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Why Municipal Wi-Fi Networks have Been Such a Flop

CowboyNeal posted about 7 years ago | from the on-the-town dept.

Wireless Networking 236

Jake Melville from Slate shot us a link to one of their stories that outlines why municipal wi-fi failed but also tells of the too-rare success stories. While cities that left their wi-fi in the hands of the private sector fell prey to the "last-mile" problem, grassroots efforts such as that in St. Cloud, FL, have blossomed.

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Long story short: (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#20779955)

It's a selling problem.

As a politician, you can't 'sell' citywide internet access as easily as you can public transport, sewer system or power. It's not one of those "must have" things, it's one of those "why should I have to pay for it" things.

It's easy to get other municipal expenses explained. Citywide public transport? Ok, you may have a car so you might not need it, but if everyone did, you'd be in jams longer. Gas? Duh. Power? Duh! Sewer system? DUH!

Internet? Huh? Interhet? Hell what do I need that for, eh? If someone wanna use it, they gotta pay it, 'k, not on my tax money!

Should we reach the point where internet access becomes so much a part of everyday life as tapwater and power in your apartment, we can talk about it. Before that, no politician would survive it, politically, to suggest blowing tax money into internet.

It could work akin to public transport, where you pay a (nominal) monthly fee, but then, in how many cities could that work? I mean, it would certainly work around here, where you still pay 50+ for 1024/256, but how about areas where companies already offer 4mbit+ for less than 30?

Re:Long story short: (5, Interesting)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | about 7 years ago | (#20780001)

I live in a gated community that opted for wireless over DSL/FiOS. I think it's been a failure because it downright sucks.

For starters, you need WAPs everywhere. At least one every 100' if you are using the smaller (12" omni) antennas. Even then, trees and rain cause severe signal loss.

Second, you need to arrange your house based on where you can get a signal. My WAP is invisible from downstairs. I have to put the PC in an upstairs bedroom. And it's not the master bedroom. Once the kids go to bed, no more PC time for adults.

I work in networking, so I was able to get a Linksys with DD-WRT and route that through the house. Less technical neighbors are SOL.

Finally, once the city starts doing the networking, competition will leave. Soon, committees will suggest getting filtering software. After all, public money can't subsidize smut. Or religion. Or hate speech. Pretty soon, the only unblocked sites will be Disney.com. What will the power users to then?

Overall, our solution works okay. I make a lot of money on the side installing boosters and antennas and routers. I also get calls constantly when the signals drop. During heavy rain, I just turn my phone off. Try explaining propagation fade to Sally Soccermom...

Get a bloody repeater, mate (4, Informative)

evilandi (2800) | about 7 years ago | (#20780173)

My WAP is invisible from downstairs.

Um... get a WiFi Repeater [wi-fiplanet.com] ?

My access point is in an upstairs bedrom. If I want direct line of sight from my shed, no signal, an old brick washhouse is in the way. So I got a thirty-quid repeater (actually just a regular access point switched into "repeater" mode) and installed that on the corner of the washhouse (in view of both the bedroom AND the shed). Now 100% signal in the shed.

There really isn't any magic to installing a WiFi repeater. Plug in to your PC, configure over a web browser with the SSID and encryption key, disconnect from your PC, plonk it somewhere where it can see both you and an original access point. Job done.

If I can figure this out in my 100-year-old farmworkers' cottage in rural England, I'm sure as hell you can figure it out in a modern US city gated community. It really, really isn't hard.

Re:Get a bloody repeater, mate (1)

ContraBass (786132) | about 7 years ago | (#20780219)

Hey,

Extrapolate that, and with a wireless bridge (WDS) between WRT-54GL types, you can even connect disjoint buildings.

Cowboy neal is a homo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780373)

homogeneous access point, lol

Re:Get a bloody repeater, mate (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#20780309)

You know that different antenna shapes broadcast to different areas? The standard monopole/whip shaped antenna on most access points produces a sort of flat, pancake shaped signal. Directly above it is probably a relatively slow signal area.

Also, the signals bounce off of metal sheets just like a mirror.

 

Re:Get a bloody repeater, mate (2, Interesting)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | about 7 years ago | (#20781035)

Well, we already pay $50 per month for wireless access. I just happened to have a WRT-54g laying around. For me, it isn't a problem.

But to tell most people that they need to purchase additional equipment; they balk at that.

Also, the provider advised that too many repeaters would just degrade the already-weak signal. I have no idea if that's true or not.

Re:Long story short: (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20781407)

>> Second, you need to arrange your house based on where you can get a signal. My WAP is invisible from downstairs. I have to put the PC in an upstairs bedroom. And it's not the master bedroom. Once the kids go to bed, no more PC time for adults.

>>I work in networking, so I was able to get a Linksys with DD-WRT and route that through the house. Less technical neighbors are SOL.

Why the contradictory statements? Either you got it to work or you didn't. And since when was DD-WRT a requirement to run a Linksys box as an AP? If you really do work in networking then I wouldn't go round bragging that you can't run WIFI in your own home, if I were you. Apologies if you live in a lead-lined mansion...

Re:Long story short: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780015)

Oh look an Opportunist post.
Here, let me give you a translation:
FRIST POST LOL LOL PWNED FIRST POST FIRST PSOST FPIST POST

Re:Long story short: (5, Insightful)

teh kurisu (701097) | about 7 years ago | (#20780069)

Should we reach the point where internet access becomes so much a part of everyday life as tapwater and power in your apartment, we can talk about it.

Was home electricity really a 'part of everyday life' before electricity generation and distribution received any substantial government investment?

Re:Long story short: (4, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | about 7 years ago | (#20780193)

Private internet providers *have* received significant amounts of government funding.

Re:Long story short: (2, Insightful)

teh kurisu (701097) | about 7 years ago | (#20780289)

I know that. Even not counting any expenditure on the backbone, the vast majority of broadband connections in the UK are ADSL, which uses the phone network installed by the nationalised Post Office Telecommunications.

The point I was trying to make was that, given the GPP's criteria - that a utility has to become 'everyday' before it should receive government funding - we would have no electricity in our houses.

Re:Long story short: (0)

DavidShor (928926) | about 7 years ago | (#20780333)

Why is that? Electricity distribution works very well without government.

Re:Long story short: (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | about 7 years ago | (#20780395)

Why is that? Electricity distribution works very well without government.


*sigh* yes, but the electrical distribution network ("national grid" in the UK) was set up with substantial government funding

Re:Long story short: (2, Insightful)

teh kurisu (701097) | about 7 years ago | (#20780415)

Erm, what uglyduckling said. I'm not against the provision of utilities by private entities (although I think it should always go through a nationalised wholesaler), but the government has a role in the setting up of the infrastructure which would otherwise be uneconomical, as a catalyst to further development.

