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Wireless Networking The Almighty Buck Hardware

Municipal WiFi Costs Outweigh Benefits 322

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the subtle-jabs dept.
TheSync writes "JupiterResearch claims that muni WiFi costs outweigh benefits. It can cost up to $150,000 per square mile over five years, which may not even provide each user a benefit of $25 a month. They suggest that such projects only be taken on as public-private partnerships."
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Municipal WiFi Costs Outweigh Benefits

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  • Minor Details (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oculus Habent (562837) * <oculus...habent@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:03AM (#13012388) Journal
    First, the article says the average cost is $150,000, not up to $150k.

    Second, it says an assumed $25/month benefit, not that it's not even $25/month. Also, Internet access costs me $40/month, so...

    Third, it says the first five years, which includes all manner of infrastructure creation. Even a major network upgrade would likely cost less later on, because you don't have to find locations, put up towers, etc. I'd like to see the per year estimates, but I'm not subscribed to Jupiter's service.

    If your town/city is going through the work and effort to build this manner of network, hopefully someone is going to notify your citizens and try to get them onboard. By Jupiter's reckoning, it takes an average 100 users per square mile to cover the costs. Now, if your city/town put any real effort into this project, you'd probably let people know that free Internet access is a $40 network card away. Get local computer stores to stock up on the cards and ask them to chip in on an ad campaign. They can offer a flat-rate installation service (with caveats for running into problems, etc)
    • Re:Minor Details (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BadDoggie (145310) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:08AM (#13012407) Homepage Journal
      Additionally, JupiterResearch make their money by selling their reports and their consulting services to other businesses. Their opinions are hardly unbiased, as the selective "study" of only the first five years of running the network shows.

      woof.
      • Re:Minor Details (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tomhudson (43916)
        FTFA:

        The report is motivated by a paucity of unbiased analysis for stakeholders assessing the merits of government involvement in broadband wireless networks based on Wi-Fi.

        ... their motivation makes sense, kinda

        1. "Hey, everyone else is releasing biased reports!"
        2. "There must be a market for biased reports!"
        3. "Lets release our own biased report!"
        4. PROFIT !!!

        Fucktards (both Jupiter and anyone who pays for this "report").

        • by telecsan (170227) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:29AM (#13012502)
          I figured that paucity of unbiased analysis had to be an anagram for something, and I got as far as stupid false bias, but I have some leftover letters...
          • "unbiased analysis" gives "Alas inane subsidy". It's a start ...
          • by Stauf (85247)

            I figured that paucity of unbiased analysis had to be an anagram for something...

            Inauspicious Beady Satan Fly!

            Now all you have to do is figure out what it means.

            • by Rei (128717)
              1) "Up By A Bay" Insidious Analyst
              2) Insidious "Fantasy Palace" Buy
              3) Pay Us An Inability-Focussed "A"
              4) Inability As "Pa", You Fecund Ass
              5) I Bandy Up Facetious Analysis (my favorite!)
              6) Facetious Analysis Paid By UN
              7) Suspicious Denial By A Fay Ant
              8) In A Suspicious Fealty-Day Nab
              9) Obfuscate Analysis: I Pay In Du...
              10) A Sinous Playa FBI Syndicate (???)

          • See? These guys are willing to go so far to skew the results of a study, they actually threw in extra letters so your anagram wouldn't come out right! The NERVE!
      • Re:Minor Details (Score:4, Interesting)

        by 3dr (169908) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:39AM (#13012914)
        From the press release (a press release about a WiFi report?) this report doesn't sound anything more than subjective fluff. However, it's material that SBC and other muni WiFi blockers would love to quote.

        Only reporting on a limited scope isn't bias, it's merely a boundary.

        What gets me is the emphasis on breakeven points, profiteering opportunities, etc. Not everything needs a 100% quantifiable ROI. Muni WiFi is just that; the benefit it provides is a convenience for the community for both casual users (check mah email) and mobile workers. I.e., build it if you can afford it.

        As a last resort, we could always measure the usage in kilogirls.

