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ISPs Losing Interest In Citywide Wireless Coverage

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the too-busy-monitoring-traffic dept.

Wireless Networking 98

The New York Times is running a story about how hope is fading for the implementation of municipal wireless access in cities across the US. Major cities and small towns alike are finding that ISPs are withdrawing from such plans due to the low profitability of ventures that are similar to Philadelphia's incomplete network. We've previously discussed Chicago's and San Francisco's wireless status, and also some of the stumbling blocks other cities have faced. From the Times: "In Tempe, Ariz., and Portland, Ore., for example, hundreds of subscribers have found themselves suddenly without service as providers have cut their losses and either abandoned their networks or stopped expanding capacity. EarthLink announced on Feb. 7 that 'the operations of the municipal Wi-Fi assets were no longer consistent with the company's strategic direction.' Philadelphia officials say they are not sure when or if the promised network will now be completed."

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Please visit link (0, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22835834)

I realize the irony in posting a link to this [jt.org] , but the sentiment holds.

Goatse (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22835856)

Goatse. [twofo.co.uk] [goatse.ch]

You nerds love it.

Not really surprising (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22835854)

WiFi just isn't a good technology for ubiquitous Internet, which is what they want to be providing. It's fine for covering a coffee shop, but for this kind of scheme to be cost-effective they need to cover at least a city block with a single access point.

They're facing competition at both ends. They can't sell the service as 'Internet access in that place where you really want it' because often 'that place' already has free WiFi. They can't sell it as 'Internet access everywhere' because they don't have the coverage and their competitors, the mobile phone companies, do. Always-available Internet via my mobile phone costs about the same, per month, as via my cable modem (albeit with slower speeds and much smaller caps). For people who are willing to pay for Internet to be available all the time, that's a much better option than WiFi.

Re:Not really surprising (2, Interesting)

Erwos (553607) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836126)

Very true. City-wide WiFi makes very little sense given how US cell providers are trying quite hard to roll-out 3G/3.5G/4G services. Right now, those are a little on the expensive side, but competition and better technology will eventually drive them lower.

Hotspots are a bit more sensible, but I still think those will eventually disappear with ubiquitous cell phone data coverage.

Re:Not really surprising (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836540)

Hotspots are a bit more sensible, but I still think those will eventually disappear with ubiquitous cell phone data coverage.

Everyone keeps talking about the death of the hotspot, but they are busier than ever. However, only as a value add... Look in any Panara Bread and tell me the hotspot is struggling. Any hotel. The hotspot is alive an well, but the paid model is struggling. Even Starbucks with the new AT&T is free for many people.

AT&T to the rescue? No way. (0, Troll)

inTheLoo (1255256) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836582)

Why do people think that hotspots will die because of increased cell phone coverage? Does anyone really think that the winners of the most expensive spectrum fraud ever [slashdot.org] want to do more than charge you every nickel and dime they can per byte? I don't and as long as the same players are not allowed to dominate the wired network, hotspots will be a cheaper and more convenient way to get on line when you travel.

The FCC is no longer needed, only open spectrum [reed.com] will give you the service you want.

Re:AT&T to the rescue? No way. (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836670)

About 20 years ago, the first mobile phone service in Britain was something called Hutchison Rabbit, which only worked from hotspots. That dissapeared rapidly when the cell phone companies started offering city-wide coverage on 1st generation analogue networks.

Re:AT&T to the rescue? No way. (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22838168)

which (i assume) was paid vs. paid. this is going to be paid vs. free. question being : will "available everywhere*, but pay for" win over "available in many places, but free"?

Re:AT&T to the rescue? No way. (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842170)

which (i assume) was paid vs. paid. this is going to be paid vs. free. question being : will "available everywhere*, but pay for" win over "available in many places, but free"?
More like Tracked vs Anonymous

~Dan

Re:Not really surprising (1)

Qwavel (733416) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836294)


I agree with you about the prospects for ubiquitous WiFi now, but I don't agree with you that WiFi just isn't the right technology.

With time and experience, the coverage problems were resolved. And the cost of rolling out these networks was quite low - tiny compared to the costs of rolling out the 3G networks.

On the other hand, even the technically successful municipal networks were experiencing very poor uptake.

Re:Not really surprising (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836422)

With time and experience, the coverage problems were resolved. And the cost of rolling out these networks was quite low - tiny compared to the costs of rolling out the 3G networks
Coverage is an easy problem to solve. You just need a lot of access points. A really, really, large number, in fact. Walking around campus, I see access points in almost every room. Looking into the distance, I can see the cell tower that gives coverage to the campus and most of the city. Individual access points might be cheaper than cell towers, but the amount needed to cover a given area aren't when you factor in the cost of wiring them all up and the cost of sending someone out to fix them when they are damanged (much easier to secure and diagnose faults with fewer towers). Since WiFi uses unregulated spectrum, you also have to put up with the fact that microwaves, private access points, and so on can all interfere with your network. If someone starts jamming your UMTS tower then you can get them arrested.

Re:Not really surprising (1)

ponraul (1233704) | more than 6 years ago | (#22840512)

I'm posting from Feather(tm) in Philadelphia.

The only way to describe the experience is that it is like paying $21.95 a month for stealing your neighbor's wireless: most pages end up timing out, and forget about anything that requires low latency. Sshing or mstscing is out of the question.

If done right, municipal wireless could be fantastic. But, it seems that a intentionally half-harted effort was made to burn people off of the idea.

Why not WiMax instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22837532)

WiFi just isn't a good technology for ubiquitous Internet, which is what they want to be providing.

Agreed, why aren't they concentrating on WiMax instead?