Re:Long story short: (2, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | about 7 years ago | (#20780691)

Indeed. Much of the US would still be without power and telephone service today if it hadn't been for actions taken by the federal government. There was simply no economically viable way for private sector companies to provide such service to any place other than dense, urban areas. But as such services became more and more necessary to our way of life, those areas that didn't get it would become less and less viable as places for further development. For a government with an interest in seeing a flourishing of the country and economy, it made sense to get everyone wired in, so we subsidized heavily the process of deploying these networks. And viewed in terms of what we put in vs. the eventual tax revenue on a more robust economy, it more than paid for itself. But it required a massive public investment and a multi-decade long view to realize this. It's much like the interstate highway system. The amount of economic activity that it enables and encourages benefits everyone and almost certainly more than pays for itself, but it's really hard to quantify.

I'm skeptical about whether the Internet falls into this same category, but I do have to object to the GP's historically naive assertion an entirely private-sector approach "works" for electricity. It didn't, and it's an excellent example of how government can be a catalyst for further development that ultimately benefits us all, if it does it right. TFA is an example of how it can do it wrong...

Re:Long story short: (5, Informative)

vtcodger (957785) | about 7 years ago | (#20780651)

***Why is that? Electricity distribution works very well without government.***

Actually, no. Until the government got involved -- over the LOUD protests of the private utilities -- electrical service in rural areas was virtually non-existent. Pretty much like exactly like broadband and Wi-Fi today in fact. Read this Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rural_Utilities_Service [wikipedia.org]

Re:Long story short: (1)

DavidShor (928926) | about 7 years ago | (#20780983)

So? Why should people in rural areas have their power subsidized by people who live in cities?

Because on socialist slashdot (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | about 7 years ago | (#20781213)

Wi-fi subsidizes you!

Seriously, it seems like the majority of the basement dwellers here never met a tax-payer funded boondoggle they didn't support. It's hard to tell if that's related to age and income, or just a general inability to understand that every government project has negative unintended consequences all out of proportion to what it as to accomplish...

I'm sure we all want Internet access from an ISP with the efficiency of the DMV, the customer service of the IRS, and the privacy policies of the NSA.

No thanks, Karl

Re:Because on socialist slashdot (1)

Shajenko42 (627901) | about 7 years ago | (#20781499)

It's hard to tell if that's related to age and income, or just a general inability to understand that every government project has negative unintended consequences all out of proportion to what it as to accomplish...
Yeah, like that ARPANET nonsense. WTF was that about?

It wasn't worth it at all.

Re:Long story short: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20781321)

So they can continue to produce food for you to eat. You do like eating, don't you?

Re:Long story short: (1)

DavidShor (928926) | about 7 years ago | (#20781443)

If their food production revenue does not make up for the lack of services, farmers move to the city to do more productive things and enjoy a higher standard of living. As these farmers move, food prices go up, and this encourages food production.

I prefer to pay my farmers in money, not welfare bullshit.

Re:Long story short: (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#20781337)

Because I enjoy being able to afford my rent. What do you think will happen when people in backwater hicksville realize that everything they want is available in the large cities and won't ever come to them?

Re:Long story short: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20781341)

Because they would live in the stone age otherwise, and you would have to eat shit.

Re:Long story short: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780805)

Electricity distribution works very well without government.

Right up until the government takes away people's land to give to the guys running the wire.

Long story short:-BTing the necessities. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780717)

"Was home electricity really a 'part of everyday life' before electricity generation and distribution received any substantial government investment?"

The question concerning universal broadband is rather moot. Especially when economics dictate that one can't eat broadband, be sheltered by broadband, or drink broadband. And I doubt it's ever going to be so cheap to society that I can breath it either.

Re:Long story short: (0, Troll)

bjourne (1034822) | about 7 years ago | (#20780101)

Sucks to live in a backwater country. The rest of us are happy to download stupid Hollywood movies from Pirate Bay at 100 MBit/s using the municipal fiber network for 15$/month. :)

Re:Long story short: (3, Insightful)

Luscious868 (679143) | about 7 years ago | (#20780909)

Sucks to live in a backwater country. The rest of us are happy to download stupid Hollywood movies from Pirate Bay at 100 MBit/s using the municipal fiber network for 15$/month. :)

Those of us who live in the such a so cold "backwater country" laugh that you actually believe you're only paying $15 dollars a month when you're really paying much more than that to download those stupid Hollywood movies when you factor in the extra tax money collected from you and used to subsidize the infrastructure.

$15 dollars is a small percent of the actual cost you pay. You're just too stupid to understand that. You actually believe that when the goverment forcefully takes money from you and spends it to pay 80% of the cost of something and then charges you an additional 20% on top of that if you want to actually use what you've already partially paid for, that you're getting some kind of deal.

Good game, Earthlink (1)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | about 7 years ago | (#20780131)

Actually, TFA points out that the biggest issue seems to be that the politicians involved are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to be the leaders of a vast new public works project, but they don't actually want to fund those projects. So instead of putting together a comprehensive plan for creating and maintaining the wireless network, they just offer a particular private company a set fee to do it for them. Without a strong sense of oversight or purpose, the private company's projects never developed to the point of providing the same reliability or usefulness as a public facility. The article implies that if we want to really build a municipal network, then we're going to need to take the initiative to fully fund and operate the network at a public rather than a private level.

LEAVE MUNICIPAL WI-FI ALONE! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780587)

How fucking dare anyone out there make fun of Municipal Wi-Fi Networks after all they have been through?

All you people care about is GRASS ROOTS! GRASS ROOTS! GRASS ROOTS!

LEAVE IT ALONE! You are lucky even to have Wi-Fi you bastards! LEAVE MUNICIPAL WI-FI ALONE!

Please!

Speaking of professionalism, when is it professional to publicly bash a networking infrastructure who is going through a hard time?

Leave Municipal Wi-Fi alone, please.

LEAVE MUNICIPAL WI-FI ALONE RIGHT NOW. I MEAN IT.

Anyone that has a problem with them, you deal with me, because it is not well right now.

LEAVE IT ALONE!

