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Wireless Networking Hardware

Philadelphia Considering Municipal Wi-Fi 223

Posted by Zonk
from the surfing-the-aether dept.
sebFlyte writes "The row over Muni Wi-Fi continues as cities and other municipal authorities consider building massive Wi-Fi networks to give lots of people low-cost wireless net access. CNET is running an article written by the CIO for the city of Philadelphia, explaining why she thinks it's time to break the telcos de-facto monopoly and for public agencies to start offering public services." We have previous covered Taipei's efforts along these lines to create a for-pay service
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Philadelphia Considering Municipal Wi-Fi

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:24PM (#11643516) Homepage Journal
    If Philadelphia suceeds you can count on the following:

    People winging about how poor the service is.

    Talkshow hosts berating the government for more give-aways of taxpayer dollars (sponsored by some telco)

    Saturation and further complaints (my taxdollars pay for, won't stand for it, etc)

    Ultimately it'll actually be pretty good service.

    Why is this a good idea anyway? Look at the stranglehold Cable TV has on communities. (oh, sure you can go satellite, but it's still not price competitive because they're pricing to compete with near monopolies) If municipalities insisted cable could be laid under the condition a cable company will sell, at a reasonable price, bandwidth on their cable to competitors, would we be paying such huge prices?

    • This is a good idea (implementation will be its success or downfall) because you can't just walk outside, down to the park and plug your cable tv into the tree next to you and watch your favorite show.

      One thing you might be missing is the reasonable price part of it. There are (at least) two factors involved anytime a price for this kind of service comes up:

      1. How much will the average person be willing to pay for such a service
      2. What other competition exists, and what do they charge?

      While #1 might be
      • What would be nice is if this sort of municipal service was combined with some sort of low-end laptop or desktop offer. You know, a couple of hundred bucks for a computer plus a WiFi connection would allow folks in the lowest income brackets a chance to get on the Internet.
    • How again is satellite not competitive with cable tv? Are you saying that cable tv is so cheap that satellite can't compete against it? If so, it seems that the cable tv monopoly isn't hurting anyone, especially if no one is able to compete effectively. However, around where I live satellite is quite competitive with cable tv and the effect of many subscribers switching to directv or dish network, as well as a series of poorly-implemented digital cable upgrades by mediacom have put the pressure on the ca
      • His point was that since cable has a monopoly (and therefore, it's assumed that they're gouging for all they can get), it's possible for the price of satellite service to be truly "competitive" since they base their prices on the gouge-price of the cable companies. They aren't required to compete with a market that's already competitive, so they retain the un-competitive price levels of the monopoly.
    • "Ultimately it'll actually be pretty good service."

      This time machine of yours - can I borrow it?

      The fact is, you have absolutely no proof whatsoever of the veracity of your claim. Let me throw another unsubstantiated claim out: it'll suck, and badly.

      "Look at the stranglehold Cable TV has on communities. (oh, sure you can go satellite, but it's still not price competitive because they're pricing to compete with near monopolies)"

      What is your definition of price competitive? Your value of some service may
      • by Enry (630) <.ten.agyaw. .ta. .yrne.> on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:06PM (#11644033) Journal
        What is your definition of price competitive? Your value of some service may lead you to believe it is overpriced, but someone who values said service differently may feel it is a fair price. These companies are competing, and they sometimes do it on price.

        My town has a contract with Comcast as the sole provider of cable TV. If I go about 100 yards down the road, I'm in the next town which has both Comcast and RCN as a choice. The price for Comcast the next town over about aboutg 2/3 the price of what I'm paying, meaning I'm paying 50% more because there's no competition.

        Is that a fair price?
      • by Rei (128717)
        There's only one cable provider here in Iowa City. As a consequence, they charge about 10$ more a month than you'd have to pay if you were in Des Moines (which actually has some competition).

        Monopolies exist; they're real; and they're annoying. I'm not saying that Mediacom is being anticompetitive; I don't have any evidence to that effect, and it may well be that we just don't have a large enough market for competitors to justify the cost of coming in here. But, given that Mediacom has the market to its
    • by ShamusYoung (528944) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:55PM (#11643919) Homepage
      Ultimately it'll actually be pretty good service.