Profits (1, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22835896)

They wont be able to screw the consumer hard enough with what is basically free and open. ISP's want that pay per byte contract and are drooling for when they can bring it back.

Re:Profits (4, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22835982)

That's exactly it. Capitalism hates plenty, and it will destroy it when it finds it.

Re:Profits (3, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836184)

Parent was modded as funny, but its the one of the main reasons Tesla's wireless power transmission never got serious funding and interest by investors.

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

However, in 1903, when the tower structure was near completion, it was still not yet functional due to last-minute design changes. Tesla intended for the tower to demonstrate how the ionosphere could be used to provide free electricity to everyone without the need for power lines. Morgan, who could not foresee any financial gain from providing free electricity to everyone, balked. Construction costs eventually exceeded the money provided by Morgan, and additional financiers were reluctant to come forward.

And the fact that WWI broke out didn't help either...

Even if he could get it working on a mass scale, there was no way to tell if people were using it for free or how much they were using. I suppose in retrospect they could have put a meter on the other side of the customer power receiver, but the way Tesla envision is that the devices would be independent so putting a meter on each and every light bulb would be impractical.

With wireless, they can at least track mac addresses and force a radius login, but it still has similar problems so its easy to see why businesses are reluctant to move forward with it.

Re:Profits (1)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836524)

I'd personally would prefer less extra energy being transmitted through the air, but that isn't going to happen.

Plenty of problems besides physical, there's the actual business plan and the business you'd be competing against.

Free wifi - small and large non-broadband ISPs put out of business in no time.
Security of financial gains (same as Tesla) - black market receivers or spoofed mac addresses. People sharing or stealing premium accounts.
Cell phone companies - In my area, for $59.99+ you get Sprint Mobile Broadband Network* (avg 600 kbps - 1.4 mbps download, 350 kbps - 500 kbps upload) While not super cheap, that's not prohibitively expensive either.

Re:Profits (1)

AntiPasto (168263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836756)

Two questions: 1. Could his idea work? I just uh, have a device that gets power from the air where-ever? No, uh, destruction of the human race? 2. If it cost a kabillion, ultimately, should we care? Or, is this what we really want/need? 3. Isn't this really an amazing inventor's last years doing some kind of "it's coming real soon now, boss" kind of thing?

Re:Profits (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22839674)

The point of his invention wasn't that it gave you free power in unlimited supply, it was that it allowed you to tap into the power of the Niagra Falls dam from anywhere on the earth without the need to create any transmission infrastructure. How much is it worth to stop building and maintaining those structures? How much is it worth to get all that metal back and have the opportunity to use it elsewhere? How many natural sources of power would become practical to exploit where they previously were not?

That was the promise of Tesla and his invention. The reason we don't have it? You can't put a meter on it. That's it, that's all, thanks for coming out, if we can't take it away from people when we want and leave them in the dark, we're not interested in it.

Re:Profits (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#22839900)

"That was the promise of Tesla and his invention. The reason we don't have it? You can't put a meter on it."
Ummm...
No the reason that we don't have it is that it doesn't and can not work.
It is based on physics that just don't work.
Tesla was brilliant but he was also a crack pot.

Re:Profits (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22840828)

http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/ [alaska.edu]

Tell them that. For something based on physics that don't work, they sure seem to be spending a lot of time and effort working on it.

Re:Profits (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#22841482)

They are not trying to make a practical wireless power tranmistion system!
Maybe you should read the website you posted.

"Program Purpose

HAARP is a scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes.

The HAARP program is committed to developing a world class ionospheric research facility consisting of:

        * The Ionospheric Research Instrument (IRI), a high power transmitter facility operating in the High Frequency (HF) range. The IRI will be used to temporarily excite a limited area of the ionosphere for scientific study.
        * A sophisticated suite of scientific (or diagnostic) instruments that will be used to observe the physical processes that occur in the excited region.

Observation of the processes resulting from the use of the IRI in a controlled manner will allow scientists to better understand processes that occur continuously under the natural stimulation of the sun.

Scientific instruments installed at the HAARP Observatory will be useful for a variety of continuing research efforts which do not involve the use of the IRI but are strictly passive. Among these studies include ionospheric characterization using satellite beacons, telescopic observation of the fine structure in the aurora, and documentation of long-term variations in the ozone layer. "

It is a radio transmitter but that is about all that it shares with Tesla's dream system.

Re:Profits (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836758)

its the one of the main reasons Tesla's wireless power transmission never got serious funding and interest by investors.

It couldn't have been because broadcast power was a crackpot idea even when it came from the mind of a Tesla.

How much power would have had to be pumped into these towers to supply a relatively compact suburban population of five or six thousand households?

Re:Profits (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 6 years ago | (#22838952)

its the one of the main reasons Tesla's wireless power transmission never got serious funding and interest by investors.

It couldn't have been because broadcast power was a crackpot idea even when it came from the mind of a Tesla.

How much power would have had to be pumped into these towers to supply a relatively compact suburban population of five or six thousand households?

Wireless power transmission via ionosphere wave guiding and earth return could work. There is nothing unsound about that part. It is quite possible he was more successful in his limited demonstrations than people give him credit for. The problem is that obviously no more power could be exacted from the system than is supplied into it, so it is no free lunch. Further, there would be transmission losses, due to a large variety of reasons (anything that happens to absorb the frequency used for example, as well as the small amount of waves escaping the planet. And then consider the fact that is would mean sending extremely high amplitude radio waves around the world. There is evidence from his existing research that this can have undesired side effects including atmospheric side effects. We have no idea what if any impact such high amplitude waves would have on the human body. Also consider the impact that microwaves have on unshielded electronics (they tend to fry), it is not implausible that this could have a similar effect. So it is unrealistic, unworkable, and probably undesirable due to side effects.

