, and you don't like Microsoft's latest upgrade. Can you just replace all the tens of thousands of Windows PCs in your company with Linux or Apples by the next day, and just keep on going? No? Then Microsoft doesn't really have to respond to you today, does it?
  2. "You just change providers." Strangely enough, the same example works here too. And its not unusual -- maybe a century ago anyone could just start a new "provider" by hanging a sign on their door. That's not true these days, and big stores can do things like operate a location at a loss in order to force a small store into bankruptcy.

And, for some reason you ignore company's profits into the equation. Where do profits come from? You -- the consumer. Government services don't have the overhead of profit.

Lastly, I can't believe that anyone who has ever worked in a private company can ever view companies as streamlined and efficient. Why, just yesterday I had a $17 million contract fall through because one person signed a certain document five minutes late. And, no, there's no way for us to get any of it reimbursed.

Re:Suprised? (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228329)

"Government services don't have the overhead of profit."

You're not trying to pretend that government services don't have any overhead, are you? Frankly, I'd rather overhead went to profit than to waste and bureaucrazy. (Wow, what a convenient typo that was...)

Poor Implementation (2, Insightful)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227417)

It is not that City-wide Wi-Fi doesn't work or there is no tech powerful enough to run it; it's just poor implementation and, more importantly, poor advertisement.

For one, rural and suburban municipal Wi-Fi would be a much better implementation because some of these cities are still on the lower-end of personal internet connections (think low-speed DSL...). Running a Wi-Fi network with its network connection coming from an area with a much faster internet connection or a satellite-capable connection could possibly happen...

Also, I live in a fairly popular city in the United States. I believe we have city-wide Wireless internet, but I have not heard a WORD from our city's government (either that or it was taken down). Plus, another poster mentioned a good point that there is just too much cross-talk; I could be in a cafe with Wi-fi enabled, but it will not be that advantageous with the SEVENTEEN other wireless networks that are in the air...

I think this is a case where 802.11a might hold a candle. But that's just me, and maybe it's not right either ;-)

disparagingquote from VZW with a vested interest (1)

wolfen (12255) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227447)

"Most people if they are going to do serious work aren't looking to be sitting in a park," said Eric Rabe, a spokesman for DSL provider Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) "They want to be at a desk where they have their papers or business records."

Gotta love that quote. If that's true then why is VZW pushing their much more expensive alternative so hard. If nobody wants it then why is Verizon so worried about competition? (grin)

Well.... (2, Insightful)

untaken_name (660789) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227455)

"Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?"

Well, based on my experiences with municipal bureaucracies, I'd say yes, yes, and maybe.

They do indeed work! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19227491)

Municipal wifi does indeed work. Public wifi is an amazing idea. Of course it will be slow at first. Who is this idiot? Comparing monorails to wifi? That's like comparing soda pop to bawls.

Good Ideas Bad Implementations? (1)

madsheep (984404) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227551)

I read this article on the way in today and saw some of the stumbling blocks they hit. One of them was that in many instances the materials the houses were made of prevented a clear (if any) signal from getting through. This requires additional equipment to get it to function. The speeds offered by these services are also usually that all that super. Then it mentions this kind of service has been a possible motivator for the local cable/telephone companies to suddenly offer services in the area. The end result is that there are more choices, but you can't be surprised when you offer crap and no one takes it.

Maybe Muni WiMax, but not WiFi (2, Insightful)

sycomonkey (666153) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227603)

802.11 wasn't designed to be used city-wide. Of course it's expensive and unpopular to try to blanket the town with WiFi, the stations barely enough range to cover a whole house well, much less a whole block. Furthermore, 2.4ghz is way too overcrowded for this sort of thing. Better solutions would be WiMax or a simular tech using the analog TV frequencies when they finally get auctioned off. The idea of Municipal Internet is very good, but this isn't the way to do it.

huh (2, Funny)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227611)

better spent on roads or crime-fighting.

Did anyone else instantly think "SimCity" when they read that?

Yeah? No?