I work for a municipality (3, Insightful)

porkThreeWays (895269) | about 7 years ago | (#20780661)

I work for a municipality and frankly, municipal wifi is #102,448 on our list of priorities. Why? It's SUPER expensive with very little benefit. My city has a population of almost 200,000. To cover a city of our size we'd literally need hundreds of access points @ a cost of millions of dollars. We are a technical staff of only about 10. Can you imagine 10 people being tasked with trying to maintain hundreds of access points? When you've got hundreds of anything electronic out in the field, a certain percentage is always going to be broken. So you've got this project that needs constant maintenance that's extremely expensive and resource intensive. If we're reaaaally lucky we may get 200 people using it on a regular basis. We're talking about a project of millions to benefit 200 people that probably already have internet access anyway.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather spend those millions to benefit a school and get educational software into Florida's failing schools. Or hell, open an entire new school so kids don't have to wake up an hour earlier to be bussed half way across the city. There are just so many way this money could be used better. That's why municipal wifi doesn't take off.

Re:I work for a municipality (2, Insightful)

mini me (132455) | about 7 years ago | (#20781469)

If you had municipal wifi in place you could use the network to enable the kids to learn without the need for expensive classrooms. The desire to maintain the status quo instead of looking forward to where we could be in the future is what is holding back municipal wifi.

Re:Long story short: (1)

uncledrax (112438) | about 7 years ago | (#20780985)

>As a politician, you can't 'sell' citywide internet access as easily as you can public transport, sewer system or
>power. It's not one of those "must have" things, it's one of those "why should I have to pay for it" things.

Errr...

As a politician it's harder to sell WiFi because there are many companies that already provide that service, and the infrastructure costs are not as high as something like Sewer/Water/Elec/Cable TV/Telephone.

Also.. they were looking at doing WiFi here.. the biggest problem? we're also a Tree City USA.. that means we got a TON of trees.. which is fine.. I like trees, just at the density they are, they are really good at degrading WiFi signals.

As a user on the St. Cloud system (3, Interesting)

FecesFlingingRhesus (806117) | about 7 years ago | (#20781129)

I can say that both technically and politically St. Cloud went about it the right way. The government did not sell it as an access for everyone network. They sold it as a business sector network that would encourage businesses to look at St. Cloud as a home base. For those of you not familiar with Central Florida there are a lot of outlying cities around Orlando like St. Cloud, each of these cities are trying to become the next small business sector in much the way that Winter Park did. St. Cloud positioned its network as a system to reduce the costs of opening a business in the Central Florida area and by doing so planed on the increased revenue from new businesses to offset the cost of the network. In turn this gave access to the citizens without them having to bear the brunt of the cost. The strategy was a political risk but it seems to have paid off. The network had its problems in the beginning but I currently use it daily without outages. So much so that last year I moved my phone off of a traditional line and onto SunRocket (that's another story). My call quality was excellent and I paid $200 a year for phone and nothing for internet access which used to be $70 a month for both. I believe we are now at a 77% adoption rate which I believe speaks to the opinion of the system. In all though I believe that it is all in how you position the implementation and how you sell it to the people. St. Cloud had a good strategy which paid off. It was a gamble for them but it worked out in the end.

Re:Long story short: (1)

SL Baur (19540) | about 7 years ago | (#20781159)

It's a selling problem.
Indeed. I have to believe that at least some the problems are like the current scandal over the Philippine national broadband project http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=91377 [inquirer.net]

Last week the articles were about the head of ZTE being golfing buddies with the 1st gentleman. That's always a good way to sell a network ...

Wireless coverage is very important there. The average home does not have a landline telephone, but does have at least one cellphone. Dialup and cable are simply not options.

No money = no wifi (2, Interesting)

gihan_ripper (785510) | about 7 years ago | (#20779975)

It's a no-brainer to see why municipal wi-fi wouldn't work without significant investment. I'd guess we're talking about millions of dollars even for smallish towns. And yes, the last mile (or even the last few feet) can be a real problem.

I was recently at a conference in Göttingen (Germany). My hotel room had wifi (that I paid for). Still the connection was intermittent and had tiny bandwidth, even though the router was in the hall outside. One morning, I had to start an x-terminal session to a computer at my home university to run Mathematica. The connection was so slow that I just gave up and went to use the local campus machines.

It would be nice to have free wifi, and maybe this could work as a low quality service for those who can't afford anything better, but for the moment, I can only see this happening through increased taxation, and probably only in the richer neighbourhoods.

I'd say the reality for communal wifi is that it could work on a much smaller scale to begin with. Maybe a street could pool together some money to pay for local wifi and lock it in with WPA passphrases. We might eventually see a network of these streets, building Municipal wifi one block at a time.

Re:No money = no wifi (2, Informative)

Krisbee (644227) | about 7 years ago | (#20780499)

If you meant using the X11 protocol over the public internet, you lose in most cases because of the X11 protocol design.

X11 requires good bandwidth and low latency.
If you were in Germany and assuming your university is in the U.S., the sheer latency kills X11 protocol regardless of the bandwidth.

Sun Ray, VNC, ICA(Citrix) and Remote Desktop protocols works over these links. Try one out.

Cannot be compared to college campuses (1)

Shivetya (243324) | about 7 years ago | (#20779987)

No matter how large they are they are not on the same scale as Philly or SanFran. St. Cloud covers only the 15 square miles of the city. It is on a different scale than what the other two cities proposed, let alone the fact that the archietecture of the buildings is significantly different.

College campuses can also easily curtain competition with their wi-fi where as pointed out in the article competition already exists, let alone good service, or existing offerings in major cities.

I would love a wi-fi style connection where I live, but the types of solutions being proposed don't work well outside of contained areas. Get out into the country and we are reliant on phone companies, cable, and worst case scenario we are on satellite. Now the newer wi-fi technologies look really good.

Work with the private companies that own cell towers and the like, the utilities who own the poles, and it might be feasible to use this to "wire" the country with the government's backing. I certainly don't want the government to manage it, but backing it is great idea. Basically the failed attempts did so because they tried on someone else's dime and that dime wasn't sufficient (let alone why Earthlink? They were struggling before this!)

I am still waiting for the day when the only "cable" coming into my house is for electricity, even that I would love to get rid of if zoning would permit solar panels.

Re:Cannot be compared to college campuses (1)

kakofb (725561) | about 7 years ago | (#20780037)

I like the idea of nearby major institutions (like universities, companies, government agencies, etc.) having high-powered, free wireless access for their neighbours to access.

I live within WiFi range of about three universities, four with 802.11n, and none will let me have access.
I'm a uni student, I (will) pay my HECS debt, why can't I access these networks just because I'm not a student of one of [/these/] universities?

Re:Cannot be compared to college campuses (1)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | about 7 years ago | (#20780741)

Sounds simple enough:

They're not making money off of allowing you to access it; they're losing money.

Not sure about other universities, but at UMBC [umbc.edu] , we are paying for our Wi-Fi through our tuition as a "Technology Fee."

Just because it's free as in beer doesn't mean it's truly free. Most of the time, "free" just means the cost has been somehow obscured as part of something else.

