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Municipal WiFi Moves Ahead In Houston

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the right-model-this-time dept.

Wireless Networking 66

Highlander404 sends word of one city that is bucking the trend of failing city Wi-Fi projects: Houston is investing most of the $5 million Earthlink paid to get out of its muni Wi-Fi contract to build out 10 free wireless network "bubbles" in low-income parts of the city. Access points will be in city-owned facilities to keep costs down. Houston's mayor said that over the long term the bubbles could be connected and the areas between them added to the network. The activation of the first of these zones was announced Monday. Upload and download speeds are said to be 3 Mbps.

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10=5,000,000 (-1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863456)

So 10 access points costs $5M....I want to be the guy who gets paid to install those...

1 bubble != 1 access point (4, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863534)

So 10 access points costs $5M....I want to be the guy who gets paid to install those...

From TFA: "Each bubble will include about 15 public access points at schools, city facilities and community organizations within the area."

Also, it's not $5 million, it's $3.5 million: "The company had to pay the city $5 million after defaulting on a contract to build a citywide wireless Internet network last year. On Monday, Mayor Bill White announced the city will use about $3.5 million of that money to build 10 free wireless network "bubbles" in low-income parts of Houston to give residents access they otherwise might do without." And I'm sure that money includes more than just the access point: think all the infrastructure, etc. to support them.

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (2, Funny)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863636)

Yeah I figured that, but a) reading the article and b) using facts prevents you from not only making a first post, but also being witty about it.

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (4, Funny)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863646)

That's okay, it also gives me a chance to be modded up :-)

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (3, Informative)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863652)

Yeah, maintaining bubbles like these can be quite expensive. I work in the IT department of Housing at my university. An ill-planned Mesh Network project for family/graduate housing has shown that maintaining these networks is more costly than just sticking in an access point. Each access point has to be able to support the bandwidth of many users, not just extend the signal to them. I'd imagine the Houston project required a good amount of fiber as well as very load capable access points.

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22864374)

This increases the reasons to want to move to Houston to 1!!!

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (2, Interesting)

el americano (799629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865540)

You don't need fiber for 15 access points. The total equipment cost on this would be a small fraction of that money, and much of the hardware is being donated by Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Verizon Wireless and Tropos Networks. They must be holding back the money to pay for operating costs, like network management and internet access.

What is a "load capable access point", btw? One 11n Wi-Fi radio has about the same load capacity as any other. It's a zero sum game with the available bandwidth. If you want more capacity, deploy more radios. If this were mesh, then maybe the APs would matter more.

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (2, Insightful)

Qwavel (733416) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863702)

Actually, I find the cost of some of these muni-wifi projects to be incredibly low.

When you compare these costs to the billions being spent to roll out 3+G networks they are peanuts.

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864084)

Do you mean cost per user reachable by the network ? Or cost per sq mile covered ?

Assuming those 10 bubbles reach 1/3 of houston population (2.1M/3=700K), thats $5 per person. (Note that with 15 AP per buble thats about 4666 customer per AP... so i might be overestimating the number of people reached here...)

Based on that rate alone the cost to reach the 293M people that ATT covers in the US today would be almost $1.5B

I have no idea how many billions they are spending, (maybe they are spending $15B , not $1.5B) but if you keep in mind that its easy and cheap to reach your first million customer thats leave in densely populated area, but that it get much harder to reach the other ones then the price doesnt look that ridiculous.

Bottom line is I would not compare a free municipal wifi service to a cell service.

Re:1 bubble != 1 access point (1)

CraniumDesigns (1113153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864122)

you also PAY for cell service (up the ass i might add), and this wifi stuff would either be free, or covered by extra taxes.

orly (0, Flamebait)

whiskey6 (1172575) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863460)

zomg

We Read You Houston, Loud and Clear (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22863462)


only to duplicate Philadelphia.