      • Re:Minor Details (Score:4, Interesting)

        by GeckoX (259575) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:44AM (#13012954)
        No doubt. The way I read that, they're trying to convince small municipalities that they can't do it alone, but if they bring in some other business (that will drive costs up for the municipality) it'll work.

        What they fail to mention is whom it works/doesn't work for. WIFI in small communities doesn't work for Big Business when the community does it effectively. It does work for Big Business if you can layer the FUD enough to convince the community to piss money into a private company for no reason at all.

        I've seen enough small town WIFI installations, done by the community, to know that this 'report' is a low down dirty shame.

        Anyone seen any reports from the other angle? Reports on communities successfully deploying WIFI on their own, for low cost?
    • Re:Minor Details (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arkanes (521690)
      I don't see how they get from from needing 100 people per square mile to it being unfeasible. Any reasonably populated metro area has several times that number. Urban or suburban wi-fi would be dicier, but I think everyone already knew that.
      • Re:Minor Details (Score:5, Interesting)

        by surprise_audit (575743) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:18AM (#13012775)
        There's a brand new neighborhood just a few blocks south of me here. I figured I try out my new GPS puck w/ NetStumbler on my laptop, just to see how it worked out. I picked up about 30 APs in substantially *less* than 1/4 square mile, and there's still empty lots available. Assuming the whole square mile could be made over to housing, there'd be at least 120 APs.

        What would be a reasonable average proportion of wired internet to wireless?? We get both Cable Internet and DSL around here, and I'd guess the wired households probably outnumber the wireless household by at least 2 or 3 to 1. OK, not all the wired households would go wireless, but some would. We dropped cable completely because the cable (digital TV + internet) costs kept creeping up. DSL + DishTV turned out to be cheaper, plus there're no port or server restrictions... If wireless was available at a competitive price, we'd certainly consider it.

      • Re:Minor Details (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gid13 (620803) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:54AM (#13013014)
        What *I* don't get is how it could be feasible for corporations but not cities. I don't see the costs and benefits being different depending on who provides it (except of course that ideally municipal wifi wouldn't try to profit). And I doubt that the initial costs are too expensive for a city. Am I missing something here?
        • Re:Minor Details (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dnoyeb (547705) on Friday July 08, 2005 @10:46AM (#13013414) Homepage Journal
          Corporate types have been successful in convencing the average person that they run stuff better than Government. So people keep pushing privitization to their own detriment. (fire the city workers, then pay for their welfare)

          They forget that government pays more for each worker, corporations just take all the profits to the people on the top. When people see the guy on the bottom makin money they claim he don't deserve it and its waste. But when the guy on the top does, they don't complain.

          Its whack. Besides, every new business should expect to loose money its first several years...

      • Since the report is closed-source, you can't see the real numbers, but suppose they're approximately correct. Some other articles were concerned about "5 years", but that's actually a reasonable timeframe for a technology project that's production-mode and not just a pilot - you want to amortize the costs over a reasonable period of time, even though most of the cash is upfront during the building phase, and in 3-5 years, either the project will miserable failure, or it'll be a raving success everybody lov
    • by Ruvim (889012)
      And then, a town/city can start issuing tickets for people using this open network without permission thus getting their budget fixed, refering to this story [slashdot.org] as a legal precendent.
    • Um-okay- here is the issue. Take other infastructure, like roads. Allowing for inflation and all, the cost of repaving or putting in a new road stays fairly static, so a report on the cost makes sense.
      The problem is that we aren't talking about ass-fault, we are talking about wi-fi. In 5 years there may be a totally new way of putting in the systems, or the cost may come down so low that it is laughable.
      So a report on what a new tech will cost is sort of ridicerous. I mean, if you decided to buy every st
    • Re:Minor Details (Score:5, Informative)

      by sjwaste (780063) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:32AM (#13012865)
      Let me put my "I have a business degree" spin on this (I do).

      5-year projected statements are the norm for a consultant, especially one with an agenda. They might have a contract on the back burner with a telecom carrier to project the same project if they were to do it as a private project.