Re:Cannot be compared to college campuses (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 7 years ago | (#20780695)

***I am still waiting for the day when the only "cable" coming into my house is for electricity, even that I would love to get rid of if zoning would permit solar panels.***

The zoning thing will eventually resolve itself for most people. But I am curious about where you plan to store maybe 100KwHr of electricity as a reserve against a week of cloudy weather.

one word - cost.. (2, Interesting)

eniac42 (1144799) | about 7 years ago | (#20780011)

Whenever I have seen the costs for these sort of schemes, I wonder whether the town/council are getting value for money. I think the best way is for local government to encourage local places that have net access anyway to provide a free service, in return for support, equipment or some small subsidy, rather than the over ambitious million-dollar schemes some places try for - I doubt they get the subscriptions back to pay for it all. If that works out to be popular, then expand it..

Re:one word - cost.. (5, Interesting)

ChetOS.net (936869) | about 7 years ago | (#20780423)

I live in St. Cloud, FL. City managers tell us that our taxes are essentially $300/year lower because they provide Internet access (estimated that we would normally pay $25/month to an ISP).

However, I only know of one person who can actually get the service in his home. The WAPs are too spread out to get coverage unless you are outside. Or unless your are downtown, they have them concentrated there.

I cannot get the WiFi from my home, so I still have to pay for my own Internet access.

So, not only am I not saving those $300, I am actually spending an additional $300.

If a city is going to charge everyone in the city for a service, they better provide it to everyone in that city. Kinda like garbage service... I don't see anyone in the city not getting their garbage picked up.

I was cool with it when they only provided it downtown (the pilot program). It was sort of an economic boost for the businesses there, but it was a waste of money to deploy it for the entire city.

Re:one word - cost.. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#20780903)

Why not do this:
  • Provide WAPs to anyone who is outside the coverage area, with a set of firewall rules which will only route data from anyone on the wireless network to the Internet, and allow the user to reserve some portion of the bandwidth for the wired LAN and wireless users on a VPN. Optionally route municipal WiFi traffic via a VPN so that people can keep the same IP when they hop between WAPs on different Internet IPs, but let them connect directly if they don't want this kind of tracking, at the expense of transparent roaming.
  • Mandate that anyone selling wired broadband in the area must permit these to be installed.
  • Allow people who deploy these to count their internet connection as a tax deductible expense.
If you are in the coverage area, you just use the municipal WiFi. If you are not, then you deploy a new node, and deduct the amount it costs from your tax bill. This is how I would deploy a municipal WiFi network. The government doesn't need to deploy any of the infrastructure, they just need to provide an interoperable way for end users to do so.

Wimax is here (-1, Redundant)

wimax_geek (1163475) | about 7 years ago | (#20780023)

TowerStream is the leading wireless, business-class, high-speed broadband provider in the US. We serve Boston, Providence, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami. TowerStream was the first carrier to join the WiMAX Forum which establishes industry standards for wireless broadband interoperability. deliver high-speed Internet access to businesses without using the phone company's legacy infrastructure. Since we own our entire network and do not have to rely on the phone company for data transport. 99.999% uptime and quality of service, guaranteed in writing Fast installation, usually just 3-5 days True redundancy through a different point-of-entry to the Internet Lower cost - No Local Loop charges or taxes Scalable bandwidth from 0.5Mbps to gigabit speeds. Symmetrical service (same upload and download speeds check them out www.towerstream.com

Re:Wimax is here (-1, Flamebait)

kakofb (725561) | about 7 years ago | (#20780051)

Fuck off and spam elsewhere.

Re:Wimax is here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780149)

Good job. Replies like this just give the parent more exposure.
In fact I only saw the parent by choosing 'parent' from your comment out of curiosity - it had already been modded down.

The mods had already done their job but your reply and others undo it a little.
And yes, I understand the irony of replying to you like this but at least there's a sentence or two in this post.

Re:Wimax is here (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | about 7 years ago | (#20780095)

Does Wimax work with existing wireless hardware like wireless routers and wireless network cards, etc?

Re:Wimax is here (1)

dana340 (914286) | about 7 years ago | (#20780399)

umm.. no

Re:Wimax is here (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | about 7 years ago | (#20781171)

Interesting. So they want us to replace all our existing wireless infrastructure? Can't see that happening any time soon.

Re:Wimax is here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780491)

Unfortunately, WiMax is probably only going to be used on licensed
bands. So here comes another corporate chokehold!

Oulu, Finland, panoulu network (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780029)

I think the size of the cities also has an effect. For example here in Oulu, Finland, the panoulu [panoulu.net] network works extremely well and covers most of the city center and all of the university. On the other hand there are only around 125000 citizens. But maybe something to take a look at, many of the people behind panoulu are constantly zooming around the world at various conferences.

Re:Oulu, Finland, panoulu network (3, Informative)

Warod (1136593) | about 7 years ago | (#20781457)

Yes, PanOULU is awesome part of the public services of the city. There are over 850 PanOULU hotspots out there and counting. That's one hotspot for each ~150 people living here. Oulu is and always have been very technology oriented city. Internet access is generally better than most of the country, symmetric 10/10 mbit access for only ~50 /mo (for students even less). 100/10 mbit is about the same if you have fibre to the house and CAT5 cabling inside the house.

There is no real competition between PanOULU network and home internet access. People prefer fast internet access from home and public WLAN network comes in when you go mobile for studies, work or other activities. As a active PanOULU user I've had very positive experience of the network and it plays important part on my studies as I don't need to use time finding internet access anywhere on school, libraries or other public locations. Just open my laptop and I'm online.

They've gone so far with it, providing PanOULU hotspots in couple of bus lines as well. It's build on soon-to-be country wide Flash-OFDM network and provides constant transfer speeds around 60 kB/s (kilobytes not bits).

Whatever they say about municipal Wi-Fi failing, I tell you otherwise based on my own experience on one of the world's most advanced city networks.

The Minneapolis Rollout (5, Informative)

Melllvar (911158) | about 7 years ago | (#20780053)

Is coming along with nary a hitch, as far as I can tell. They started late last year, have a good chunk of the city up and running under it already, and should be done with the whole project by the end of the year. I don't have any real-world experience with it (I live in St. Paul), but I haven't heard anything but good about it, so far.

Seriously, the city is making setting up wifi look about as difficult as slapping together legos; I can't figure out how these other cities have managed to screw it up so badly.

And the St. Paul city government just voted to go with a fiber optic rollout for their municipal broadband. Of course, no word on where the $200+ million is going to come from to pay for it, so it's really just vaporware at the moment.

But God knows there's enough fiber laid down out there up to the curb. It's been almost ten years since they buried those suckers; might as well light plug 'em in and see how well they light up.