      Why stop there? If we can get such great service from the government on this, why not other services? Taxpayer-funded ice cream for the disadvantaged! Subsidized soda machines for people that don't carry loose change! Free spice channel for people too embarrased to call up and order the service themselves! Government ass-wiping for really, really lazy people!

      It doesn't matter if this is a good service or not. This isn't food or housing. This is Wi-Fi access for crying out loud. If the government should provide this, then is there anything the government shouldn't provide?

      You seem confident it will be a good serve, but even if the service sucks and it turns out to be a huge waste of cash, you'll never get rid of it once it's in place. Rotten businesses go out of business, but rotten government programs just eat more tax money.

      I know in the end you people will win. Its human nature to want to believe we can all live in luxury for free, to get things we have not earned or worked for, and to believe that we can make life wonderful but having the government take money from other people and use it to buy us nice things. A little bit at a time, you will get your way, and get all your "free" things from your government.

      For my part, I promise to go kicking and screaming all the way.

      (Unless maybe I can get in on some of the free ice cream) [shamusyoung.com]

      • by eln (21727)
        I'm a fairly liberal person, and even I agree with this post. As a socially conscious liberal, I believe the government's primary role is to provide for the public welfare by providing for security through police and military, and by providing a safety net by which there is a standard of living we will not allow our citizens to fall below. This includes things like welfare and Social Security.

        However, having said that, there are limits. The minimum standard of living includes such things as making sure
        • Why are you comparing cable TV to an internet connection? Cable TV is for entertainment purposes mostly, and it barely services that function.

          An internet connection is used for all sorts of functions including finding news from a multitude of sources, communication, and being able voice your opinion in a public forum such as the one we're on right now.

          -prator
        • What's next, universal cable TV? Everyone gets a free laptop?

          If that were to happen, maybe I would switch to becoming a liberal. Can the government get me a grilfriend too?
        • What's next, universal cable TV?

          No, you have to convicted of a crime and sent to jail if you want free cable TV.
        • Cthulu help me, I actually find myself agreeing with a liberal! :) Well spoken.
        • Well, there are some other services the government has provided for so long that people simply do not question it anymore. Public roads, fire departments, and 911.

          The reality is that other long-standing government services have been replaced or started to be replaced by commercial, like postal services and parks. Even FedEx now handles a good portion of the USPS.

          What the government *really* needs to get out of is some of the restrictive FCC and zoning regulations. A good reason why cable companies have mo
      • There is a system in place for dealing with this - write to your local representitive. If enough people do this, the city won't bother with WiFi access. On the other hand, if most people agree with the service, the city is fine to install the service. Democracy works like that, voice of the people and all.

        In my opinion (UK here, so this isn't relevant to you but is relevant to the concept), the government should not provide additional cash to 'deprived' students in order to encourage their staying in furth
      • "Rotten businesses go out of business, but rotten government programs just eat more tax money."

        If that were true, your post would hold more water, but since there are plenty of poorly run business out there who are still doing well because of government money going to them instead of to necessary services, your gripes fall apart.

        Sure, Wi-Fi service isn't something necessary, but it's a city project, which is paid for by taxpayers of that city, who have far more control of policy than if it were a federall
      • by jericho4.0 (565125) on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:45PM (#11644563)
        No one is demanding free wifi as a right. This is an investment by the city, just like roads and education are. It is only being considered for the (possible) increase the local economy.

      • Um, if my taxes are paying for the wifi, how am i getting a luxury for free?

        We could go the opposite route and say roads are a luxury too. I guess you don't think a good communications infrastructure is within the public interest. Compared to other countries, it is pretty bad.
      • by GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) <curt.johnson@gma ... minus herbivore> on Friday February 11, 2005 @03:20PM (#11645040) Homepage
        Can you say False Dichotomy, Straw Man?

        Your logic is flawed because it ignores the reasoning given by the CIO in the article. You automatically equate WiFi with a luxury item when the CIO from Philly argued that it was a vital part of their infrastructure needed for development and not available from the private sector currently. Your argument does not even address the points made by the CIO.

        Using the logic you've outlined, we should use private police forces and militaries to ensure laws are enforced. After all, if government provides prosecution and apprehension services, what's to keep people from abusing that?