Re:Profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22837464)

Capitalism hates plenty, and it will destroy it when it finds it.


How did this manage to get modded "funny"? It is insightful and sad.

Re:Profits (4, Insightful)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836114)

Free and open? "Open" I can understand, but "free"? Where did you get that idea? Even when I was in school I paid for access via tuition. Government supported access isn't "free" either, you just don't pay directly. Nothing is free.

Although I'm no fan of corporate greed somebody, somewhere has to pay for the service.

Re:Profits (2, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836136)

Free means unrestricted, not "brought to you by magic faeries."

The opposite of free isn't "expensive", it's "controlled".

Money has no meaning beyond self-aggrandizement when there's enough to meet everyones needs.

Re:Profits (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837108)

An idiot can easily understand the distinction between free speech and free beer, however the title is clearly "profits", which implies money and not control. Pehaps I should have used smaller words?

You have an interesting attitude toward money. I wonder how radically your attitude will change once you start working for a living.

Re:Profits (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22839502)

There is no distinction between free speech and free beer. They are the same. The distinction is a con. Capitalism hates plenty, because you can't sell something that is plentiful. So organizations either restrict supply, or reduce production, or if necessary buy laws preventing unrestricted supply, all in an effort to achieve control and leverage. Which is what money is an abstraction of.

Oh, and I've been working for a living for 17 years. I've worn A LOT of different shoes in that time, which is probably why I'm not so naive as you about these things.

Re:Profits (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22841374)

Oooook. Next.

Re:Profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22836176)

The air i breathe is free....

Re:Profits (1)

Nullav (1053766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836770)

Damnit, nobody ever thinks of the plants. :(

Re:Profits (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836712)

Im fully aware that nothing truly free in this world. ( even if its not monetary, effort is required )

In this case I'm using the word "free" as in no separate bill and unlimited use. You just turn on and tune in, so to speak. Its a 'practical' definition of the word free. Of course for visitors to the city, it would be even more free for them. ( and yes, i know they would be paying sales taxes on their meals, bla bla bla, but lets not split hairs too far here ).

Yes, it can be Free (for the public) (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837342)

... as long as the city isn't run by idiots and/or politicians who have been bought out by he local ISP conglomerates.

In my city [fred-ezone.com] , which had the foresight to not only build a municipal WiFi network but also run it themselves without profit-mongering corporate overlords, the municipal network not only breaks even, it makes a net profit. This is because the same infrastructure that powers the municipal WiFi (the city-wide fibre-optic ring), has oodles of extra capacity, which the city leases to local companies, which funds the maintenance and expansion of the wireless network for the public.

As such, the city is it's own ISP, and actually competes with the local telco for broadband ISP access with local companies.

It may not be commercially viable, but communally (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 6 years ago | (#22835914)

If they think there isn't money to be made (and can't figure out the potential of giving cable/DSL subscribers free WLAN access on the road as an extra, much like Fon [fon.com] does), well, then, as has been proposed years ago, just let someone else do the job, such as the Baptists [pbs.org] .

TANSTAAFL - where muni access makes sense (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22835980)

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Municipal-supplied Internet makes sense only where
1) there would be a demand at a particular price, and private enterprise is not capable or willing to offer it at that price, or
2) where a government-sanctioned monopoly is necessary to generate such a demand.

The first generally requires a taxpayer subsidy. The second would mean outlawing wireless or both wireless and wired Internet access citywide except through the government-granted monopoly. This is the case with many utilities and was the case for telecommunications and cable TV for a long time, but it's too late to do that with WiFi. WiMax may get monopoly treatment but it won't be municipalities handing out the franchises.

City-supported free or discount WiFi makes the most sense in publicly owned buildings and park and recreation areas, schools, libraries, tourist attractions, and possibly in poor neighborhoods where the city deems it "in the public interest" to provide discount or free Internet service. In the latter it may make more sense to simply subsidize DSL service on a per-customer basis. It might also make sense in some commercial districts and shopping centers. For other places, technologies like G3 cell phones are eliminating the need at the high end and there isn't enough of a demand a the low end to support the expense.

Re:TANSTAAFL - where muni access makes sense (3, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836312)

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

True, but think of it as "city trash pickup". Of course, a city could just require by law everyone to take their own trash to the landfill like some rural areas, but if it was deemed important enough they could instead have a referendum to raise a tax (sales, property, or income) to pay for weekly trash pickup.

Now some city dwellers may balk at the idea because they can just take the trash to the landfill themselves and save the tax money, but most cities don't work like that so their only recourse is to fight the referendum or city hall legislation. If it passes, the trash pickup truck comes once and week and picks up garbage on the sidewalk regardless of who put it there (could be someone out of town though probaly illegal if they did it regularly) and pick up any amount (some cities have limits of what they pick up but they generally don't go out and report if you left one bag or 5) and they still come by your street even if you didn't put out a bag.

The same thing with Wifi, if a city deems it a reasonable service they can levy a tax and put it to a referendum. If the citizens don't like it they can vote against it, but if it passes then its just like garbage pickup. Not everyone will use it like everyone else (if at all... personally some weeks I'm hard pressed to even put a single trash bag out but I still pay the city tax for trash pickup) and its also going towards out of towners coming into the city and throwing their cups into public trash cans.

So no... Its not a free lunch, but its fine if a city wants a service paid for by tax. You don't see Waste Management complaining that the government holds a monopoly on trash pickup services. Now the service is most likely subcontracted out to the lowest bidder, but in effect it is a monopoly for that city.