Fuck Bush

Not that failing (2, Informative)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863502)

We have it in Minneapolis [minneapolis.mn.us] . I'm not a subscriber but there is presence pretty much anywhere?

Re:Not that failing (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22863976)

I subscribe to the minneapolis service. They're having problems and are behind schedule, but I don't get the impression that there's a problem. It's not as fast as cable, but I can watch videos without any problem plus I can roam the city with an internet onnection. I just can't stand Comcast and would support this just to ensure competition.

Re:Not that failing (1)

coastwalker (307620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22869926)

Its not as fast as cable but it is as fast as my "8MB" TalkTalk ADSL in the UK which runs at a shade under 3MB per second.

Gulfton Wireless Bubble? (2, Insightful)

snsh (968808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863546)

I think somebody in Texas is pulling a prank with acronyms.

Re:Gulfton Wireless Bubble? (1)

electrictroy (912290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22867574)

I'm wondering:

How are "low income areas" supposed to afford the equipment needed to access these Wi-Fi connections? Most of them are just trying to pay their weekly grocery bill. (Talk about mixed-up priorities by the Houston City politicians.)

Hmmm.... (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863554)

I hope this works better than Houston's attempt to create their own office suite [usatoday.com] , the only notable result of which was a full week of Daily WTF stories on its creation.

Re:Hmmm.... (3, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863594)

Sorry, here's the first entry in the DailyWTF series [thedailywtf.com] . Be sure to read through to the part where the business plan evolves to strapping a laptop, solar cell and satellite dish to a donkey and sending it through rural India!

More bubbles? (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863834)

What happens when, just like the .com and housing ones, this bubble bursts? $3.5 million down the drain, that's what.

Re:More bubbles? (3, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865550)

What happens when, just like the .com and housing ones, this bubble bursts? $3.5 million down the drain, that's what.


I don't think so. This is going into areas where the broadband providers don't tread. From TFS:

Houston is investing most of the $5 million Earthlink paid to get out of its muni Wi-Fi contract to build out 10 free wireless network "bubbles" in low-income parts of the city.


Houston is doing what all governments do. It is providing services it sees as necessary that the private sector can't or won't do. It's funny how when a community decides to provide a service the private sector may be in they scream foul but when that service becomes unprofitable they want out as fast as possible. The question is what other consessions did Earthlink get out of Houston? A company willing to pay $$$ to get out of a contract has done the bean counting before signing and you can bet your bottom dollar that those beans fall in Earthlink's favor.

Re:More bubbles? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#22873236)

I don't think so. This is going into areas where the broadband providers don't tread.

All of the locations I have seen on the list are DSL capable. Many even have 2wire854 ssid's all over. My girlfriends brother had Juno DSL right in the middle of the "Gulfton Super Neighborhood." Cable modems are widely available in the homes, but not in all the apartments.

Re:More bubbles? (1)

penix1 (722987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22877264)

Availability isn't the only place tread here. It is going into "low income" areas that the companies won't tread hence the "not profitable" comment from them. It has very little to do with accessability and everything to do with money.

niggernet (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22863866)

10 free wireless network "bubbles" in low-income parts of the city.
It's the niggernet!

Re:niggernet (2, Informative)

the brown guy (1235418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864116)

racism != cool....or funny.

Re:niggernet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22866688)

Not cool, but very funny!

Now if you don't mind, I've got some hoe searchin to do. Think she'll like my ride and new set of bling-blings? Hey, maybe we can stream video porn to my car LCD screen while driving through the WiFi...beotch!