Re:The Minneapolis Rollout (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20781277)

A lot of people around here seem to think that city-wide wireless is going to be free. In Minneapolis, there is a fee--$19.95/mo residential, $29.95/mo for business. [minneapolis.mn.us]
 
The wi-fi has already had unforseen benefits as the new wi-fi was used during the rescue effort [computerworld.com] after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.

Re:The Minneapolis Rollout (1)

Fonzinator (939336) | about 7 years ago | (#20781401)

I just received my wireless modem (Ruckus) from USI Wireless the other day. I was rooting for this to work because I badly want to be free from Time Warner's cable internet service. I pay $45/month for a 6MB connection through Time Warner; the USI Wireless plan worked out to be around $18/month for a 3MB feed. The Wi-fi modem set up automatically on my G4 Mac, so no issues there. The bummer is, my office is in the back of my house, I'm in the middle of my block, and the wi-fi antennas on the street corners are equally far away. The resulting signal was unusable at best. Sadly, I decided to cancel my service with USI Wireless. The amount of time/trouble to get things working well isn't worth it. I hope others in my area have a better outcome. I'm THRILLED that there is increased competition with this new wi-fi network here in Minneapolis.

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada (1)

VE3OGG (1034632) | about 7 years ago | (#20780125)

While done on a much smaller scale than say San Francisco or New York, Fredericton, New Brunswick (pop. approx. 50,000 people) boasts a nearly ubiquitous WiFi network that blankets the city called Fred-eZone (http://www.fred-ezone.com/). The eZone is free for everyone and is maintained through tax dollars. Now I understand a lot of the constraints in the smaller towns and cities in the United States, especially the remote ones, however anyone who has ever been to New Brunswick will tell you it it probably one of the remotest places you can go that still boasts a full city.

Why is it that they can accomplish this (and their economy, while certainly growing in the last few years has been a small one to be sure) and the same smaller-zed cities in both Canada and the United States cannot?

Re:Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780561)

I don't know if you've used Fredericton's free-wifi, but I have, and let me tell you -- it's slow. They're forcing people to pay for this program which is relatively expensive, and it's still so slow that if I lived there I'd have to buy my own connection anyway. This is the real problem with municipal wifi; you're being forced to pay for something you probably won't want to use anyway.

Re:Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada (1)

QBasicer (781745) | about 7 years ago | (#20781357)

Fredericton's municipal Wi-Fi is amazing. After living in Fredericton for university, I went to Ottawa for the summer on a work term, and I was astounded at how hard it is to find free wifi in the national capital! Fredericton is really a model of how it should be done.

Wrong Approach (2, Interesting)

Televiper2000 (1145415) | about 7 years ago | (#20780205)

The fact is they are trying to give away for free what most people don't really care to pay for yet. There's still a general perception that wireless is not a robust and reliable system. Aside from that the people who are able to take advantage of a municipal internet system are usually the sane ones that can afford a more reliable wired connection anyway. The private sector will be investing in their own open wireless systems to give access to people working in the downtown areas. It just makes more sense to invest that money into providing better public access at libraries, community centers, schools, and local business associations (who want to provide Wi-Fi at their coffee shops etc) than an city wide wi-fi system. WI-FI isn't quite ready for prime time. Today a city wide WI-FI is noble, but it's not a practical investment.

its all rather simple (4, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | about 7 years ago | (#20780275)

the only reason municipal wifi fails is that there are too many companies desperate to get rich from providing internet access, and not at all keen on the concept of access for all unless the aforementioned 'all' pay many doller.

In the pacific there have been free wireless access rollouts that are problem free. I mean shit, if an Island can manage it, so can a city ffs.

My suspicion is that the march of technology is hampered by the greed of individuals.

Re:its all rather simple (1)

DavidShor (928926) | about 7 years ago | (#20780551)

"My suspicion is that the march of technology is hampered by the greed of individuals."

I harbor the opposite suspicion: The march of technology is almost solely reliant on greed.

its all rather extreme. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780859)

The interesting thing about greed is that it also keeps out those who wish for free services while sending someone else the bill. Sort of the opposite extreme.

Re:its all rather simple (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | about 7 years ago | (#20781383)

"My suspicion is that the march of technology is hampered by the greed of individuals."


I harbor the opposite suspicion: The march of technology is almost solely reliant on greed.

There is plenty of evidence to support both suspicions. Greed will promote or hamper the march of technology, depending on the point of view of the greedy.... The "good 'ol boys" will hamper the march of technology to limit competition, and maximize profits on current investment when possible. The new kid on the block promotes the march of technology in order to knock the "good 'ol boys" off the top of the mountain, in order to take their place. Which forces the good ol boys to innovate or die.

Of course this doesn't address the situations where greed doesn't play a part a all, again, with numerous examples. I don't really believe in altruism, but there are other reasons to innovate than money. For example, I might do something and release it into the public domain. Anyone who does this is expecting to get something they value in return. It might be something really esoteric like "contributing to the betterment of humanity" or somewhat less so like "Showing off my coding skills" or "Getting Chicks" [snicker]... but it'll be something.

It's obvious... (5, Interesting)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | about 7 years ago | (#20780325)

At first blush it sounds like a really great idea. Get a couple DSL lines, hook them to AP's, turn off all the security so everybody can access it and your golden.

However, once people realize the current limitations of AP's and how much infrastructure behind the whole thing that needs to be put into place and how much it's going to cost to put that infrastructure in place, they run screaming from the project.

Here's what a town should do...

1. Don't try to put wifi everywhere, instead focus on places like downtown. Realize that your going to have to put *some* infrastructure in, but encourage businesses to install AP's through tax incentives. Come to understand that places that you going to have to put wifi is going to be expensive because the cost of the gear (outdoor AP's are expensive)
2. For everywhere else, subsidize it. Hire someone who knows what their doing and come up with an equipment list that a household would need to become part of the wifi network. (my thinking is that it would be a specific router with a specific config). Then send mail to your local citizens offering a tax credit to anybody who installs an access point. Heck you could even purchase them in some ridiculous quanitity that you could resell to make a profit.

Note, the only thing I haven't addressed in this scenario is technical support and the fact that many telecom companies have issues with them using their service to give service to others. Though I suppose as long as your not making a profit, they really can't say much.

Just my idea.

Re:It's obvious... (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 7 years ago | (#20780449)

Mysticalfruit, it's a great idea.

The only problem is, then how are the municipal politicians going to get those fat campaign contributions from the telecoms?

That's the real problem with Muni WiFi: the companies don't like it, and we all work for the companies.