The problem with most of these city ones like the Earthlink one in Philadelphia is that they are treating it and expecting income like a regular ISP which intends to make a profit.

It would have been better if Philadelphia had a referendum to use some of the city wage tax to go for free wifi and then explained to Earthlink how much of the taxes they would get rather than expected income from monthly services from individuals who may or may not cancel their account next month.

Re:TANSTAAFL - where muni access makes sense (4, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836528)

Except that there is no penalty for everyone else if you don't provide tax-funded WiFi. If you don't collect the garbage, there will be a certain group of individuals who don't take their trash to the landfill, but just throw it out the window (see: 12th century Europe). So far, there doesn't seem to be a penalty to the city for not providing WiFi. That COULD change in the future, but it seems unlikely.

Most taxpayers don't want to see their money going to subsidize a few people who want to use a laptop in the park, even if that's not really the point. And using anything other than a property tax that included business property wouldn't be fair to people who don't live in the area (you mentioned a wage tax - which is almost always a death sentence for local job growth in a struggling economy).

If these municipalities were really serious, they would partner with someone who already has a wide area network in place (like Verizon or Comcast in the case of Philadelphia). For them, it would be incremental revenue, not primary. Pay them enough to get a couple of techs trained to maintain the system, give them some manner of exclusivity and limited liability, and DON'T make them provide end-user tech support. However, the muni could (and should) demand coverage minimums, QOS/uptime requirements, "openness" etc.

Of course, that would require one to admit that networking is hard, expensive, and low margin.

Re:TANSTAAFL - where muni access makes sense (1)

MousePotato (124958) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837656)

Where I live the free wifi came about as a very nicely negotiated deal by the city and the company that provides wifi for the local departments and emergency services. In the RFP that was put out for bid, part of the contract to provide a secure wireless network (for police, fire, rescue, building dept., and code compliance) the city insisted that the provider arrange for Free public wifi for the whole city. They just finished testing and are starting roll-out this month. We'll see how it goes. I can see one of the access points about 30feet from my balcony and the signal is 100%. More info can be gleaned here [miamibeachfl.gov]

Re:TANSTAAFL - where muni access makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22844342)

I don't understand why 50%+ of residents in the city are willing to pay $40-$50/month ($500-$600/year) to some ISP company each year, when if muni wifi was done right, it would be a one time setup fee of about $25-$50 per person and about $10-$20 year after that.

If you setup mesh netowrks of Linksys routers that will connect to each of your neighbors and hop until it gets to the main pipe would be enough for 90%+ of users. I know I spent $45 dollars on my router and have free internet from my neighbor and it works just fine.

The other gamers/businesses/servers that need it could pay for a direct link.

Re:TANSTAAFL - where muni access makes sense (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836488)

Municipal-supplied Internet makes sense only where
1) there would be a demand at a particular price, and private enterprise is not capable or willing to offer it at that price, or
2) where a government-sanctioned monopoly is necessary to generate such a demand. ...
3) the electricity/gas/water counters in the buildings can be read wirelessly, (you fire lots of people going from house to house right now)
4) Street/traffic lights can be connected that way
5) Speeding/traffic light violation cameras etc
6) Public transport informations (bus arrivals/delays reporting at every stop)
7) Traffic/parking information boards updating
tons of other stuff that's done right now by running a cable to each and every destination.

whatcouldpossiblygowrong (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22839690)

3) the electricity/gas/water counters in the buildings can be read wirelessly, (you fire lots of people going from house to house right now)
4) Street/traffic lights can be connected that way
5) Speeding/traffic light violation cameras etc
6) Public transport informations (bus arrivals/delays reporting at every stop)
7) Traffic/parking information boards updating
tons of other stuff that's done right now by running a cable to each and every destination.
I'll give you 3 and read-only versions of the rest, but wireless "write" for traffic-control, signs, etc. is just asking for a denial of service attack or worse.

Sure, you could do it wirelessly and do it right, but there are security issues that must be addressed that are much less of a problem if these devices are controlled through a closed-circuit wire. Encryption helps but it's just a start.

Even read-only introduces privacy issues for #3, particularly if the meter is on private property and not visible from public property.

Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842502)

Even read-only introduces privacy issues for #3, particularly if the meter is on private property and not visible from public property.

Lots of countries have that (mine included), only with proprietary radio, where a car runs through the streets reading the meters. So I guess anybody could analyze that when the car runs through and read my water meter.

Just a few more Linksys users (4, Funny)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836012)

If there were just a couple more Linksys users in every neighborhood, we'd have city-wide access in every city in America! From my house right now, I "see" eight wireless signals. The three that are unsecured are all labeled "Linksys".

Re:Just a few more Linksys users (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836320)

This is true and advertiser could even help foot the bill for proof of access point usage. So yeah it can be very profitable, no doubt.

But then we have things like the RIAA and kiddy porn FBI tactics http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/20/2323247 [slashdot.org] and telcos violations of privacy at the request of some government official...that work against this sort of open unsecured access.

I think the backing down of such plans is evidence of things to come, regarding the genuine reasons for such a change in support. VS the publicized reasons.

Re:Just a few more Linksys users (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837404)

Yes, but it's always such a hassle when wardriving to have to go in and secure all those signals.

- RG>

I still believe (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22836044)

I still believe that city-wide WiFi is an achievable and useful thing, but only if it is provided by the people for the people. The amount of work and the cost for any individual who allows the public to connect to the internet through an already existing wireless access point is very low and the benefit of being able to use other people's access points for free is high. Politicians should not seek to fund commercial WiFi deployments. They should provide legal protection to people who share their network connection with the public.