Re:niggernet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22867746)

racism != cool....or funny.
Not even when it's the niggers doing it? [youtube.com]

Re:niggernet (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864546)

holy crap, did you come up with that yourself? quick, give me a link to your website so I can see more of your clever witticisms

Re:niggernet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22910310)

Plug in your coonputer today!

there is no such thing as free (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863898)

someone is paying for it, be it other earthnet customers or the taxpayers

Re:there is no such thing as free (3, Insightful)

ribit (952003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22863968)

OK.. "Free at the point of need or provision" We need more of these, partly to combat the silly ideas of those that would try to make it a crime to 'attempt to join an open network'

Re:there is no such thing as free (2, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864542)

partly to combat the silly ideas of those that would try to make it a crime to 'attempt to join an open network'

Joining a network that is financed, designed, and built to be open from the start is very different than joining a random 'open' residential network. No matter how the protocol of two computers asking and granting each other access really works.

Re:there is no such thing as free (1, Troll)

ribit (952003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864714)

My point is that the poor user won't usually be able to tell the difference between an intentionally open vs accidentally open network.

Re:there is no such thing as free (0, Flamebait)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864770)

My point is that the poor user won't usually be able to tell the difference between an intentionally open vs accidentally open network.

Maybe the muni network SSID should be something like "Houston Open Access Network". Easy to make it unambiguous.

Re:there is no such thing as free (1)

ribit (952003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864974)

In practice both city networks and home users don't always follow an accepted naming scheme, so it will never be clear to the end user. In my house there is a network called 'The Low Tide Lounge' (but it's not a bar, its just a home network), and I've seen a cafe base station set to "Apple Network .."... how could you tell what's a business or city network or whatever?

Re:there is no such thing as free (0, Troll)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865072)

"The Low Tide Lounge"
Apple Network"
how could you tell what's a business or city network or whatever?


Personally, I would not assume either was open for anyone to use. But that's just me.
A muni network that is supposed to be open should be visibly (SSID) labeled as such.

Re:there is no such thing as free (1)

ribit (952003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865182)

I will assume any open network that doesn't say 'Private' is free to use. How are we to promote proliferation of shared private and public networks if everyone is living in fear of using services that people are putting in place for them?

Re:there is no such thing as free (0, Flamebait)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865338)

Make it obvious. "This WiFi is free to use. Just don't screw it up"

Re:there is no such thing as free (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22866250)

Maybe the muni network SSID should be something like "Free Public WiFi"
Fixed ;)

Re:there is no such thing as free (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864198)

No Shit.

Everyone knowa that, you are not being witty, informative or intelligent by pointing it out.

Re:there is no such thing as free (2, Interesting)

Teflon_Jeff (1221290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864214)

Of course, everything has to be paid for. In this case, Earthlink is paying for it out of their profits. Which means their customers are paying for it. Which means their employers are paying for it... and so on. But it is free to the users, for now. It'll be interesting how it develops from here though.

Muni WiFi isn't one-size-fits-all... (3, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864370)

...and it shouldn't have to be. I think it's a great idea to build out some of that infrastructure, but anyone who thinks it's going to bring full bandwidth to the masses has another think coming. But I have an idea to get businesses to provide this sort of service for "free". Feel free to implement, sell, and tell me your success stories. First, you'd need an easy-to-administrate wireless access point which allows businesses to customize the "Welcome" page, but has few other configurable options. Then you'd need to convince businesses that it's worthwhile for them to get DSL/Cable and run one of your wireless access points in their front window. The customizable "Welcome" page could just be a "digital billboard", saying, "This Internet session courtesy of Blah Blah, incorporated. Come in for a free home loan analysis." Or $0.50 off a mocha. Or something. Then let the user roam free on the net, maybe asking for their contact info first for later mailers if they want to get coupons. This could be extended to almost any fixed structure. Make the system weather-proof, and you could sell the idea to the businesses that advertise on billboards, so that anyone near such a billboard would get free Internet access after being notified of the advertiser's presence, maybe offered something special for calling the number on the billboard. Even newspaper kiosks could offer web access, if they're nailed down and wired appropriately. That way, people who are pulling out their iPhones to check movie listings or look up the weather could get that information from LocalPaper.com's site before moving on to the full-blown Internet. Just an idea, but I think it'd be a good way to profitably get Internet access points freely available, at least to high-traffic business districts. Then let the city build out to other areas; maybe start in less affluent areas where even slow access to the Internet for free would be a great benefit for those who can't afford $25.00/month for DSL.