        If people get their garbage taken out by the city at a subsidized rate, what's to keep people from producing more garbage?

        Not everything works in the Free Market, Infrastructure must be publicly funded. Why do you want to leave Philly citizens' future economic opportunities up to chance? Perhaps they don't and that's why they are using their duly elected government to be self-reliant. If you claim that this is not self-reliance, then your definition of self-reliance is equally applicable to a customer trying to negotiate a better price from a corporation. With your view, such a customer is only self-reliant when he is able to meet any demand levied by the corp, rather than being able to find a better way.

        As far as ROI on tax dollars go, I can guarantee you (and the CIO noted this in the FA) that this will have an ROI higher than the crap incentives that have become a slush fund for telcos. Besides, if an ILEC does manage to provide the service with the same ROI as the city, why wouldn't the city just contract them to do the work. I really don't understand where these neo-Liberal ideologies turned into special rights for corporations and limited rights for democratic institutions. Without our democratic institutions, these corporations wouldn't have a pot to piss in.
      • I see the classic fake libertarian mindset at work. Are you willing to subject your roads, sewers, electricity, phones, etc. to this 'don't take anything from me' attitude? I don't know your background but I'm willing to bet you make a living at whatever you do thanks to the public infrastructure that surrounds you. Public = society = people, us, you and me.

        Access to information is coming to be a vital service, and should not be denied to anyone, even the poor. When the internet becomes the primary means o
        • Access to information is coming to be a vital service, and should not be denied to anyone

          How is not paying for WIRELESS INTERNET and "not allowing access to information" the same thing? Just because I don't want to pay for wireless access for everyone doesn't mean I'm advocating outlawing the internet for the poor.

          I've been using the internet alsomost every single day for the last decade, and I have never, ever used wireless. There are internet cafe's and libraries that provide FREE internet access, a

      • Wow, sounds like you work for a cable company or a telco. What part of "low-cost" do you not understand?
    • If municipalities insisted cable could be laid under the condition a cable company will sell, at a reasonable price, bandwidth on their cable to competitors, would we be paying such huge prices?
      That's not technically feasible, since no cable system has extra bandwidth they can sell. Which is a pity. We need to do something to break the cable monopolies. Probably a good start would be appointing FCC commissioners who know that "monopoly" is more than a board game.
    • If Philadelphia suceeds you can count on the following:

      # People winging about how poor the service is.
      # Talkshow hosts berating the government for more give-aways of taxpayer dollars (sponsored by some telco)
      # Saturation and further complaints (my taxdollars pay for, won't stand for it, etc)



      And as soon as the first user hits it, conservative groups will complain about government aloowing its citizens to download porn, and take measures to get content they see as objectionable censored.
    • I'd rather see internet access kept private. Then the FCC is less likely to get it paws on it and start thinking up reasons to censor it.
  • Duplicate (Score:3, Informative)

    by enoraM (749327) * on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:24PM (#11643517)
    This has been on slashdot months ago:
    http://ask.slashdot.org/askslashdot/04/09/25/22025 8.shtml?tid=193&tid=4 [slashdot.org]
    with a reference to the original statement from Philadelphia
    http://www.phila.gov/wireless/briefing.html [phila.gov]
    --
    from-the-sort-out-the-duplicates dept.
    • Re:Duplicate (Score:5, Informative)

      by Xylaan (795464) * on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:31PM (#11643608)
      The concept is duplicate, but at the CIO letter was written yesterday, I believe this is more of an update to an ongoing story.

      Slashdot has enough actual dupes that we don't need any false positives :)
    • It's not a duplicate.

      The story has moved on alot since then -- including sevaral moves by telcos to get government agencies banned from such efforts -- the response from philly was this interesting point, not the news of the set-up.

  • Not allowed? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:26PM (#11643541)
    I thought that PA made a law banning that [slashdot.org]?
    • Re:Not allowed? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Neward Rylet (634838)
      On that same day, the City made a deal with Verizon. The headline sounds like this is uncertain, but the deal is already in place $2M has already been routed to this project by Mayor Street. All the while the transit system (SEPTA) is going bankrupt and threating to raise fairs AND cut weekend service.
      • oh yea the semi-private group. SEPTA an organization that is privately held, but get's the benefits of a gov't organization and at some points as a non-profit.