Re:I still believe (1)

djseomun (1119637) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836216)

"The amount of work and the cost for any individual who allows the public to connect to the internet through an already existing wireless access point is very low and the benefit of being able to use other people's access points for free is high."

I agree with this, but I don't think that individuals who have an existing wireless access point should let others use theirs for free. If they provide the service, then they should be able to charge for it.

Re:I still believe (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 6 years ago | (#22838548)

or you can think of it as this: If everyone pays for internets at home and everyone shares then what you pay for at home gets you internets virtually anywhere (where there is houses or whomever has access points). Now this does sound a bit much to ask of stingy american people. But this type of act if planned out correctly can be used to potentially get rid of any data caps that ISPs put down (I hope) due to the expectation that people will use other people's connections. The only problem with this idea is that you need a high penetration of broadband subscribers. If connections were somehow subsidized by the government to make internet cheaper but requiring you to have an open access point this might work out. Anyway this is all hopes and dreams at this point.

Re:I still believe (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842258)

Why should I share my connection with people who pay nothing for it? They are the ones who are stingy.

~Dan

Re:I still believe (1)

thebear05 (916315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842668)

this has been solved you can share with people who share http://www.fon.com/en/ [fon.com]

Re:I still believe (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 6 years ago | (#22841034)

I agree with this, but I don't think that individuals who have an existing wireless access point should let others use theirs for free.
That's for those individuals to decide. That's not for *you* to decide. If you want to charge your neighbors for your connection, that's fine, more power to you, and that's already happening. My ISP [speakeasy.net] already allows me to do this, and they say -- they'll even take care of the billing of my neighbors should I want them to handle that part (at the rate of my choosing of course). And if you share your connection in that way, I believe there is a certain amount of legal protection you would already be getting since you'd be getting documented payments from your neighbors and you'd essentially be acting as a common carrier (which carries a certain amount of legal protection -- at least in my State).

That being said, the original poster was asking for some legal protection for those of us who chose NOT to charge, or who wish NOT to bother with the obligation of keeping up a continuous wireless connection to others. For instance, when I don't need my connection, I keep it open and unencrypted. On the other hand, if I'm home and streaming a movie from netflix, or whatever, I close off my connection completely to others -- just in case I need my full bandwidth.

Now, if I did receive payments from my neighbors for that service, that situation would be all shot to hell. I already have a job. I already provide Tech support at the office. I certainly do not want people calling me at home when their internet is down. And I know I could provide them with a fixed schedule and a don't-call-me clause in the contract, but I really don't want to bother and as the impulsive impatient consumer that I am -- I want to use my bandwidth however and whenever I feel like it -- not on a schedule. Besides providing bandwidth to my neighbors represents a business with very little longterm growth and very little longterm opportunity, at least for me. Of course, this may not be the case for you, but at least I'm not asking that everyone provides their wireless access points for free, I'm only asking that those of us who wish to do so -- be allowed to do so -- at least within reasons. For instance I believe that we should be getting the same legal protections that an individual would be getting if that individual provided that same service for a fee.

Re:I still believe (1)

tabacco (145317) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836620)

That's more or less what's happening in SF: http://sf.meraki.com/ [meraki.com]

Re:I still believe (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837232)

They should provide legal protection to people who share their network connection with the public.

Yes they should, but they are doing just the opposite, and the real reason is that they see ubiquitous access to the internet as a threat to their authority and power. Ignorance is strength.

Re:I still believe (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842270)

That's not a bad idea if they give me legal protection I can stop using my neighbours wifi for unlawful activities.

~Dan

I guess we're stuck with hotspots then (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22836048)

We'll always have hotspots.

Coffeeshops rejoice, justified at pricing their coffee at more than $3 per cup.

Re:I guess we're stuck with hotspots then (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22842282)

Coffeeshops rejoice, justified at pricing their coffee at more than $3 per cup.
There gunna need it when the MPAA gets hold of them

wow (5, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836060)

EarthLink announced on Feb. 7 that 'the operations of the municipal Wi-Fi assets were no longer consistent with the company's strategic direction.'

Wow, EarthLink is still in business??

Re:wow (2, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836660)

Wow, EarthLink is still in business??

Yep. They are. They're still offering dialup at $21.95 a month (with various ways to get that lower through comittments or bundling with other services.) They also have a very interesting $49.95 a month offer in select areas to give you DSL (at whatever speed your copper line supports) and also put plain old telephone service on that line. In Comcast cable areas, they're offering use of Comcast's internet service bundled with Earthlink applications services (for example, e-mail would be @earthlink.net) for a few bucks less than Comcast is charging for the equal plan.

So, yep, Earthlink is alive and well.

Re:wow (0, Flamebait)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22838842)

They're a Scientology operation these days, so they're backed up by that money.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22840852)

Source please?

Sorry this is really offtopic (-1, Offtopic)

Dutchie (450420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836072)

Just curious if Slashdot would host a discussion on Network Solution's decision to block the domain http://fitnathemovie.com/ [fitnathemovie.com] on which a Dutch politician intends to host a film about the Koran and Islam.

Check out http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nu.nl%2Fnews%2F1493296%2F52%2FProvider_haalt_fitnathemovie.com_offline.html&langpair=nl%7Cen&hl=en&ie=UTF8 [google.com]

and mod me down if you want to if this is the wrong way to go about it. I just think that with Network Solutions' involvement this becomes kind of a border crossing freedom of speech issue.

Sad, but not a surprise (4, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836194)

When even Google pulls back, it's a bad business model even with advertising-driven models.