Re:Muni WiFi isn't one-size-fits-all... (1)

imamac (1083405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864662)

As long as the ad was a single page and was simple to dismiss, that would work VERY well. I have to go through about 3 pages at Panera to use their free wi-fi. It's annoying. But I use it because it's free. So maybe My point isn't that valid after all.

Re:Muni WiFi isn't one-size-fits-all... (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864706)

Yeah, I'm with you on the single-page thing. There's a point where you're willing to suffer it (2-3 pages), and a point where you get left with the feeling of, "wow, that's cool." I think 1 page would probably make more customers for a lot of businesses.
And considering these'll probably be people with hand-held (i.e. iphone) devices, they probably have some money to spend. Unless, of course, they've spent it all on their iphone.

I don't get it... (-1, Flamebait)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864630)

Ok that is not actually true, I do "get it".

Money, politics, blah, blah, blah...

---------
And by focusing on low-income areas, the plan is more politically acceptable and possibly open to future funding - either from government sources or private companies interested in boosting philanthropy, he said.
--from tfa
---------

Ummm, are they just being a bunch of self-serving
political idiots? (Rhet)

They are leaving this at the political level, yay,
hooray for us... we're giving the 'inner city' net
access. Right, ok. Who's gonna give them the computer
or Smartphone to utilize that intertoob access?

Fricking stoopid! Have they set foot into those
communities? I do outreach work... no one there has
a computer. [This superlative is used for expression
not to represent actuality]

Man, honestly I'd love to become a politician someday
but really, this stuff just takes the wind out of my
sails because I know I will have to argue against some
asshat that says,

"HEY, I GOT AN IDEA! Let's use that money, stick some
wifi access of our own (My kid knows computers, he can
do it for you) in the low-income. Then they can get on
the internet and find jobs and we look like heroes and
next time we ask for something everyone will be like,
hey it's the heroes, give them what they want, they did
good for the low-income people, they gave them access
to the tubes so they can get jobs."

Jeeze, it is just too late in the day to read an article like that.

-AI

Coverage Map (1)

rlnunez (1260978) | more than 6 years ago | (#22864978)

Does anyone know where I can find a projected coverage area map of "bubbles"? Thanks

and then what happens? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865048)

The city bus costs $1.50. Gas $3.59 a gallon. Milk $2.50.

Families are dependent on the food bank, minimum wage jobs, welfare and SSI benefits . The Medicaid co-pay on a prescription drug is $3.00. Who among them can afford a computer?

Re:and then what happens? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865106)

Who among them can afford a computer?

A lot more than you might think. I personally have given 8-10 laptops and PC's to families that would otherwise not have one. And in the grand scheme of things, $300 is doable for a lot of people. Everyone doesn't really need that $2500 gaming rig. Friend/family/corporate castoffs work quite well.

fixed cost vs recurring (2, Informative)

ancientt (569920) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865334)

The cost of getting a computer is fixed. As a one time expense, it is something even a poor family can save up for. Sure, $200 for a crappy laptop and wifi card make take some saving up, but that is something that can be managed. A monthly cost of $35 (if they're very lucky) for broadband that only works at home is not an appealing proposition if you're barely scraping by. If you look at it as a two year investment, that is $8.50/month vs. $43.50/month.

The laptop also has the benefits of being able to help with self-education. This means that kids who need access the most, to help climb out of poverty through education and experience, get a better chance to do it. It won't help everyone and it will be abused, but it will help a lot of kids get out of the destructive cycle and that will pay off in less young adults needing public assistance and more paying taxes. It is a long term investment, but isn't that what we want city governments doing?