Re:huh (1)

fireylord (1074571) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227877)

guilty as charged i'm afraid =D

Subscriptions? (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227663)

I don't see the point of commercial municipal Wi-Fi. A private company is perfectly capable of installing a few hundred 802.11n base stations in the city, unlike the burden of, say, laying down cables or water pipes. Such a solution also does nothing for city visitors, who are more likely to need Internet access in some arbitrary location than residents. Would you want to open dozens of separate accounts for each city in Bay Area? Starbucks hotspots will probably do better for you.

On the other hand, a free service is a great convenience for city residents and, for it's cost in taxes per person, is probably a good saving over cable/DSL. Free Internet can also encourage visitors to spend more time in city's businesses or locate the business in the first place when they have impromptu shopping ideas. In Foster City, there is an advertisement-supported service by MetroFi that I think is a good example on how things should be done.

Why? (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227719)

Simple question is why have wi-fi everywhere in a city? What problem does it solve?
Do people constantly use their computers in parks? On the sidewalk?
Most people use the Internet in their home. A few will use it at a coffee shop or restaurant.
If you want to provide Internet access then a community DSL or fiber network is the place to start. Then selective hot-spots. like at schools, libraries, community centers, and maybe some parks.
Why would I pay for access to a metropolitan wifi network when I have a WAP at home, internet at my office, free wifi and a couple of restaurants I go to, and a browser on my phone?
metropolitan wifi networks are a solution seeking a problem.
Now Monorails are cool. Actually they do tend to be cheaper than subways and a lot more attractive than elevated trains. I think they are a good solution to mass transit. Too bad buses and light rail are cheaper still.

Re:Why? (1)

Paul Pierce (739303) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228279)

Simple question is why have wi-fi everywhere in a city? What problem does it solve? Do people constantly use their computers in parks? On the sidewalk?

I have to say I agree completely.

I work at a college and am in charge of providing the college with 100% wireless access. We have had wireless at the hot-spots for quite sometime now, but that isn't enough.

Why?

Well, because the students want to be able to use wireless behind the dumpsters and in the parking lots, right?

nope

We must become 100% wireless because it is a question that parents ask when touring the campus. They don't ask how fast is it, or how reliable, or how secure. They just think its cool if we are ALL wireless. Its a selling point, thats all really. I think that you are right on with it being a cool solution, but to what question? I'd rather a parent ask a more useful question like how well does Xbox Live work in the dorms. I'm not sure if a city would be pushing it for similar reasons, but perhaps.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19228355)

The City of Minneapolis believes its wifi network will enhance public safety. The police will have streaming video of surveillance cameras in their squad cars.

Wifi also lowers the cost of adding more cameras. Hard-wiring cameras is expensive, but with wifi a camera can be positioned anywhere within range of an antennae.

Welcome to the surveillance state, little brother.

This is hysterical (1)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227735)

"lawmakers are concerned that millions of dollars will have gone to waste that could have been better spent on roads or crime-fighting."

No, not that millions of dollars will have gone to waste. That "lawmakers are concerned" bit. It gets me every time.

I mean, they took the money from someone, to give to someone else. They're not feeling the pain, and they're not really feeling the benefit. Build the matrix:

                                                            Take from me Take from someone else

                                  Give to me Meh! Yay!

                Give to someone else Hey! Meh!

Concerned. My ass.

Not a slanted story, no siree (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227745)

What an awesome "related stories" list! I want my city to get Wi-Fi too!

Municipal Wi-Fi Can't Beat Laws of Physics

Companies Grow Wary of Building Out Municipal Wi-Fi Networks

Expert: Wi-Fi Laptops 'Pose Health Risk to Children'

Hackers Target Wi-Fi Hotspots in New Phishing Attacks

Wifi networks? Bad idea alright (1)

trelayne (930715) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227761)

Judging from the the previous post of the potential dangers of WiFi networks, I think it's good that they're getting nowhere fast.