Face it, 802.11 is a LAN technology, not a MAN technology. Lipstick on that pig, even with cool mesh network attempts, isn't going to make it better. It was designed for local radial-cellular access by its channelization, and it's not good for covering wide areas. My sentiments go out to Strix and Firetide; both have decent models to make it wider. Cities have to figure out that broadband access is a utility, not an option.

hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836178)

They've been on the verge of citywide wireless here in Miami Beach for that past two years, but I'm starting to suspect it will never happen. It's too bad, I was looking forward to just canceling my own internet and living off the public dime...

Re:hmm (1)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836714)

...which illustrates the problem.

Re:hmm (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22838856)

I know you're referring to the fact ISPs don't want to roll out municipal networks, because they will inevitably find themselves making less money than if they keep things status quo.

But it should be pointed out that the OP is a taxpayer as well we assume. So "living off the taxpayers dime" would be living off his own as well.

We all have to sleep in it... (2, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836234)

The ISPs made their own bed but we all have to sleep in it now.

The ISPs fought tooth and nail against even modest municipal wifi limited to public areas like libraries and shopping districts, because they wanted to make money from it. So rather than municipally funded projects they promoted these ad-hoc "partnerships" that didn't, in the end, make money.

They're too obsessed with $ now! (2, Insightful)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836248)

That's why the United States is behind many other major industrialized countries in Internet speeds. Because companies in the United States care about the $$$, not about innovation or advancing technology.

I guess the ISPs decided trying to wiretap MANs would be too hard because they have no way of proving that a certain data packet came from a certain person, and because then everyone wouldn't have to pay outrageous ripoff prices for a watered down, censored Internet...

Re:They're too obsessed with $ now! (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836316)

Because companies in the United States care about the $$$, not about innovation or advancing technology.

While countries elsewhere in the world are altruistic, caring little about money?

Re:They're too obsessed with $ now! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836470)

No, but other countries are often better at realising that infrastructure is not meant to make a profit directly. If you invest in infrastructure then you can increase the earning power of the individuals and companies in an area, and thus increase tax revenue (without increasing tax rates) and then fund more infrastructure.

Treating infrastructure like a product is bad for the economy in the long run, but good for those who own the infrastructure in the short term (see Hydraulic Despotism).

Re:They're too obsessed with $ now! (1)

Artuir (1226648) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837012)

I somehow seriously doubt you have any real way of quantifying that observation with data to assert it. It's easy to talk shit about America this, USA that - yet I'm not really seeing any tangible proof that our citizens or corporations are inherently different than everywhere else. You want to talk about infrastructure making a profit? Shall we discuss London's congestion charge? Hell as far as I'm concerned, Europe is just as bad.

Re:They're too obsessed with $ now! (1)

Gigiya (1022729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836324)

Now?

Re:They're too obsessed with $ now! (1)

rayvd (155635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836896)

So? This is hardly some great tragedy. If there's demand for it, people will be willing to pay for it. If not, there won't. Who cares if some country out there has a govt subsidized technology that I don't really need right now? If it's good enough it'll find its way here because there'll be demand for it.

Don't force feed me things I don't want, especially in the form of "taxation" to pay for technology.

Mzone (2, Informative)

mattr (78516) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836280)

I just signed on with NTT DoCoMo for about $8 a month to get Mopera/Mzone which is basically 11Mbps 802.11 access points at places like KFC around town (Tokyo). There definitely aren't enough but maybe one near most major stations. However they require a lousy browser-based login (works automatically with their utility though) so I can't use my Skype phone.

It is very cool, and still only about $15/mo. even if you aren't already a customer of their FOMA phones.

Free is good but also maybe a very low monthly fee ($5/mo.?) to a general fund that would be divided among routers/isps doing this? Whatever, the question is find a way to get it done. I never thought ISPs would make much money out of this myself but once you get onto 11Mbps you get addicted. I use the windows app they give you to look at a detailed map of the city and find where the nearest point is. So far Tully's and Kentucky are my faves!

WIMAX? (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836452)

For some time now I've been taking part in WIMAX trials here in Hamilton Ontario. [community-media.com] This too was trumpeted as a glorious thing that would change the face of our city, bring us into the high tech 21st century etc.

In practice although WIMAX seems to work OK (aside from a real lag much of the time, which may just be bad server configuration by Primus Communications), My sense is that the company isn't really committed to it. I doubt that there will be a serious public roll out.

The idea seems great - a wireless Internet connection that works wherever you are. The reality seems a bit less rosy, and my guess is that a city wide wireless network will need a good level of customer support - not Primus' strong point by a long shot.

Why didn't they all collectively buy spectrum? (2, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836508)

There was a perfect opportunity to provide wireless access for everyone... the Fed just auctioned off the very spectrum needed to make it a reality. What happened?

Did anyone consider this? I know Google had mentioned it and it was a meme floating around that they might buy up the spectrum and offer *free* wifi everywhere, supported by ads of course... if the States or a collective of cities had gotten together and purchased the bandwidth, it really could have been free.

Maybe I'm missing something? Was it not a great opportunity from a technical POV? or did all our local governments just drop the ball?

Re:Why didn't they all collectively buy spectrum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22836578)

How is that free? Someone pays for:

- The spectrum auction (ok, the FCC gives this away - they'll just make up the revenue in another sort of tax)
- The actual broadcasting hardware that uses that spectrum
- The connection to the internet backbone
- Maintenance
- Support

States + Cities buying it = tax money -- NOT FREE

Re:Why didn't they all collectively buy spectrum? (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22858032)

That's why I put free inside asterisks like so: *free*

Obviously it's not free. What it could be however is significantly discounted due to economies of scale. If all the municipalities bought it in bulk and engaged in a uniform plan with uniform hardware to provide a standard level of access to everyone... well it could be a lot cheaper than your monthly bill... say paying $50 per year in taxes instead of $50/month.