In the short term it might help more people prepare for a better job and encourage more business than the alternative ways of spending the same money. At the heart of every slum is a basic problem, there are lazy, greedy individuals out to get what the world "owes" them who at the same time harm those who might make a better life for themselves given the opportunity. I'm not sure if there is a way to change the behavior of those who are there because they are unwilling to make different choices, but it is possible to help those that are there because they are unable to find better opportunities.

Every young adult that gets a better job out of this is a double-payoff, first in the lack of cost to other tax payers, and second in the taxes that they will pay. I feels naive, but I believe that enough people will improve their lives that the long term cost to benefit ratio will come out positive for the tax payers.

Re:and then what happens? (1)

UHBo2 (665759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22867210)

I ride the bus in Houston on a regular basis and its only $1. The gas station accross the street has gas for $3.07 right now. While we do have a fair amount of people who are on welfare, and have minimum wage jobs, this can only be a boom for the city in general. One of the poorest neigherborhoods in Houston is between 2 universities so I imagine that this would also help out students who live near the campuses.

You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's bailing (4, Insightful)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865170)

As a native Houstonian, so I think I can speak knowledgeably about this. The fact that Earthlink was willing to cough up $5 million to get out of a contract should tell you something. Obviously they realized this would be money losing proposition. Unfortunately, trust Houston to ignore the problems in other cities and plow ahead anyway. And yes, Earthlink defaulted, but that money now belongs to the taxpayers. It could be MUCH better used--such as hiring more police and fire personnel--than handing out "free" access at taxpayer expense.

Putting these bubbles in "low income" areas makes absolutely no sense, unless they plan to also put in computers or some sort of cybercafe. Most of the people living there are not going to be sporting lap tops. And if they have a computer they're unlikely to have a wireless modem. They'll expect to be given one for free though. These are not nice parts of town. I used to live (briefly) not far from area highlighted on the map in the story. If you stand outside at night (not advisable), you very often hear gunfire. A murdered prostitute was found in the field across from the condos I lived in. Lots of drug dealing. This is not indicative of Houston--it has plenty good areas. I make this point in that if they do set up any sort of computer kiosk places in areas like this, it's going to have to have 24 hour security.

Most of the people taking advantage of this are going to be small-medium businesses who will be milking the free bandwidth, not lower income families. Houston libraries already have computers and internet access, this will give others the ability to bring their own computer--but again, I wouldn't in these areas of town. I think this is going to be a colossal waste of tax payer money.

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (1)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22865840)

As a fellow Houstonian, I concur. We don' need municipal wi-fi anymore than we need another freakin' light rail train (er, I mean "trolly").

The bandwidth costs and maintenance overtime will far exceed the $5M "windfall" from the default fine against Earthlink. Yet another money pit.

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (1)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 6 years ago | (#22869208)

We don' need municipal wi-fi anymore than we need another freakin' light rail train (er, I mean "trolly").

AKA: The DANGER TRAIN! LOL! (or less familiar, the Wham Bam Tram)

(Houston Rail has a bad reputation of accidents considering the small distance it goes downtown to the medical center and on to the Reliant Center. I think they quit counting after they reached 100 in 2005. And not all are the auto drivers' fault. When you see where the rails go it's no wonder--at one point in the medical center, a left turn lane for cars is ON THE TRACKS. Good thing there's so many hospitals nearby!)

entrepreneurial bureaucrat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22866136)

Better uses for $5 million:

- build a new freeway - there hasn't been a new freeway built in Houston for 25+ years and the local for profit county government toll road committee has used its right of way and eminent domain to take prime land that could be new freeways for for profit roads. At what point does a city get the new freeway that they have paid for in fuel taxes for the last 25+ years?

- Build one or more critical overpasses on major surface street intersections

- Extend the light rail to go to Hobby Airport, extend it to go to the inner loop 610 on the north, east and west sides. Extend it west to the geographic center of Houston (near beltway 8 and westheimer)

- Buy out 5% or more of the city workers near retirement and put their salaries to much more benefical uses (e.g., roads, fire, police, sewer, etc.)