      Second, they're making a lot of assumptions, such as internet service penetration at a given price point (estimating demand accurately is hard). Their net benefit figure probably comes from a weighted average of those on dialup and broadband, paying their respective rates currently.

      Also, they're estimating cost on a project where the exact technology used probably hasn't even been determined (for instance, WiMax doesn't yet fully exist), and doesn't take into account existing infrastructure (poles, etc already exist in many places).

      I agree that this is a half-assed article. I'm just trying to shed some light on what makes it a half-assed article, from the economic consulting point of view.
      • I agree that this is a half-assed article. I'm just trying to shed some light on what makes it a half-assed article, from the economic consulting point of view.

        I figured the fact that it was released by an economic consulting firm was the first clue it was half-assed, but thanks for the additional information.

    • Re:Minor Details (Score:4, Informative)

      by The-Bus (138060) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:40AM (#13012922)
      I put this together last time, but by the time I had it done the story was gone off the front page.

      A previous story here on /. commented on [slashdot.org]costs to provide wi-fi access to a 16-sq. mile area to be about $600,000. Based on that, as well as old Census data [census.gov], I came up with a highly simplified cost chart [fantasticdamage.com] for the major metropolitan areas in the U.S.

      Based on that, there's no clear evidence that wi-fi is absolutely cost-effective or absolutely not cost effective. It really depends on your city and a lot of other factors. I would hazard a guess that low-density areas are not going to do well. (That's why Casper, Wymoing and Yuma, Arizona, and Bismarck, North Dakota all are at the bottom of the list).

      If you have better cost info, you can always play with the data yourself.
    • It has been concluded that public transportation, municipal water and sewer, emergency services, and telephone networks are not self sustaining in lightly populated areas.

      Duh. The Federal/State/Local government(s) do all sorts of things and provide all sorts of services that are for the public good that don't make money. Internet access is the next utility. I've got municipal water, why not municipal internet? Sure, it may not be appropriate for rural or even some suburban areas, but for areas that hav
      • why not municipal internet?

        Why not? Because I can't opt out.

        The same holds for the services that most of us already pay for. I live in a community where the garbage is picked up by people paid for by a private condo association. I pay a fee for this. However, I still pay taxes to the city, some of which are used to fund trash removal from residents outside of my community.

        If I only want to use wired internet, and am willing to pay for it, why should I be forced to pay for the wireless connection

        • Welcome to the United States, where your taxes pay for things you don't want. I don't want a war with Iraq, I don't want money going to "faith-based inititives", I don't want churches to get off without paying their share of taxes.

          Even going beyond things I find morally problematic, I can't opt-out of paying for schools just because I don't have any kids. I can't opt-out of paying for garbage disposal if I were to recycle 100% of my trash. We live in a community, and as members of a community, our tax dollars pay for civic projects for the greater good. I believe internet access to be one of them.
    • The main benefit is keeping a pool of smart workers in a metro area to fuel new tech businesses. No one wants to start a high tech business in Cleveland or Detroit because the workforce is emigrating. How do you factor this into the economics?
  • by thegoogler (792786) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:05AM (#13012394)
    ive heard the same said about public transportation a few times, and im sure it was said about the power system(which is municipal, at least in some areas)
    • ive heard the same said about public transportation a few times

      I don't know about most areas, but in Southeastern Pennsylvania, SEPTA [septa.org] can never make as much money in fares as it needs to spend. Even with generous government subsidies, it has massive budget shortfalls year after year after year.

      Now the governor of Pennsylvania, in an amazingly audacious or clever move (depending on your viewpoint) is figuring out a way to redirect federal highway dollars to the public transportation system. [septa.org]

      Say what
      • I realize there is an argument that can be made on both sides. But realize that it is a public welfare system.

        As opposed to the bagillions of dollars spent on roadways because the existing ones are too crowded for the cars that people want to put on them?

      • When you consider Fast Eddy is from Philly, it's no wonder he'll do everything in his power to keep bailing as fast he can to keep the city afloat.

        Let's not forget the tons of money that are thrown to the city (and Pittsburgh) every year to cover up the massive budget deficts.