With wireless/radio based connections this works... it's a general solution for a general problem. You can still pay for a dedicated line to your house AND still take advantage of the wireless connection when NOT at your house. Other people who don't need a dedicated line for low latency connections, etc. can just use the wireless public connection for essential communications. It's a win/win scenario.

Re:Why didn't they all collectively buy spectrum? (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836650)

Most of the regional coverage is much larger than one municipality, and doesn't necessarily stay on boundries. http://wireless.fcc.gov/auctions/data/maps/CMA.pdf [fcc.gov]

Ever try to herd cats?

Also, I really doubt that there is a politician in the world who's able to get people to agree to spending millions on spectrum, when there are many more things that eat up budget money.

Now, since the block D spectrum didn't meet the minimum bid, why not turn it over to the schools? It is the smallest chunk, and it has the public service bands anyway. We keep hearing about how schools are underfunded and unable to move into the 21st century, but if it was easy to adapt mass marketed radios for the D block, and towers can be put on schools (since, for the most part, they are geographically centered), it just might provide a minimum level service for not much money.

Cellular Data (1)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836558)

Cellular data networks will take over instead. Having both is not needed.

Re:Cellular Data (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837236)

The biggest impediment to cellular data is the cellphone industry.

Until they figure out that they need to sell access, rather than services, at least.

Cellular Data (1)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836572)

The cellular data networks already have the coverage, the wifi will only be redundant. Pretty soon all phones will be HSPA compatible. Laptops already have it with (even if you don't count the crappy edge network).

802.11b,g = Silly, WimAx could work briefly. (3, Insightful)

Adeptus_Luminati (634274) | more than 6 years ago | (#22836608)

Trying to create a network by installing hotspots every 150 feet or even every 1000 feet or so if you extend the transmission range over public spectrum where any Joe may interefere with it with their own cordless phone, microwave and/or home WiFi router was a silly endeavour.

Now doing the same thing with public spectrum WiMax or UltraWideBand could work for 2-4 years until the next wireless technology improves upon it. It might work because it can cover much greater distances, so less antennas, and better ones (MiMo) and most importantly, tower equipment is expensive enough (though not very), that the average home user isn't going to be able to afford a transmitter to compete with it.

There is one gotcha, and that is that sharing some 50 Mbits over 3-20 KM would never work because most Metro cities are too densely populated. Unless you use deep packet inspection at endpoints and allow only SMTP and true HTTP/s traffic and deny all else. South Korea has standardized on WiMax for wireless, not WIFi, and their network is mostly complete.

Ultimately, there is a reason why Telco's pay Billions for private spectrum, because there will be (in theory) zero interference, and zero competition - although Google changed the latter slightly, lately.

PS. If you want to learn way more on WiMax read the wikipedia page, it is very informative.

Best Application for City Wide Wifi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22836978)

Well bittorrent or internet access might be problematic but voip uses almost nothing...

16-19kbps [erlang.com] which when you think about it you're paying $40 a month for with your teleco...

56kbps each doesn't sound like much, but it's enough for IM, e-mail and phone... Costing a cell company about $45 a month per person.

Everyone has a cell phone, yet no one has a voip phone... the providers are milking it because you need to conect to the pots system...

Low profitability? (1)

peektwice (726616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837094)

I never understood the notion of "low profitability" completely. Isn't profitability good, whether it's 5 percent or 100 percent? I understand that a company or individual can do something more efficiently and make larger profit margins, but a profit is a profit. If a company operates with all its liabilities and expenses including land, labor, and capital, and manages to turn a profit, then that company functions correctly.

Re:Low profitability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22837740)

It probably matters more for companies that are publicly traded. Similar to the reason why traded companies have to keep growing to be considered successful rather than just continuing in a stable but profitable fashion.

Not ready for prime time.. (3, Informative)

tji (74570) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837138)

As someone who recently moved back to Mountain View (Google-ville) and used Google WiFi initially, my experience is that it is not ready to replace wired ISPs.

Indoor access via laptop is problematic, for all the normal coverage reasons. The Google router is right across the street on a lightpost, but it is tough to get a strong enough signal indoors. A wireless bridge place in the window facing their router solved the signal strength issues.

With a strong signal, it worked well much of the day. Not blazingly fast, but fast enough to be useful (~1Mbps). But, during high usage times, 7PM-10PM, it became unusable. Packet loss was terrible, so performance was too, and many sessions timed out completely.

And this is with a very mixed environment, most people I have talked to used Cable or DSL internet access. So, Google WiFi wasn't supporting the whole street. But, even with the subset of users, it was too much for their service to handle. I quickly decided to go for cable internet, and this is definitely the right choice for anyone needing Internet for business / critical usage.

Maybe it could work with other improvements, I don't know enough about their infrastructure to say for sure. Some thoughts:

- Uplink issues: I think Google routers hub back into their network via wireless links. Maybe that is the piece that is not holding up at peak times. If so, a better network back to the ISP may help.

- 802.11N may help: More bandwidth, longer range. Operating on the 5GHz band may also be less crowded with other networks, at least for now.

"unprofitable" (1)

Irvu (248207) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837350)

I seem to recall a spate of threatened lawsuits and opposition to municipalities rolling their own coverage because it was "anti-competitive" and would cut into the profits of large telcos. Now those same telcos are abandoning their plans as "unprofitable" leaving many municipalities with nothing. If I were a libertarian I'd feel some sense of confusion, even doubt about the power of "the market" that was much hyped when people were attacking municipal wi-fi as "big government intrusion.