        Their inability to make a profit resides directly with their corporate attitude. Their customer service is far below acceptable, their police force (the only rent-a-cops I know of that have almost as much power as the police force) are borderline Nazi's, and their drivers are a menace to the roads.

        I have lived in Philly almost all of my life - S
    • Re:Not allowed? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by NardofDoom (821951) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:52PM (#11643881)
      They have till 2005 or 2006 to get it up. Any network done before then isn't subject to the law that my asshat representative supported.

      As for the law: There's nothing stopping a community organization from building one. I think the public broadcasting model would work for a mesh network: Like it? Donate! Get some companies to sponsor and we're cool. No muss, no fuss, no multi-million-dollar executive salaries or golden parachutes.

      The law's ass-backwards anyway. I don't see anything wrong with local government competing with business. Hell, it'll make them get their shit together and offer something better than 3Mbps down/784kbps up with a dynamic IP.

      I'm jealous of Swedes.

  • by sammykrupa (828537) <sam@theplaceforitall.com> on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:27PM (#11643555) Homepage Journal
    Public networks to fileshare on!
  • Wish my town... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by robslimo (587196) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:28PM (#11643571) Homepage Journal
    would do something like that.

    Starting the late 90's they were being very public about pushing to the front of being "wired"... even got a Yahoo! "Most wired city" award for 2000. That was all on an effort to get the city ringed with fiber. I guess once they got their high-speed net to all the city buildings and schools, their interest pretty much fizzled, leaving the city-zens still not quite on of the game... I still can't get DSL.
    • Re:Wish my town... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ytsejam-03 (720340) on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:52PM (#11644676)
      I guess once they got their high-speed net to all the city buildings and schools, their interest pretty much fizzled, leaving the city-zens still not quite on of the game... I still can't get DSL.
      Either that, or the cable/telco lobby quitely put a stop to all of the fiber talk. Where I live that same lobby ran this company [isp-planet.com] out of business after they managed to run fiber to two local communities, Springville and Spanish Fork. The cities adopted the networks after the company went belly-up, and residents of those communities have had cheap, fast internet connections for the past five years.

      This is Qwest's worst nightmere. Now thanks to this project [utopianet.org] Qwest can kiss their monopoly goodbye. Qwest did [utahpolitics.org] their [deseretnews.com] best [ksl.com] to kill it.
    • I still can't get DSL.
      DSL service is a patch which uses the old of the phone services lines for providing fairly high speed internet access to an area withing a limited distance of the local 'central office' (you know the brick buildings with no windows and your phone service name on them). If you don't have one of them within a reasonable walk, it's likely that you'll never get DSL.
  • Potholes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsd4me (759597) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:35PM (#11643663)

    I would prefer them to fix all of the potholes first...

    • PA in general has some of the worst roads in the Nation...
      • especially in center city philly. Over the summer, the left rear window in my car had the hinge that held the window break after I hit a pothole. I have had that fixed, my struts replaced, two tired blowouts (on one pot-hole). The city streets are a meance. The weirdest thing - I always see this one Lamborghini around 16th and sansom (every month or so)...why would someone bring such a gorgeous machine onto such a terrible road system.
    • In Philly? Before they get to potholes, how about picking up all the stripped, burned-out shells of stolen cars? And the piles of bricks.
    • Why? It's still early Feb. Fix em now and they just come back later. My favorite is when they reopen the road just after dumping some asphalt in the hole. 50 cars later and the asphalt is all over the place, kicked up onto windshields, peds, etc.

      You live in the Northeast. There will be multiple freeze-thaw cycles each year. Potholes will be created. There is no viable solution.
    • On the internet, there won't be any potholes because we can travel to other places virtually in cyberspace.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:36PM (#11643665) Homepage Journal
    I am OK with municipal utilities, I think it is inappropriate to make it free. If there is a need among the low-income, offer discounts or make it free for them on a need basis. Having your users pay by default would more likely pay for the setup.

    I am no fan of the DSL / cable duopoly, but not giving them or other commercial interests a chance would be a disservice to tax payers due to the potential for waste and stifles competition from viable alternatives.