        While we're on the subject of subsidizing, it's almost a given that when government subsidizes the construction of sports stadiums, the revenue generated over the years from those stadiums will not equal or exceed the original cost.
      • Roads are a public welfare system, then.

        Also, how much is farebox revenue covering costs? 30%-50%?

        Over the past few years our state has had issues with transit because the politicans moved it to an unstable funding source to 'reform' property taxes.

        Lastly, your second link illustrates that the government continually punts the healthcare issue to other people (ie: taxpayers in this case). Every time this happens I think we need to be very pissed off that our leaders can't figure out a way to push down t
  • Until you get a fabric network that covers multiple square miles per basestation (a la WiMAX) You'll not see a municipal implementation over a metro area.

    Sure there are exceptions (where town.size approaches zero) or (starbuck.count approaches infinity) but this is just the economics catching up with the technology.

    If you've got a connection at home, and you've got a connection on the Bus, and you've got a connection via your cellphone, and yuo've got a connection via your coffee shop, why does a city have to be 100% covered by 802.11a/b/g? GPRS/EDGE/3g/future can (and initially will) pick up the slack.
    • why does a city have to be 100% covered by 802.11a/b/g?

      It doesn't but people like having Internet access all over their home area while only paying for it once.

      I have GPRS, I have DSL, and I have wireless access via Panera and "nice neighbors". Guess what? The GPRS connection (and device) aren't cheap -- I pay $20/month on top of my cell phone plan for data service, luckily the phone was free. The DSL connection I have is ~$55/mo. The wireless connections I can take advantage of require a wireless LA
  • by NineNine (235196) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:08AM (#13012408)
    Honestly, wi-fi in general needs to work better before people are going to use it exclusively. We just stopped using our town's free wi-fi because it sucked. And, I stopped using it in my house a few months back, also. I've never seen a solid, stable, fast wi-fi implementation. It's fun and cute for people checking their email quickly at Starfucks, but wi-fi still isn't there (from everything I've seen) for a regular, dedicated connection.
    • I've also got some issues with AirPort topology (the GUI has never heard of it. It assumes a single server/client[s] installation).

      Maybe its the antenas, maybe its the transmitters, but it sucks that I get better reception from the neighbor's WAP through the floor/ceiling than I can get from my own unobstructed AirPort WAP from 50 feet away.

      I know about the inverse square rule with distance but it sucks that the none of the Airport set up software can understand about repeaters. I can only have a star net
    • by Gaewyn L Knight (16566) <vaewyn&wwwrogue,com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:38AM (#13012543) Homepage Journal
      I would suggest you either get new hardware or a new OS then....

      For example... my home internet connection is a 6.1 mile 802.11b connection to the campus where I work and my laptop usually connects over a wrt54g unit in my basement. I am currently downloading an ISO over both of these at a hair over 230KB/s and that is the norm.

      Also.. the only outtages I have ever had from any wireless are when the units themselves have lost power due to bad UPSs. (Hint... UPS in top of water tower == lightning bait :} )

      If you are having these problems I would suggest you fix the location/number of APs to get proper coverage of the area... change your wifi card to see if it is just that... or if you are using an semi-old version of windows upgrade to a newer one or to linux and get some stable drivers.

      Anyways... just my 2 cents...
    • I think the problem is spectrum congestion. The last few times I've been in Manhattan, I've often found 802.11b to be useless because of the large number of hotspots and users overlapping.
  • by kahei (466208) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:10AM (#13012418) Homepage

    Hear me before it is too late! SHUN the evil of the Three P's, Public Private Partnership! Turn ye either to the left, to publically funded projects, or to the right, to the blessed land of private enterprise -- but walk not the middle path, the path of the Three P's!

    Once, this land of England was fair and pleasant, with mighty Industry and caring Government working hand in hand! Then came the Three P's! They promised us cost savings and social responsibility, but they delivered nothing -- nothing save gigantic invoices and permanent damage to the environmental and social fabric of the nation!

    Turn aside, oh turn, I beg you, America, from this path of wickedness! For the evil of Bloated Government Inefficiency is in them, and the sin of Greedy Private Contractors they likewise have! And the private half shall spend, yea spend and spend, and the public half will know not nor care where the money has gone!