Rule #1: It has to work (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 7 years ago | (#20780327)

I tried the Santa Monica one and it sucks too much even for email checking. Its painfully slow and unreliable (at least it was a few months ago, my apologies to Santa Monica if they improved it since). If its worth the trouble and money to put it up, surely its worth a little bit more to make it good?

Re:Rule #1: It has to work (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 7 years ago | (#20780927)

***I tried the Santa Monica one and it sucks too much even for email checking.***

That's interesting. I lived many years in the area, and I't think that Santa Monica would be a near perfect candidate for municipal wi-fi. Densly populated by US standards -- around 10,000 people per square mile. Mostly flat, very few natural coverage holes except along the beach front. Highly educated, high income.

If municipal wi-fi doesn't work well there, it's probably going to have the same problems or worse in other places.

Oooh, oooh, I know! (1, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#20780397)

Is it because corporations lobby against it because it chips away at their obscene profits?

geneva switzerland is a success story (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780409)

free wifi in the city up to 512 - also free bicycle rental up to 4 hours - I can't comment for everyone but this is the sort of service that appeals to me.

http://www.freepress.net/news/25957 [freepress.net]

Does not need discussion (4, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | about 7 years ago | (#20780421)

Infrastructure that works well, cannot be duild by private companies. It requires an investor that has very long-term goals. That would, in this case, be the city. It will still be there in decades and it cannot just vanish into bankrupcy because of faulty planning. So it has a real interest in getting it right. Of course it cost money. Of course it takes time. But this is one arena where the great "private investors will do it" myth of the US fails, and badly.

Why do you think there are no collapsing bridges or ditches in Europe? Not because people there are smarter, but because the idea of planning for decades ahead has been learned by countless desasters in the past. The US settlers could have taken that lesson with them. Instead my impression is that infrastrucure is build on a level that suggests people do not really plan to stay long in one place.

Re:Does not need discussion (1)

homer_s (799572) | about 7 years ago | (#20780629)

it cannot just vanish into bankrupcy because of faulty planning

What does that mean? Does it mean that the city always plans right or does it mean that no matter how faulty the city's planning, it will not go into bankruptcy?

A bankruptcy or a loss is a sign from the market (i.e., the people who buy the product or service) that your product is not needed, is expensive or that it is inefficient. That could be because of faulty planning, poor execution, low investment, malinvestment, bad luck, bad marketing, bad timing, bad partners, poor customer service, poor hiring practices, etc, etc.

Government is not subject to this feedback - as you said it, they do not go bankrupt or take a loss. This means that they can produce inefficient goods or services and it will still stay on the market. And apologists for govt services will always cite low investment as the problem while ignoring the 1000 other things that can cause a business to fail.

Re:Does not need discussion (1, Offtopic)

BgJonson79 (129962) | about 7 years ago | (#20780753)

I thought it was because all the bridges in Europe are about 60 years old or less :-)

Though you're absolutely right, of course, that long term planning has all but disappeared in the US, and for the worse.

Re:Does not need discussion (1, Offtopic)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 7 years ago | (#20780765)

Why do you think there are no collapsing bridges or ditches in Europe?

No collapsing bridges in Europe?
Really? [wikipedia.org]
Portugal, 2001
Moscow, 2000
Spain, 2005
Germany, 1998 (train derail, overpass collapses)
etc, etc.

Re:Does not need discussion (0, Offtopic)

Scudsucker (17617) | about 7 years ago | (#20780919)

You're being disingenuous.

Portugal, 2001

Cause as yet undetermined.

Moscow, 2000

Which one? There wasn't one listed on that page.

Spain, 2005

Accident during construction.

Germany, 1998 (train derail, overpass collapses)

As you said, train derailed. So, how many bridges have collapsed in Europe because of building on the cheap and then being cheap on the maintenance?

Re:Does not need discussion (1, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 7 years ago | (#20781185)

Moscow, Dec 2000 [cnn.com] "it is thought support girders on the bridge gave way"

Germany, 1988 'error in construction'
Austria, 1976 'Concrete of the column had never been examined, was internally totally destroyed'

Bridges break. Human construction, on either side of the pond, is not infallible.

Re:Does not need discussion (1)

Wellspring (111524) | about 7 years ago | (#20780777)

I'm still trying to understand what exactly the problem is.

The Slate article seems to imply that widespread broadband isn't happening. But it is-- coverage is growing at a nice clip and while we do have the problem of only at best two major players in each market (telephone and cable providers) this is a young industry and that's to be expected. I'm trying to understand exactly what the Slate guy is asking for from a customer experience perspective. From the article:

To recover costs, the private "partner" has to charge for service. But if the customer already has a cable or telephone connection to his home, why switch to wireless unless it is dramatically cheaper or better? In typical configurations, municipal wireless connections are slower, not dramatically cheaper, and by their nature less reliable than existing Internet services. Those facts have put muni Wi-Fi in the same deathtrap that drowned every other company that peddled a new Net access scheme.
OK so what's the problem here? If customers are getting something faster, cheaper and more reliable, why does slapping a "local government" label on it make any difference? This seems to all be borne of "Government should compete with the phone company". Is that realistic, desirable or sane? I guess we could create a US Department of Lunch like the illuminati card and then bemoan our lack of municipal hamburger infrastructure because the public solution can't deliver fries like the private sector.

There is one area where municipal Wi-Fi actually isn't such a dumb idea, though. Municipalities which create robust, wide-area networks to consolidate their emergency service and public works WWANs, plus add access for city departments that typically don't get field-accessible internet. There are some real cost savings to be had doing that, mostly since these departments have redundant, mutually incompatible systems already. You get interoperability and the ability to crisis-manage for free (something the 9/11 commission argued for). In that case, you're doing something that makes sense anyway, but once your coverage footprint is in place, you can try selling or giving away the vast amounts of unused bandwidth-- usually with a proviso that you can shut them down temporarily during a public emergency to give your own services priority.

We really don't want to make the same mistake Europe did with landline phones. The US left it to the private sector (that is, the Bell system) and the Europeans tried to nationalize it, for all the great reasons the Gweihir gives. The Europeans ended up with an expensive, unreliable, tangled mess. The only good that came our of their crappy phone system was that it was so terrible that it drove Europeans to adopt wireless phones long before americans saw the need. (Of course they're so geographically concentrated that it was also just plain cheaper to set up.)

Re:Does not need discussion (1)

mcwop (31034) | about 7 years ago | (#20780945)

I do not even know where to begin with your inane comment. Come to Baltimore where you will see a city run into the ground by countless government failures. Private developers have been the one bright spot rehabilitating much of the city.