- Tow and impound cars driven without insurance or by someone without a drivers license

Houston is on the edge of going from a low cost city to a high cost city because of the high fuel prices, high property taxes (2.25% per year), high water rates, etc. This high cost of living will drive enough people into low income neighborhoods living paycheck to paycheck and having a huge cost to the city and local schools in services used.

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (1)

professorfalcon (713985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22866766)

Most of the people taking advantage of this are going to be small-medium businesses who will be milking the free bandwidth, not lower income families.

I'm not sure about this particular area, but other low-income areas in Houston just happen to have high-priced lofts right next door. Those people will be using the free wifi, too.

By the way, this is a project from the same mayor who wanted to evict [chron.com] a facility for the mentally retarded.

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (1)

hitchhacker (122525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22867296)

Most of the people living there are not going to be sporting lap tops.
Except for the @#$hole that during the 10-year slashdot anniversary in Houston smashed my passenger side window and stole my laptop. I hope he's happy he gets his "free" wifi now.

-metric

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22868240)

Yeah, it will be great. I've been having to pay for wireless with the change I stole from your ashtray.

Damn waste of money (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22867360)

Because tax payer money will be used to maintain this setup. I am quite sure the residents in these lower income areas could be better served by improving existing city services in their area, health clinics, and job training. Instead some politician gets to feel good and get face time by wasting tax payer dollars. I bet when challenged they will throw back "its for the children".

Yet sure as rain the next budget rolls along and they will have to get more money for the programs they should have done.

Tax payer money really isn't in endless supply. Go ask Detroit just how well that works

Re:Damn waste of money (1)

Farakin (1101889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22869270)

Being from Detroit, I am not sure you want to ask anything about it. We might get angry and smash more that your window. In other news, I think the 3rd grade class is going to the county jail to visit with the mayor.

Re:Damn waste of money (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#22873504)

Because tax payer money will be used to maintain this setup. I am quite sure the residents in these lower income areas could be better served by improving existing city services in their area, health clinics, and job training.

The first "bubble" is in a predominantly Latin neighborhood. From what I have seen, the people there don't need job training... They do the jobs "Americans Won't Do" and could work part time teaching foreign concepts like work ethics. We still have people here getting FEMA checks, and new arrivals in that neighborhood with no documentation, and no English can pay the rent on time. But yes, this will still come out poorly.

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (2, Interesting)

eudaemon (320983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22868894)

As a fellow Houstonian who lived in the Gulfton area before it backslid into such a high crime area,
I think you are assuming way too much. There are plenty of devices that can be had free or cheap
to get on the net, and that are certainly in the reach of low-income family. I've seen plenty
of PSPs ($169) and Nintendo DS ($129) floating around low income neighborhoods just to start, so people are willing
to drop even "small" (by your standard or mine) amounts of disposable income on entertainment. And both
those devices have 802.11b wireless access. Even so a linux PC from Fry's ($199) or Walmart isn't much more if
someone is forced to buy new. You can bet Fry's or someone savvy will start bundling a high-gain antenna
and wireless card / usb stick for this market.

In terms of free or cheap, I personally supervised the disposal of hundreds of computers after a major downsizing
and was able to redirect some of them to a personal favorite charity. If there had been demand for the balance
of the devices I think I could have gotten them all, frankly. But even without a downsizing the City of Houston's Harwin recycling
center accepts old computers for recycling, nothing stopping COH from sending them though a volunteer organization
to see what's reusable and donating devices. They give away toys and bikes every year at Christmas at the George R. Brown,
heck I was there myself last year. But hey just ask your city council members if you don't believe me.

So before you start to poo poo the idea of folks getting access, let me assure you that again I personal experience getting people to volunteer
time and equipment for low-income folks who needed laptops or desktops for college.