The wireless industry has worked very hard to inundate us with these technologies so that it would seem ludicrous to question them once they became mainstream. Because after all, once everyone has WIFI, the general population snuggles into the idea that they must be safe if they are everywhere----because otherwise, the government would have stopped their proliferation. Right.

I'm actually looking for Coffee shops with a LAN connection, not a wireless one. And they DO seem to be popping where I live. So yeah, wireless is losing its steam.

OK, I see the problem (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227799)

Our suburb is scheduled to have municipal online, as it were, in quadrants over the course of this summer. But one thing I've never seen was straight talk about what it will cost:

Lompoc recently slashed prices by $9, to $16 a month, for the main household plan.

OK. Here's the thing guys. If I didn't already have cable or DSL broadband, at $25 I would tack it on with my current provider instead of dealing with yet _another_ provider. At $16 I suppose you will get a great percentage of dial-up people to upgrade. Maybe even a few current broadband customers who want to save a few bucks/month or those who don't have cable OR a land line. But I'm not surprised the response is lukewarm. Makes me think this really does have to be a government-run commodity to work economically.

municipal Wi-Fi is non-existant (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227837)

In fact almost all networks are non-existent in my area. Five houses down the street they can't even get cable modem connections, no T1's, and DSL won't come here either. Sometimes I think I can shout farther than the network goes around here. The only Wi-Fi in my area comes from my own rig with a legal booster amp on it. Some of my neighbors might appreciate my hooking up a yaggi directional to it though since it won't reach all the way down the end of the next block. I'm currently looking for good/cheap community mesh solution and a way to get it connected online, since its just too much trouble for any of the utilities to bother.

Fiber Spanks Wireless (1)

ElForesto (763160) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227893)

As much as wireless has a "cool factor", it still sucks. I can't get my Linksys wireless AP to throw a reliable signal 50ft through the house even after buying high-gain antennae, upgrading to a 3rd-party firmware that lets me double the output power and switching to 5.8GHz cordless phones. A municipal deployment might use better equipment, but dropping several thousand dollars on an access point that might cover a radius of several hundred feet strikes me as... inefficient at best. Considering the signal issues with wireless and the limited about of throughput per AP, you're investing in a dead-end technology that won't ever be able to deliver the hallowed triple-play that reduces customer churn.

Fiber deployments, on the other hand, offer a steady amount of bandwidth and lots of it, enough to offer uncompressed HD programming, 15Mbps+ Internet and voice. Those triple-play customers are less likely to switch providers even without a service contract so the revenue streams are not only larger, they're also more stable. Muni fiber deployments like iProvo [iprovo.net] and UTOPIA [utopianet.org] cost more up-front, but they also experience significantly higher take rates.

Muni wireless is failing because cities tried to take the cheap road to better Internet access. Let that be a lesson to those who are too cost-conscious to do things right.

Bad deployment decisions (1)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227903)

A lot of cities got sold a sucker deal by companies like Tropos which have some badly performing and hard to deploy equipment (among other things they think one radio is sufficient for mesh and access points). But they also have a huge sales, marketing and schmoozing staff to wine and dine officials into signing contracts. So Earthlink is up to its neck in its deployments just trying to get the equipment to function at all.

Whereas other deployments that chose decent equipment like Tranzeo's two radio wifi mesh stuff are doing okay.

screw WiFi, give me municipal Fibre (1)

davygrvy (868500) | more than 7 years ago | (#19227909)

'nuf said.

Bad timing (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228009)

Its just bad timing, not a bad idea. The public isnt ready yet for wifi to become another 'utility'.

Give it 5 more years.

If the wireless worked... (1)

dekkerdreyer (1007957) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228035)

If the municipal wireless is anything like home wireless, then somebody has to go around and reboot all the wireless routers every day. Wifi is one of those technologies that just doesn't seem to be maturing at all. It's like an open source game, they got it 60% working and were too busy playing it to finish it and fix the bugs.

When I can pay $100 for wi-fi in the city, which is quite spotty, or simply pick up Ma Kettle's unsecured router from her apartment on the third floor for free, I'll pick the latter. This also shields me from government snooping, MAFIAA lawsuits, and the like.