    Repent therefore, repent before they do unto you as they have unto Europe!

    My words have the semblance of jest, but the danger is deadly serious.

    • Yea and indeed verily.

      This missive does indeed speak the truth. I encourage those of you blessed with the points of moderation to bestow them unstintingly and with the fullness of your heart to the above post, so that the multitudes may come to know of this cautionary tale of Britannic woe.
    • And I had *wondered* where all the good jobs went! I'm off to the local PPP, resume in hand! This sounds like a BOON for IT workers who feel under-employed. Anybody like that on Slashdot? Thanks, er, Padre.

      ---
      BTW: For those moderating today--I am making a JOKE. If you don't get it, keep your filthy "offtopic" hands off my post.
    • Forgive me and my paranoia, but I really don't want the government controlling my access to the Internet.....
      • They won't. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SolemnDragon (593956) * <solemndragon@gmNETBSDail.com minus bsd> on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:18AM (#13012776) Homepage Journal
        Simply put: they aren't likely to. Mass transport systems haven't gotten rid of the highways, bike trails, or your own two feet, so i figure public WiFi won't kill off cable modems, etc. Public versions of a thing don't necessarily override the free enterprise system, they just try to provide a lowest common denominator.

        Whether this effort does this successfully is what's being debated. It's likely that you will be able to get other forms of internet connection, because having a public version will just give the companies who provide it a point of comparison. But people who will be able to have at least that standard, which may be the point.

        My problem with this effort is not the government possibly controlling internet access, it's a.) the governments that try to control web _content_, i.e. China, and b.) the fact that WiFi is useless for people too poor to afford computers. Are they going to provide computers, too? Because the cost per person goes up substantially at that rate- without it, though, it's a profound waste of money anyway.

        Me, I'd like my town to have more funding for the library, which lets kids use the computers for homework if they don't have them at home. Or the digital bridge projects out there, which provide home computers for families that don't have them- and training to be able to use them.
      • by sg3000 (87992) * <sg_public@NoSpam.mac.com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @11:33AM (#13013781)
        > Forgive me and my paranoia, but I really don't want the
        > government controlling my access to the Internet.....

        But you're okay with a multi-billion corporation controlling your access? I'm confused why some people are knee-jerk afraid of the government but not afraid of large corporations.

        In a democracy, you at least have some say in the government. You can vote and usually your vote counts*. The fact that each person has one vote, each person theoretically has an equal say in the matter. On top of that, there is a public infrastructure in place (three branches of government/Federal/State/Local/etc) and a set of rules (Constitution/laws/etc). There is even public disclosure (Freedom of Information Act/public records/etc). Naive, I know, but at least theoretically, the government is there to serve the public. For example, one can hope that the government will respect the right to privacy because it's supposed to do that.

        On the other hand, with corporations, the only purpose is to make money for shareholders. That's it. Not social responsibility, not rights of the consumer, not protecting the environment, not community support, not "patriotism". Businesses report on their dealings only because the government forces public corporations to do so. During the shareholders' meetings, more money invested in the company results in more votes, so it isn't "one vote/one person." You might have a single vote out of 200 million people when you vote for president, but you have likely less than that when it comes to voting for the CEO of a company.

        Luckily, many (okay, "some"?) corporations are managed by people who seek to support these other items in addition to seeking profits. However, from a strictly legal perspective, they are not obligated to do so. So if one day your ISP decides there is a higher profit for selling off customer information than the lost profits due to customers dropping the service that result from this, they will do it.

        So from that standpoint, you're better off trusting the government than you are trusting a corporation. Not much better off, so try to remain vigilant.

        * offer not valid in Florida [cnn.com]
    • by makomk (752139) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:29AM (#13012501) Journal
      Parent is not kidding, alas.

      If you've never heard of PPP, basically it's a way of transferring money from the public sector to the pockets of private individuals.