    • I am no fan of the DSL / cable duopoly, but not giving them or other commercial interests a chance would be a disservice to tax payers due to the potential for waste and stifles competition from viable alternatives.

      And creates a system, where due to immediate and widespread acceptance because of price, long reaching privacy violations and centralized censorship are likely to occur all at taxpayer expense.
    • Like the difference between municipal drinking water fountains and having municipal water in your office or home, cities do not need to offer access of equivalent quality and delivery method free to all users, everywhere. Could there be a less desirable, but workable version of the utility freely available on city streets (like the fountains), with a sweeter and for-pay version of the utility available within businesses and homes? The sweeter version can compete with private entities, while the basic servic

    • Of course the overhead created by a billing structure addition would probably at least triple the cost. By making it freely open you vastly reduce the running costs.
  • very hard to do... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Menotti M (846491) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:36PM (#11643668) Homepage
    Muni-WiFi cannot work if they stick to current 802.11 technologies. WiFi was built for very small LAN deployments. As there are only 11 channels for 802.11, interference is going to pose a big problem with home users' own WiFi networks, as well as technologies that run in the 2.4 GHz band of the spectrum.

    If they choose to use a technology more suited for a WAN deployment, like the unproven WiMax, this is more of a political move than anything else. The government is trying to look like it is hip with technology and attract the tech-savvy crowd. However, such a deployment is not good for competition, as governments receive special tax-exempt status and would either take many companies out of the market completely, or lend a huge advantage who whomever the government contracts. And what happens when the technology / project goes belly up? In the normal market, companies go bankrupt. The government, however, will just throw (and waste) more money at it.

    • And what about all these up and coming standards like 'n'? With 'n', you'd have far less deployments to worry about (increased distance), and improved bandwidth. Investment in old tech is what you get when you let Gov't handle (botch) something like this.

      By the time it gets through 800 committees, the original idea is so watered down you begin to wonder why it was proposed in the first place. I think this would be a better job for the private sector with gov't investment and incentive.

    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@keirstea d . o rg> on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:30PM (#11644377) Homepage

      ..an awful lot of cities have already been doing it for a long time.

      Including my town [wi-fiplanet.com], which has had free WiFi covering a large portion of the city for over a year. I and I know for a fact that we aren't the only city doing this, plenty of others in the US already have simmilar setups.

      If your home WAP had been using the same channel as the city, tough cookes. Change your channel. Is it really that freaking difficult? Took me less than 30 seconds on my linksys.

      • Yes, changing your channel can be difficult. Someday, when you move out of your parents basement, you might move into an urban area.

        Right now in boston where I work there are eight wireless networks within range. At home in my six-apartment rowhouse there are four wireless networks. Some people live in an area so saturated with wireless networks that changing channels are the only way to go. Some people have subtle interference problems which mean they have to switch channels to get more than five feet of
    • Well, do you like little gadgets like PDAs?

      Their sales are declining. Eventually companies will stop shipping them to the US because we just aren't buying them.

      What might provoke the average Bush supporting American to buy such a device?

      Free wireless.

      Its all perspective. Sure we could lose a telco or two, but they don't care about giving us free 'net access, ever. Not if they can make a buck off us for something that should be free and doesn't cost a considerable amount to make it free. Haven't we p
  • Philly Wifi?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FyreFiend (81607) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:37PM (#11643676)
    While I like the idea in general I don't think Philly should doing this. The city has been so broke these last few years that they're closing firehouses and talking of cutting the police force. Once the city gets its budget in order then they might want to look into this. Not before.
    • Wifi is more productive than police.

      Cops are usually the biggest wastes in municipal spending... typically police have 20 or 25 year retirements @ 50% pay, so their effective annual salary after benefits and pension contributions is something like $160k+overtime.

      In a big, old & declining city like Philly, you probably have a police force designed for the boom days of the industrial past. (ie too big)
      • Where are mods point to mark someone as Troll when you need them? Wifi more productive than police my eye.

        So what if they have the retirement you speak of? They're the ones putting their butts on the line for you so you can walk around safely. They're the ones who track down who killed your nextdoor neighbor so the same person doesn't come after you.

        People like you seem to think cops are a nuisance. You don't want cops, then don't call them when something happens to you and make sure everyone you know
        • You're missing the point completely. I don't have a beef with cops -- hell, I have enough cops and firemen in my family to protect a small city.