Re:Does not need discussion (1)

freedom_india (780002) | about 7 years ago | (#20781253)

And the Hoover Dam was built by GE???
What are you talking about?
NASA, USPS, Hoover Dam and lots of governmental successes exist.
Private developers are selfish hogs who would think of nothing but to rip you off $25 for a 56 Kbps line.
Government atleast is elected and the sheriff and local country knows that if they screw up a major road-laying or bridge laying, they can say goodbye to their golf clubs.
Yes larger projects like FAA get screwed up, but middle and smaller ones succeed where private would not even touch (like broadband to rural areas in midwest).
Comcast would place an arbitrary limit on your download without telling you.
The Govt. will respond to a FOIA and tell you exactly why it is blocking you.
Comcast will respond with a "fcuk off".

Go Figure.

Re:Does not need discussion (1)

sheldon (2322) | about 7 years ago | (#20781279)

Wi-Fi infrastructure isn't something you can build long-term. The specifications change about every 3 years still. So we did have b, now we're up to g, and n is pretty damn close to being final.

I generally got the impression that the reason why municipal wi-fi doesn't work is largely because it's a solution in search of a problem. When we really know what problem we're trying to solve, then we can put something in place.

Think (1)

kurtis25 (909650) | about 7 years ago | (#20780463)

It could be the usual suspect: politicians don't know much about technology so their decisions dealing with muni wi-fi aren't always sound. TFA compares muni wi-fi to trash pick up in a few passing comments. In my fine city the trash is done two private companies who contract with the city. I've often found consumer end Internet connections to be the same way. In my neighborhood we have 1 trash choice (we can get our own or use the other but it will cost us more) we can choose from 2 internet companies, if we use one of those high speed internet look up tools we are told that Verizon serves our area, we can also get ATT. This setup is a remnant of old and crappy city contracts with these companies. I can use other companies but my price about doubles. That being said internet is like trash but not neccesaraly like this guys trash. My taxes don't pay trash I get a trash bill in the mail (dumb I know) I also get an internet bill or internet blackmail as the case may be.

WiFi security (3, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 7 years ago | (#20780513)

Would you give up your current home or work connection completely and use the muni WiFi for all your needs? Banking, paying bills, etc. Knowing the security issues of WIFi? I don't think I would.
So if I'm going to pay for a personal access anyway, tell me why should I be thrilled at paying into the cities 'free' WiFi scheme?

it can work (1)

v1 (525388) | about 7 years ago | (#20780517)

The neighboring city has a public utility that does power, cable TV, and cable modem internet. They have been placing wireless access points all over the place for the last several years, mostly on street lights in the downtown area. If you have a laptop out at a cafe downtown you are almost guaranteed internet service.

It's not city-wide by any means, but it's where it's needed.

What about lawsuits (4, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | about 7 years ago | (#20780607)

This article makes a simplistic argument but leaves out one other key reason: lawsuits. The big communication companies didn't just have an infrastructure in place for providing bandwidth, they had a litany of lawyers that often descended upon the municipality to attempt block them from providing these services.

anonymity and public wifi (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780709)

I would consider using a public wifi system, but how much anonymity will it provide?

The primary attraction for me is that I could download content that would normally
have the police kicking my door down because of public hysteria created by
mouth-breather, soccer-mom types.

I think many, many people feel the same way I do. We live in an age when downloading
a couple images can land you in prison for years and years. Public wifi seems like
a possible solution.

it doesn't work (1)

m2943 (1140797) | about 7 years ago | (#20780789)

I spent a lot of time and effort trying to get Internet access through WiFi when I didn't have DSL or cable coverage.WiFi didn't solve the "last mile problem" for the simple reason that it doesn't go a mile under real-world circumstances. Not even half a mile. In the real world, you're lucky if a single AP can be seen from a few potential users up and down the street. And neither the hardware nor the software or band allocations were meant for anything else.

Why muni WiFi *should* fail (4, Insightful)

BillEGoat (50068) | about 7 years ago | (#20780879)

Muni WiFi shoud fail for the sake of free speech. It's always boggled my mind to see the amount of support on /. for muni WiFi. With the general (and healthy) distrust of government in this forum, why should we desire to ask a government to own and operate a primary channel of the public's communication? Do you really want mayors and governors loyal to the Bush administration to have significant say in who has access to look inside your internet connection?

Re:Why muni WiFi *should* fail (1)

superdude72 (322167) | about 7 years ago | (#20781045)

Do you really want mayors and governors loyal to the Bush administration to have significant say in who has access to look inside your internet connection?

You're right. It's much safer to have your Internet connection controlled by an amoral multinational corporation. You realize, of course, that the telecoms are lobbying to have themselves granted immunity [msn.com] for illegal wiretaps they facilitated on behalf of the Bush administration?

Mayors and governors, in a functioning democracy at least, are accountable to their constituents. AT&T is accountable to its shareholders.

Re:Why muni WiFi *should* fail (1)

BillEGoat (50068) | about 7 years ago | (#20781249)

Mayors and governors, in a functioning democracy at least, are accountable to their constituents.

Are you implying that the Bush administration is a functioning democracy? <ducks>

Seriously, though, you have to account for the fact that eventually a group of people ideologically opposed to you will assume power in the government. These are the people you may unwittingly give the power to monopolize your communications. With private corporations at least I have choice and competition. With rare exception, in places where muni WiFi seems to make sense there's competition for internet access. It is not likely that a single private corporation will assume a full monopoly in these markets. If you don't like the policies of one provider, use another.

Need I point out a particular current event [google.com] that illustrates the power that government can wield over communication?

I'm happy to see it flop! (3, Insightful)

superdude72 (322167) | about 7 years ago | (#20780917)

As a San Francisco resident and Earthlink subscriber, I'm delighted the Wifi proposal flopped. First, as an Earthlink subscriber I knew they wouldn't deliver. Second, it was just another of these public/private partnerships that have been all the rage for the past 30 years or so, and which almost invariable promise the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget and then vanishes from everyone's consciousness. Building a public wifi network is really not that ambitious an undertaking. The Earthlink proposal was to cost how much? $20 million? That's a pittance for the city of San Francisco, which has an annual budget of more than a billion dollars. And that's to build the network, not for annual maintenance, which presumably would cost much less. It was absolutely pitiful that Gavin Newsom gave away such an important piece of infrastructure to a private company for such a puny sum. And it's because he's the sort of New Democrat that emerged in the '90s, beholden to corporate interests and afraid to be associated with anything that might smack of the Old Democrats--ie, the New Deal and the Great Society Democrats. Well, I wish he'd lose that fear. The New Deal produced the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. At the height of the Great Depression. Not bad, hm? If we'd had New Democrats running things back then, we'd probably all still be paying dearly to commute on private ferry services, because God forbid government try to do anything to make peoples' lives better when there is potential for private companies to make a profit.