If I post a comment that's likely to make me the blunt end of harassment, be it about Scientology or Dow Chemicals, or if I download a song that was just broadcast over the radio for everyone to tape, Ma Kettle will have to fight the lunatics while I'm off posting from somewhere else. This has an even better side effect, since lawsuits against completely innocent people get more media attention and help bring about laws to protect citizens rather than corporations.

Wait, were we talking about wifi?

Worst since the monorail eh? (4, Funny)

bizitch (546406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228105)

I've sold municipal wi-fi to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum, it put them on the map!

Coincidence? I think not. (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228161)

Hmm. Lompoc introduces a municipal wireless network. Just as the city starts, the local DSL and cable providers suddenly do massive upgrades to their systems. Upgrades that the city has been asking for for years, and that the DSL and cable providers have found it infeasible to do. One wonders whether this sudden change of heart on the part of the private providers might have something to do with the failure of the wireless network, and whether those providers would have had that change of heart if it weren't for the threat of a competitor they couldn't exclude hanging over their heads.

Works great here... (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228197)

...in Lawrence, Kansas. Thanks to Lawrence Freenet [lawrencefreenet.org] , a 501c3 nonprofit, community organization, we have a wireless network covering almost the entirety of Douglas County. Downtown is one giant hotspot, local businesses have access points, and there are repeaters located on street lights, water towers, you name it. Not to mention their prices beat the local cable company, performance beats the DSL providers, and they are the ONLY provider of broadband for rural residents.

If your family can't afford the fees, they will provide the service for free and even provide you with a computer if your family can't afford that either. No ads, no secret agendas. Just a nonprofit partnership with the city to help people get connected.

No, I don't work for them, so this isn't a shameless plug. But, I was there at the beginning when we were hacking WRT54Gs to stick on street lights, making three mile long shots to test connection quality for rural customers, and getting the word out that this would be a good thing. A year and a half later, there are over 1,000 subscribers. Tell me again that municipal wi-fi is in trouble.

I'm using municipal wifi... (1)

dclozier (1002772) | more than 7 years ago | (#19228217)

But I don't have any other options if I want something other than dial-up. We live about 6 miles out of town. When SBC hooked up our phone line here at home I asked when they'd be getting DSL out to us. The technician said not in our life time. (I hope to have at least another 40 years in me) lol I don't think they are failing. It's just taking rural families some time to feel that they need something faster than dial-up. In town the municipality has to compete with SBC/Yahoo and Charter cable. Prices there start at $19.95 a month. We pay twice that for our wifi service.

Parks, librarys, schools maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19228513)

Wi-Fi would make sense for parks, librarys, and schools. Give people access where they congretate, as that's where most time would be spent.

Parks would be great because mom or dad could keep tabs on business while the kids are free to run about the playground. Likewise, other folks could login some time outdoors instead of from a stagnant and cramped office. Why not allow people to enjoy the outdoors if they can still get work done?

Librarys would be good, since it's a quiet study/research area anyways. You could save data on your own laptop instead of losing it on a public terminal. Likewise you wouldn't have to wait, or deal with whatever boogers the last person left on the public terminal keyboard. Also if you're using your own terminal, you also shouldn't be hindered by what someone thinks would be politically correct for you to view. (But this might necessitate privacy screens or something. Who knows?)

Schools would be great as well, provided enough kids could make productive use of it. It works to some extent for colleges, and similar policys could work for public schools just as well. The only downside is that such service is likely to be limited to the more affluent schools, since laptop adoption amongst lower income areas would take longer to catch up without some other assistance. To reduce slacking or less productive use, network accounts might also be limited in access based on scheduling. That way MySpace could only be accessed after class hours, but pages related to any coursework could be accessed during class time. (Some IT should be clever enough to make scheduled privalages a possibility.)

Business or residential areas would make less sense, since both those areas are likely to have their own wireless or wired networks. Why waste infrastructure on places that should be covered already?
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