          But cops are expensive. A city like Philadelphia probaly has something like 5-7 thousand police.

          The actually needed all of those cops in the 40's, when Philly was an industrial boom-town and half the cops walked their beats. Today, after a quarter of the population left for the suburbs, they could easily run just fine with 20-25% fewer cops.
        • Why is he a troll? Because you disagree with his opinion? People like you are exactly the type who shouldn't moderate and whose moderations I routinely meta-mod as Unfair.
      • While I don't think big-city cops are overpaid AT ALL, it's true that Philly's "city services" are made for a city with a population almost 1 million greater than it actually serves.
    • While I like the idea in general I don't think Philly should doing this.

      How else are they going to keep people's minds off the Eagles? ("Oh, Donovan, what the hell were you doing... wait a minute, free pr0n...")

  • by SparksMcGee (812424) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:37PM (#11643687)
    It seems that the comparatively extravagant cost of free WiFi versus the number of people who can't even even afford a computer in Philadelphia puts into question why this should be a primary initiative. I agree with the goals in principle but wouldn't those tax dollars do a lot towards helping city schooling? Just a thought.
    • Who can't afford a computer in the US?

      I personally know people in enough poverty to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and they just bought a PC...used of course, but a 100 to 300 MHz Pentium still does an OK job of basic Web & email. You can pick these up on Ebay for way under $100, or get one from Freecycle for free.
  • Ramifications (Score:5, Insightful)

    by popo (107611) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:40PM (#11643722) Homepage

    The ramifications of free wi-fi are greater than just web access... The upshot is of course, free telephone service as well.

    This IMHO is where the real problems are going to begin. The telco's aren't just going to lose their internet business over this, they'd lose their businesses.

    Not that we'd be sorry to see them go, but it should be acknowleged that we're talking about more than web browsing here.
  • Telco Monopoly (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Philadelphia's move does nothing to telco monopolies. The legislation that allowed the Philly project to go forward also gives Verizon the right to veto any other city in Pennsylvania from doing the same thing.
  • by kwiqsilver (585008) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:48PM (#11643827)
    Is there any proof of this? Never in the history of the United States has the government done anything "low cost". Compare the true cost of shipping a package FedEx versus USPS.
    It might cost less for the few hundred thousand subscribers who pay for it, but don't forget all the money taken from the people who don't use it, but who still get to pay for it.

    A government granted telco monopoly is a bad thing, but a government run monopoly (amtrak, usps, etc) is worse.
    And just imagine how great that customer service will be. It might reach DMV levels of greatness!
    And I suppose we can trust the government to provide our network access and not snoop in on us.

    Of course, if it does cost too much, has poor service, or impedes on your privacy, you can always switch to the competition...oh wait, they ran the competition under, because "for profit" has become evil.
    • The USPS doesn't operate on taxpayer money, except in the sence that generally the people sending letters also happen to be taxpayers.

      One more time: USPS is not tax supported.
    • Compare the true cost of shipping a package FedEx versus USPS. The USPS has not received any government subsidies for the last 20 years. True, the USPS pays no taxes, but then, neither does Microsoft. Where are you getting this data comparing the "true cost" of FedEx vs. USPS? Also, bear in mind that the USPS is required to deliver to EVERYONE, whereas FedEx does not deliver to remote or rural areas.
    • Nicely put. Lots of people want free stuff paid for by taxing someone else, and don't bother to think ahead to the consequences. Nor will they ask why they're entitled to a free ride at someone else's expense; waving the word "public good" around is a sufficient justification -- after all, those other people are too dumb to realize the benefit they're getting, so they have to be forced to pay for it. With the government as the wireless carrier, the opportunities for governmental censorship and spying are
    • Never in the history of the United States has the government done anything "low cost".

      Class, open your textbooks to the chapter on the TVA. They electrified a good-sized chunk of the south providing cheap power when private companies wouldn't do it because they were going to charge too much for the power.

      Now, I'm not saying their history after the 1940's is perfect, but they at least started out well.