Instead I'll just say this: Ironic.

It's the same old song and dance (1)

Werthless5 (1116649) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837876)

Whenever some piece of legislation is going to cut a little into profits, the corporations and their lackeys cry out "Free market! Free market!"

These same people are more than happy to accept government contracts that turn their corporation into a monopoly in certain regions. How many people here use an ISP like Comcast and have no alternative for high speed internet?

I've seen people insist that there are no monopolized regions, that they literally do not exist anywhere, yet I have never lived in a house or apartment that offered more than one high speed internet provider (and I've lived throughout the Southwest, from LA to Newport to Phoenix/Tucson in various locations). I'm the kind of guy who shops around and tries to get the best deal for everything. I checked the DSL choices (often they would claim I was "too far" from an access point even though they claimed to provide service to an apartment complex across the street).

I don't think it's right to let these companies have essentially a monopoly in regions across America. What happened to trust busting? Isn't our government supposed to be FOR THE PEOPLE? All I see are aristocrats helping aristocrats (and playing lip service to everyone else).

RICO Re:"unprofitable" (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#22841032)

Power of market and Free market capitalism are both wrongly used nowadays.
During the days of Second BUS Bank of US) Free Banking was meant to mean that government does NOT intervene to help any ailing bank and that it treated all banks as equal businesses.
i.e., If a bank failed to meet its outstanding obligations in FULL (in Specie in those days), it was to be immediately wound up, its assets sold and money to be distributed to creditors.
No central bank assistance of any kind, No "forced mergers" with JP Morgans, no lender of last resort crap.
And No Fractional Reserve Banking as we have today.
No hiding behind government skirts, no campaign funds donations.

Today comcast, Verizon file costly lawsuits to prevent municipalities from providing free WiFi to its citizens. Next step, the corporates stop providing those services to citizens unless the municipality pays them enough money to make it profitable enough.

How come the saying "Never fight City Hall" apply to corporates?
Atleast one moneyed city hall should sic RICO on the corporate and win the case.

Wait, the post says two different things...? (1)

Werthless5 (1116649) | more than 6 years ago | (#22837708)

The poster (Soulskill)indicates that citywide wifi experiences "low profitability" and the article states that the providers have had to "cut their losses" indicating no profitability.

Which is it? Was this a bad idea (not sustainable under current funding), or are these telecomms just out to make a buck? Everyone knows these companies are out to screw the consumer at every chance (specifically Earthlink), but was that what caused the abandonment of municipal wifi?

Citywide Wireless Works Fine Here (2, Interesting)

CompMD (522020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22838318)

Its too bad that people don't learn from their own mistakes or the mistakes of others. Likewise, its even more of a shame that they do not learn from the successes of others.

I live in Lawrence, Kansas [wikipedia.org] , and just about anywhere I go within the 28.7 square miles of city, I can get a wireless signal from our local wireless ISP, Lawrence Freenet [lawrencefreenet.org] . The service is dramatically cheaper than the local cable company, and speeds are equivalent to DSL. There are routers on lightposts that you can communicate with either directly from your computer (if the signal is strong enough) or you can use a wireless bridge (which they rent and sell) to ensure a good connection. To top it off, you aren't fixed to one location with their service, you can take a laptop with you anywhere in the city, and if you see an access point, you can sign on. How much money did the city spend on this service? Zero. Nothing. This was completely financed by people who believed in it, and that is why it has been successful. With over 1300 current customers after only two years of existence, they are certainly doing things right.

Oh, and I'm posting this from a laptop connected to a Lawrence Freenet access point.

The invisible hand strikes again! (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22838858)

Good old capitalism, always serving the best interests of the people!

Because the municipal kickbacks I mean revenue? (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#22840058)

Take Cary NC for example, Time Warner kicks back 15% of their revenue to the city as some kind of licensing fee or whatever dubious name they give it. It's a kick back. They are not going to give up a portion of their internet revenue without cutting back on the kickback to the city so the city for all it's noise and NPR friendly agitprop about 'WiFi for the People! For Free!" isn't interested in getting that off the ground. I'm sure every other city with a similar arrangement is the same. And that's w/o considering the substantial influence phone companies can exert on local governments about who gets which coverage and cell phone towers where and how those rights are licensed and kickedback.

Go free public (1)

Mdentari (979766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22845560)

No offense but why would they want to do what will become the free network of the people. Sooner or later a p2p public operated wireless network will be the only way to get big brother resistant network. Instead of relying on corporations we should be relying on ourselves and sharing a portion of our wireless bandwidth for the public network. I wonder if there is a way to segment a portion of a wireless network securely for public use and still have our machines for private use. I think that would be a great feature to implement in hardware maybe.

Private companies are hostile to infrastructure (1)

LinuxLuver (775817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22866956)

This is just one more example of how private companies are hostile to the provision of public infrastructure. Previous examples have been electricity companies who artificially create shortages to drive up prices, privatized airports who steadily increase fees for airline and passenger use, water companies that increase prices to pay for the purchase of previously public assets....and so on. If you ant something done that is essentially a service for the sake of service, not profit, then you really should vest ownership in a public body and invest out of public funds, charging a fee consistent with cost recovery and planned expansion. Private businesses can't compete with this as it can be incredibly efficient if well managed with clear goals. Municipal wifi should be run like public transport: by the city concerned on the basis described above. Avoiding capricious and unreliable private providers will ensure service goals and objectives are met. It's a myth that private companies are always better than public ones. One of the most profitable and efficient postal systems on Earth is owned and run by the government of New Zealand. It's about clear goals and good management.
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