Municipal wifi is so cheap that there really is no reason we couldn't do that *and* build a fiber-optic network; I mean, it's an order of magnitude cheaper so why not do both. Fast networks are already crucial infrastructure, and will be even more so, particularly in a city that considers itself a capital of high tech. Private industry isn't going to get it done. So just step up and *lead* already. I can't believe I live in a rich, densely populated, supposed high-tech capital and the best broadband I can get for less than $100 a month is this shitty 1.5Mbps/384Kbps DSL!

Re:I'm happy to see it flop! (1)

superdude72 (322167) | about 7 years ago | (#20781219)

PS,
Despite admitting alcohol abuse and an affair with a subordinate, Gavin Newsom is a shoe-in to win the next election. He doesn't really need to suck up to the corporate money. I think it's just instinctive for him to do so.

My Philadelphia Wireless experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20780967)

I was a pleased (!) Comcast subscriber for quite a few years. Well, around 3 weeks ago there was a storm while I was at work, and when I came back home, the cable was out. I called to get the problem fixed, but when the nice man came out he informed me he could not reconnect the cable because he could not reach something called the "tap," as there was a small forrest growing in front of and over it (my landlord had let the back lawn turn into a jungle over the course of many years of neglect - I never even saw it until the cable guy showed me).

So, while I'm waiting to get that problem fixed, I figure I'd give Philadelphia Wireless a shot.

Put simply, it sucks. I get a moderately strong signal from one of my windows, but the modem seems to just up and lose it semi-frequently, just drops from 3-4 bars to 0, every half hour or so, for as long as 5-10 minutes. Even when the signal is stable, the connection still frequently chokes - all attempts to access websites spit up timeout errors, and may or may not do so again if I reload. Downloading any actual files is IMPOSSIBLE - the connection only semi-works for things like webpages. Downloading any sort of binary will result in a dead connection after about 30k worth of download.

In short, I am returning this garbage as soon as the cable guy reconnects the cable this weekend. I'll have to ship it back on my own dime - even though I was told there would be a prepaid return label with the modem, there wasn't, surprise surprise.

What? (1)

Igarden2 (916096) | about 7 years ago | (#20781005)

Spend public money so that Junior can download pr0n at high speed? I think not !

That's only the tip of the iceberg.... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 years ago | (#20781017)

The troubles will begin once WiFi is actually deployed.

What you'll find then is that the general population is bunch of selfish, bandwidth-hogging pigs. Everybody and his dog will be using it for P2P file copying.

Wrong technology for this application. (3, Interesting)

zerofoo (262795) | about 7 years ago | (#20781027)

802.11 networks were never designed for large area deployments. Wi-Fi was designed to be used in short range applications - a nice convenience that augments the functionality of a wired LAN.

I've done a few medium-size wireless deployments and the core problem with 802.11 is that you need to drag a wire to each access-point....and in a city, you need a lot of access-points. Management of these huge networks is a solvable problem (Meru and Cisco have done a pretty good job with that).

Sure there are mesh-network technologies like Ricochet (remember them?), and WiMax is around the corner - these technologies are actually designed to cover very large areas to minimize the amount of access-points and cable runs. These technologies might be more promising.

In the end, municipalities need to fork over the cash, and implement the correct technology to make this succeed. Without cash and good decisions, these wi-fi projects are doomed.

-ted

Re:Wrong technology for this application. (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | about 7 years ago | (#20781449)

You are absolutely correct.

The biggest problem with Wi-Fi is that you need way too many transceivers to make it work on a municipal scale, and that adds up to costly problem of the the excess complexity of controlling and maintaining a large number of transceiver spots.

WiMAX--which is about to go to large-scale applications within the next 18 months--needs only a few transceiver towers to cover an entire city. That right there saves a lot of money since you only need to maintain and control a few transceiver towers.

wisp coops are the way to go (4, Informative)

gordona (121157) | about 7 years ago | (#20781227)

Some neighbors and I started a wireless coop about 5-6 years ago in the mountains west of Boulder CO (http://www.mric.coop). We have about 500 subscribers at $50/month and cover an area of several hundred square miles. While there are some commercial WISPs in the area, it is difficult to see how they have a viable business plan. We have a very limited number of paid employees and most of the work is done by volunteers. The mountainous terrain with lots of trees makes it impossible to have 100% coverage. Additionally, we are finding out that 802.11b, while a good way to get started, relatively cheaply, has severe limitations, causing poor performance for a number of subscribers. We are considering changing at least part of our infrastructure to Motorola Canopy gear. In order to get coverage, we have several T-1 lines at different locations interconnected to each other and other APs by a wireless backhaul. Of course the problem with 802.11b is that while there are 11 channels (in the US) to use, only 3 are non-overlapping. Even using vertical and horizontal polarities for distribution, interference is still a big problem. So far we have been able to work out cooperation agreements with the commercial wisps so that we don't interfere with each other, since such activity would have nasty consequences for everyone. We were able to pay off our initial investment of $30-40K, in about 3 years and are debt free with a positive cash flow.

Missing phase two (0, Redundant)

wizzard2k (979669) | about 7 years ago | (#20781251)

Phase 1: Build WiFi
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Profit!

Why Wifi failed (1)

rconaway (1001967) | about 7 years ago | (#20781283)

There is nothing wrong with the concept of municipal Wifi. It even has the potential to succeed if people with the most basic concept of business sense and municipalities with employees that understand the concept of efficiency and profit and loss would actually work together. The first problem with Municipal Wifi was both the fault of government and Metrofi. Whoever came up with the idea of "free" Wifi or limited "free" Wifi should have been slapped immediately. nothing is free. Revenue needs to come from somewhere. We got out of the market when these financial brainiacs put this concept out. Every city wanted free. Now what they have is a bunch of companies out of business and a bad name. I don't see Qwest, Cox, Comcast, or any one of the other broadband companies being asked to give free service over wires. What I can't believe is that investors actually believed the financial fairy tale models that thought free anything or advertising revenue would pay for all this. PT Barnum was right. We just need to couch it in technical mumbo jumbo. The reality is that there are business models that make this a success. Efficiency improvements, better security options, and more capabilities easily cover a large percentage of the costs from a government side. From a private sector side, the old adage of "If you build it,they will come" stupdity didn't work for the fiber industry 20 years ago. However, I believe that there is a solution that I'm putting to the test. Only time will tell if I'm right.

Hasn't Failed Everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20781311)

What my city has done (I live in kitchener waterloo) is instead of making it city wide they put free wi-fi just in our uptown strip. I know its not very much but I can go everywhere from the christian book shop to the LCBO and get free wifi for my laptop or other wireless devices!
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