      You could also look at the water companies in Chile. They used to be government-run, and water was c

    • Other people said it too, but I've got to pile on. You're an idiot. The USPS operates solely on postage and mailbox fees. Our mail subsidy comes not from the government, but from junk mailers.
    • It might reach DMV levels of greatness!

      The last time I went to renew my driver's license, I was in and out in about 15 minutes and the people were generally friendly.
  • by owlclownish (553387) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:49PM (#11643842)

    The city itself shouldn't be talking about forming a monopoly, supporting a monopoly or operating a utility. Instead the city should be doing what it needs to do to facilitate the creation of city-wide mesh networks by private providers.

    There are several impediments to the creation of city-wide wireless mesh networks. The first, and perhaps most important, is right of way. The second is cost.

    A good model would include the city throwing out an RFP asking for proposals to create a city-wide mesh network that accomplishes the following:

    • Covers at least X% of the city, where X is a large enough percentage to ensure that poor areas of the city are at least partially covered in mesh.
    • Provides at least X mbps throughput to all users
    • Allows independent providers to use the network to provide their own brand of wireless mesh services, for appropriate fees
    In exchange, providers get:
    • The right to borrow money at favorable rates through the use of the city's credit. The city floats bonds, and then loans the money to the chosen provider(s) at the same interest rate as the bonds themselves
    • Streamlined approval of right of way throughout the city, probably using the city's lamposts
    • A temporary monopoly on some types of premium services on the network (i.e. the provider is forced to allow the rebranding of the regular tier of service, but a higher tier of service [twice as fast?] is the sole province of the provider for X years).
    New York City has an interesting plan out there for better cell phone coverage under a similar model: offering right of way on the city's lamposts in exchange for certain guarantees. See New York Times coverage [nytimes.com] on the subject.
    • The city itself shouldn't be talking about forming a monopoly, supporting a monopoly or operating a utility. Instead the city should be doing what it needs to do to facilitate the creation of city-wide mesh networks by private providers.

      If you RTFA, you would find this quote:

      Who says the government is going to be the ISP or build the network? What about the old public-private partnership models? Maybe--just maybe--they should see what the City of Philadelphia is proposing before they attack.

      So, yeah

  • Two problems: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wordsmith (183749) on Friday February 11, 2005 @01:56PM (#11643929) Homepage
    Aside from the philosophical discussion on whether this SHOULD be done, I see two implimentation problems:

    1) This is going to cause major interference with pre-existing wi-fi networks. I don't use of want my private network degraded by the ever-present WIFI service set up with repeaters throughout the city.

    2) It's going to be VERY difficult to get people to be smart about use, and avoid giving out key personal information over the airwaves. Identity theieves already collects lots of information in Starbucks and ball fields. Can you imagine how bad the problem would be with access city-wide?
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:01PM (#11643989) Homepage Journal
    I post the same reply nearly every time it comes up. The local governments have no business getting into providing internet service let alone WIRELESS internet service.

    I read what he had to say and I call BULLSHIT. It is the same politically correct crap they use all the time to slip more government programs. The routine is to use words like underserved, monopoly, and eventually "redlining". They claim that cable companies, telcos, and similar don't provide service to those who cannot afford it or will even use it yet at the same time they claim there is a need!

    This is a vote buying scheme with little difference from how senior centers, libraries, and even police precincts are placed.

    Here is what will happen. The contracts will be awarded to those companies who can show they adhere to some contrived quota system of workers. Being in philly this might require union workers, specific health benefits, living wage, or even political affliation. These types of companies are usually nothing more that shells held by friends of the mayor or similar placed people (see Atlanta airport for examples of a big city nepotism).

    The contract gets awarded. It delivers inferior service requiring even more consultation by people who just happen to be friends of the same people who authorized it or screwed it up.

    So eventually it mostly works. We then find out that most of the target people don't have the equipment to use it. So we buy it for them, to include pc and router from "approved companies". We then have to provide training for those who "did not win lifes lottery" of course by those who meet the nepotism requirements.

    Then we stuff the administration of the whole shebang by favorites and such.

    So we will end up with an overpriced solution that is staffed by people who have no business touching a net. We will pay to stuff pcs and equipment in homes where the people really won't get the true benefit.