      The theory is that private companies can do some things more efficiently due to their experience and better commerical skills, and that they can take the risk of the project. In reality, it usually ends with the companies using their skills and knowledge to extract large amounts of money from the (possibly naive) Government department funding the project. And sometimes the whole thing just goes pear-shaped and everyone loses out

      (Yes, I am cynical.)
    • Don't bother with warning the US, they invented this practice. ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:14AM (#13012426)
    Remember that the research firm is part of Jupitier Media. A company which includes the following branches:
    "The ClickZ.com Network offers cutting-edge commentary on Internet marketing and advertising from industry leaders as well as original case studies and unique insight.

    The Graphics.com Network provides creative professionals with tutorials, news on the latest technologies, and community forums and galleries to display their work.

    The internet.com, EarthWeb.com, DevX.com, ClickZ.com and Graphics.com Networks appeal to advertisers and vendors because they provide a community that only delivers information technology, Internet industry and creative professionals, 83% of whom make or influence technology purchasing decisions. Among our advertisers are some of the best known names in information technology and the Internet industry, including Computer Associates, Dell Computer Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation, Google, Microsoft Corporation and Oracle Corporation. " (Copied from their "About Jupitier Media" section)

    Of course they back a public-private shared venture, what better way to insert ads into the public Wi-Fi network!
  • TFA:

    According to the report, roughly 50% of current initiatives will fail to breakeven even if the benefit of the initiative is assumed to be $25 per user per month.

    Let's also assume a statistical overrepresentation of "connected" workers in the areas so equipped. Let's further assume than most of the systems work acceptably well. Let's even still further more (and yet) assume that those workers are made more efficient through access to their data, their schedules, the people making their schedule

    • but sadly this is the "trend" of the "modern" businesses and individuals. I've often heard elderlies complain that youth of today have "I want it all now, immediatly" - attitude. But this attitude is present at businesses also.

      The company I work in (outside US) had a choice to make a pretty expensive repair on our automated lines that should've had long-term effects, but instead they chose a little less expensive with only short-term effects, and now the repairs have to be made each year. Why the poor choi
    • I agree that trying do determine a dollar figure for "benefits of WiFi" is really unobvious. For instance, what does a 'benefit of $25' mean? It could either mean that I would get the equivalent of $25 more than I didn't have before for the same amount of work, or that I could get the same amount of "stuff" I have now for the equivalent of $25 less with the same amount of work I have, or somewhere between the two. In my situation, $25 benefit is 10 gallons of gasoline or a week of groceries, or half the co
  • Contract research (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:21AM (#13012452) Homepage
    I don't know about anyone else but I'm getting skeptical about anything I read from Jupiter, Gartner or any of the big research firms. It's usually being paid for by someone with an agenda and, no surprise, the research tends to support the conclusions the customer wants. After a while you just stop paying attention to them. They've sold their credibility.

    • It's usually being paid for by someone with an agenda and, no surprise, the research tends to support the conclusions the customer wants.

      Please note that this isn't necessarily the fault of the research firm. The customer gets to set the bounds of the research, and these boundaries determine the outcome.

      A company could not/would not give Jupiter or Gartner carte blanche because they would run them dry - research is infinite, and bounds must be set.

      So don't blame the research firm, or even the in
      • Re:Contract research (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GeckoX (259575) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:54AM (#13013015)
        I damned well will blame them unless they are entirely open and up front about Who paid for What research and Why. The motivation behind these reports means EVERYTHING.

        As it stands, there's no way in HELL I'd ever take a report from these guys even remotely into consideration. It's just buying false advertising really, with no disclaimers attached. Or even the brand of the company paying for the advertising.

        It's low down, sleazy, and IMHO, should be illegal.
    • Re:Contract research (Score:3, Informative)

      by rbanffy (584143)
      IIRC, Forrester Research got very upset when Microsoft ordered a couple reports and selectively disclosed only a few that showed a clear bias toward their agenda.

      Forrester responded to this by no longer accepting "projects that involve paid-for, publicized product comparisons".