Having said that, unless it is very dense I think this infrastructure is going to be oversubscribed very, very quickly.
Good luck to COH keeping the mesh up once its established! And of course I cringe at the first 911 call because someone's
kid can't get on the net and needs to do their homework. You know its going to happen. LOL.
(Read fark.com for plenty of examples of that behavior if you don't believe me there either.)

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (1)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 6 years ago | (#22869500)

I'm not so much worried about them getting the computers, I'm sure there will be groups set up to donate equipment. But will it be used or just resold? How many of these families will actually use the equipment? There's money, even in the poorer communities. But will it be spent on educational items or the latest footwear?

These are the communities who, when the weather is extrodinarily hot, will get free window unit ACs donated to them, then turn around and sell them when the weather cools down. Because they know someone will hand more out when the weather gets hot again.

Also...and I have to give credit that this came from elsewhere, are they going to FILTER the internet? What happens when mom comes home and finds junior checking out the porn on the free internet? They'll have the civil libertarians on them if they try to censor things. The concern I have always when the government hands you a tasty "free" carrot, is that there will always be the ability to control what they want you to see.

Re:You'd think they'd LEARN from Earthlink's baili (1)

eudaemon (320983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22869678)

Penguin,

You may be right -- I'm sure there are people savvy enough to think if I can get something
for free and sell it for a profit, they'll do exactly that. Hell that's just efficient
market making in the Adam Smith invisible hand sort of way.

On the other hand you have people with children who sincerely want the tools to help those
children succeed, and will gladly use a free or cheap computer qualifies if it means free internet access
for junior. People in that category value the computer more than the short term gain
from selling the device.

You raise a valid point and it means there needs to be some sort of gate or control to keep
people from just profiting by reselling the gear.

where are all the laptops coming from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22865186)

why isn't anyone wondering where all the laptops are coming from that will connect to all this metro-wifi? If I live in low-income housing, and I haven't stolen a laptop off somebody more well to do (yes, a cheap shot), then I've somehow managed to to come up with $400 or rather more for the hardware alone.

Then I take my laptop to a nearby civic center / school / library and instead of using the computers they already have onsite, I surf via the airwaves.

What's the chance I can't afford DSL or dialup at my inner-city home if I have enough disposable income to buy a laptop in the first place? Probably not very high. Ok, maybe the telcos don't have infrastructure to offer DSL in "poor" parts of town. Except that isn't true. Block after block of Section 8 or other low-income housing have phones, COs nearby, and the number of houses without cable is pretty darn few. So service is actually quite available.

If I live in the inner city and I chose not to buy land-line access, what kind of service could I expect while sitting in my concrete and re-bar apartment complex? Signal degredation thru wooden structures is bad enough. I'd have to go sit outside (on my balcony if fortunate) or outside one of these civic hosting facilities. With a >$400 laptop in my hand, would I be comfortable hanging out at these locations? Would the cops leave me alone if I was loitering? Would my fellow residents?

Yes, I've lived in rough areas of Chicago and DC. The premise of metro-WIFI doesn't make a lot of sense because it requires PORTABLE personal computer ownership and that ain't cheap. While some schools may be handing out free laptops to kids just because they can, most aren't. The only benefit and it's really minor is that it allows more people to use the 'net at a facility that only has say 6 computers for all it's patrons to use and is thus greatly oversubscribed. But I could have done that with a $100 AP dropped at each of the community libraries.

I am in the first bubble (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 6 years ago | (#22868226)

Anyone else work/live within the first bubble (supposedly active currently)?
I am trying to find a signal but having no luck.

Income Rise Area. (1)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 6 years ago | (#22882756)


Perhaps Houston got this right?

When I more there to get away
from the Internet Monopoly that
does not provide where I live, the
Income in that block will go up.

And I bet I am not the only one
that cant stand the Internet Monopoly
most of live in.
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