    I'd rather let a corporation do it, at least they can be held truly accountable. The government will just make your life miserable if you complain or such.
  • Rendell pushed a bill written by Verizon, banning public sponsered wifi access in the state of PA except for Philadelhia. You can read more about about here [freepress.net].

    He lost my vote. [alexvalentine.org]


  • Local Goverment decides on big-ticket infrastructure spend in market already (relatively) well served by existing commercial vendors.

    I don't get it. Do we seriously think that an internet connection is something the state should provide to every home ? Is it more important than a phone line ? Water ? Gas ? Electricity ? And all the other things supplied by the commercial sector.

    I'm glad I'm not in Philly, there is one goverment official there with WAY too much budget.

  • I see two sides of this. First, one problem I have with governments period now and even other organizations is that they continually try to push people to the web. When it snows, the local radio stations do not even read the closings on air anymore unless it's a brand new one. Then they only call it once. This is a problem. EVERYBODY frickin assumes oh just look it up on the web. Well, what if we don't HAVE or WANT a computer? I have computers and it's not a problem for me but others depend on the no
  • by acoustix (123925) on Friday February 11, 2005 @02:18PM (#11644203) Homepage
    The last time I checked I could also get Internet access from my cable TV company, independent dial-up providers, independent wireless providers. In fact, in my town of 26,000 we have approximately 10 ISPs that are not telephone companies.

    Makes me wonder what the hell they're doing in Philly if my little town in Iowa has all of these options available and all of the companies are making profits.

    -Nick
  • Why not let the telco's run it, but allow the city to pay for a minimum level of service that's available to everyone? If a person wants more features, speed, whatever, then they can pay to upgrade. This can be something that's an 3-4 year contract and can be put up for competitive bid near the end of each contract. I certainly wouldn't want my city trying to run a wireless network because whatever they do touch ends up being screwed up.
  • Even I, generally libertarian-leaning, see something to be said for municipal fiber networks, given the incredible costs and externalities (stopping traffic) of trenching and covering an entire municipality. The truth is that if the muni doesn't do it, they will often give a monopoly franchise to a private corp to do it anyway. Plus trenching fiber involves getting all kinds of government permits for rights-of-way, etc.

    Muni wireless is another issue. I'm not so sure that government should go in and crea
  • You might want to tape your W2 to your monitor.

    On the surface, I like the idea of free wifi. Who doesn't want free service? I like that the government is building an infrastructure. However, I believe that the service itself should be privatized, keeping sure to maintain a competitive environment with several providers. Otherwise, the lowest bidder is awarded a fat contract, with minimal incentive to provide improved service, and the incredible inertia that is government contracting will insure that po
  • by Yonder Way (603108) on Friday February 11, 2005 @04:10PM (#11645631)
    The CIO for the city of Philadelphia was at a meeting for Philadelphia Cares [philacares.org] that I was also in attendance at. This was a technology summit on how to bridge the technology divide.

    At one point in the meeting I suggested that a grassroots effort to creat neighborhood mesh networks could be of great benefit to connecting hte neighborhoods both internally and externally. CIO asked a few questions but didn't seem to want to work with the community on it.

    I see where this is going now. Mayor Street's office gets a hold of a great idea that would cost the city very little to implement, but then turns it around to line the pockets of his inner circle. His brother Milton is already busy with a lucrative city contract so maybe it will be someone else in the mayor's family.

    But don't take my word for it. Check for yourself [google.com].
  • Is how people keep saying "oooo, Free Internet!"

    Listen. NOTHING IS FREE. The money to build the infrastructure has to come from SOMEWHERE. That somewhere is taxpayers' pockets. The monthly ISP fees will also be paid for our of taxpayers' pockets

    Citizens of Philadelphia, listen to me and listen to me good. It will be cheaper for you in the long run to OPPOSE this with every ounce of strength you have and instead just go out and buy a computer and cheap DSL or Cable. If you allow the city gov't to do this,
  • Yet another crazy government idea.

    Governments are known to be inefficient and I think that money is badly needed for social programs and whatnot.
    If they already want to compete with private enterprises (as this is essentially a service that could be provided by some existing or new private enterprise), they should use some innovative ways.

    For example, they could donate WLAN access points to selected households which then can create a big free P2P mesh. Power bill (and "AP management" where applicable) cou

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