      Kudos for them. Integrity matters.
  • Pretty Funny (Score:4, Informative)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:21AM (#13012453) Journal
    One company that I was at, did WiFi. It is not even close to 20K square mile to do it. I am guessing that we will find that this study was funded by some company such as Comcast, bellsouth, etc.
    • Re:Pretty Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

      One company that I was at, did WiFi. It is not even close to 20K square mile to do it. I am guessing that we will find that this study was funded by some company such as Comcast, bellsouth, etc.

      Possibly. Or more likely it was a company that represents that private part of that Private/Public Partnerships mentioned in the article.

      I got the jist that it was along the lines of: "No, no, no, don't do WiFi yourself, it just costs too much. We'll do it for you have save you $$$$ millions!"

      Believe it or not,

      • I got the jist that it was along the lines of: "No, no, no, don't do WiFi yourself, it just costs too much. We'll do it for you have save you $$$$ millions!"

        The thing you have to ask yourself is this:

        If it will *really* lose millions of dollars each year, why does the company want to do it?

        Yeah, every company *I* know has millions of dollars that it has to lose each year, right? Isn't that the purpose of a company, to give away all of its' money?
  • WiFi Story (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:23AM (#13012465)
    Did anyone else see anything funny with a WiFi story being posted at 8:02.11 in the morning?

    Nathan
  • by braddock (78796) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:23AM (#13012467)
    This study needs to be looked at very skeptically, because there is a lot of money right now trying to discourage municipal wifi systems. Why? Because any new legislation being pushed by the telcom companies to ban municipal wifi as unfair competition would have to grandfather in any existing municipal wifi systems and allow them to continue to operate and even expand.

    Many of the Wifi activists (Boston Area Wireles [bawia.org] for example) are trying to convince local governments to at least establish a single note public Wifi system just so that they can continue to operate if the telecom industry manages to outlaw public networks.

    It's pretty obvious which side of this battle has the money and motive to pay for "independent" research.

    -braddock
  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:24AM (#13012470) Homepage
    Given that I could only read a short summary instead of the whole report, I could be way off on this. Nonetheless, if it costs $25/month to break even then I say go for it! Why? Because the benefits per month to an individual is EASILY $25/Month. Then let's add in the benefit to your local business. Let's not forget Metcalfe[sp?]'s law. The value of a network goes up as more people participate. Becaues municipal WIFI is free, there will be a ton of people joining and using it, especially the lower income people. This opens up that many more people as potential customers for local businesses and services. Then let's add in the value of convience. To be able to rely on a constant network connection anywhere in town is invaluable. Do they realize how much people are willing to pay just for that? I know businesses would love to send their people around town and be able to communicate with them reliably anywhere in town for free.

    $25/month per person is NOTHING! Infrastructures to enable people to work together are usually good investments for the government. Let's just ask S. Korea what they think about widespread access...
    • Right, a muni wifi network that is low cost or free to the user could save America (yes, pseudoLibertarians, I realize it would have to be paid for by taxes, hence the phrase "to the user").

      I say this because right now the mass media is responsible for the transmission of the vast majority of political/social ideas. Outside of internet forums and colleges, very little transmission of political ideas is going on from person to person. All ideas come from the mass media.

      However, the mass media is owned and
      • by MosesJones (55544) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:36AM (#13012897) Homepage
        THe elite like globalization. But it hurts us.
        Any evidence on this? Free Trade and globalisation have certainly driven up the quality of life in pretty much all of the west, and is beginning to help elsewhere.


        The elite like lots of immigration. But that hut
        rts us working American citizens.

        Now this is just plain crap. You do know what Ellis Island was don't you? Immigration does NOT hurt working Americans, it HELPS by increasing the GDP of the country and aiding in growth, it also provides people for the jobs that help your quality of life but you would never do (Strawberry picking in CA anyone?).

        Its amazing how Americans can say that Free Trade and Immigration are bad, when these are EXACTLY the things that made America great. Absolutely Amazing.
        • Free trade always hurts those who lose their jobs to globalization. These people are easy to identify. Free trade helps those in exporting industries. Economists (and I play one on the net) claim that the help to exporting industries always exceeds the hurt to industries that compete with imports.

          But that economic analysis makes a lot of assumptions. It assumes that the distribution of the benefits and losses doesn't matter. It assumes that there is a net benefit to losing a million dollars per year i
      • by GileadGreene (539584) on Friday July 08, 2005 @10:07AM (#13013113) Homepage
        Outside of internet forums and colleges, very little transmission of political ideas is going on from person to person.

        I think you need to get out a little more. See, there are these things called "conversations", which allow a person-to-person transmission of ideas. And these "conversations" still occur all over the place. Visit your local coffeehouse, cafe, restaurant, or bar sometime, to see what I mean.

        We no longer fight for our rights.

        "We" (i.e. the great unwashed masses) no longer fight for our rights because we are fat and happy - some of the wealthiest people on the planet. Yes, yes, I know, "we" are not as wealthy as "the elite", but we're still far better off than most of the rest of the world. As a a result, "we" have become complacent and decadent.

        Your elite-vs-the-workers class warfare rhetoric is charmingly quaint, but "so 20th Century". The vast majority of Americans are "middle class".


    • Becaues municipal WIFI is free, there will be a ton of people joining and using it, especially the lower income people.

      So there is a demographic that can afford computers with wireless capabilities but cannot afford monthly ISP fees? I'm not saying such folk don't exist; I'm saying it's probably a very small niche and probably shouldn't be factored into your scenario.

      Let's just ask S. Korea what they think about widespread access...

      This is a red herring: South Korea has a large market for wired
  • by Cryofan (194126) <cryofan.yahoo@com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:27AM (#13012486) Homepage Journal
    This "research" is almost certainly bought and paid for by the telcos.

    Common sense will tell you that muni wifi is a good thing for you and me and a bad thing for the telcos. If the costs of muni wifi outweigh the benefits, then why are the telcos spending so much money buying all this legislation to outlaw muni wifi?

    Also, there are cities that have already implemented muni wifi, therefore why not go loko at their implementation, and SEE what the costs and benefits are? Why bother with this fake research? And did the telcos pay Slashdot to run this article?

    • I agree that the report is most likely funded by telcos, and thus biased. JupiterResearch did not reveal the funding source.

      That said, the whole idea of the report was to look at existing municipal "WiFi" projects. From TFA:

      The report examines at the character of current projects across the U.S., estimates the associated costs, and identifies the benefit opportunities.

      Benefits are difficult to quantify, especially given that some (most?) projects are not fully deployed. Almost none would be five y

  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpacePunk (17960) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:28AM (#13012493) Homepage
    There are a HUGE number of things that municpalities do that can be considered money losers. I get the feeling that JupiterResearch probably has some sort of vested interest in wi-fi networks.

    As for "public/private" goes. Endeavors like that are always funded with tax money, but any income goes into private pockets. Which means that it STILL will be a money loser for municipalities.
  • To actually RTFR you'll need to be a "JupiterResearch client" but here's a link to more than just that press release: Municipal Wireless [jupiterresearch.com].

    There's not much there, though a few other places have picked up bits, no one has the actual important parts that could tell us is this report is worth the bits its printed on.
    We're supposed to trust research "reported on" in a press release?
  • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:30AM (#13012509) Homepage
    I live in a New Jersey suburb, population 97,687, land area 30.1 square miles. So with 3,245 people per square mile, and assuming that $150,000 per square mile cost, that works out to $46.22 per person over 5 years, or about 77 cents a month. Now, granted that not every person will be a user, but I don't see how something like this could end up being prohibitively expensive. If only 1 in every 30 people is a user, it still works out to less than $25 a month, which is significantly cheaper than the broadband offerings in the area anyway.
  • Their statement doesn't make any sense economically.


    They say that costs outway the benefits. If that is true, then no sane private entity should invest in it.


    The only way you would get the service then is if it became a public work. It is the same with any service that cost too much like rural electric. So they should be in favor of municipal WiFi if any. This is not a very credible report.

    • Their statement doesn't make any sense economically. They say that costs outway the benefits. If that is true, then no sane private entity should invest in it.

      Shhhhhh! Don't tell anybody.

      I was thinking the same thing. The only thing that makes sense is that a private entity could in theory do a project that doesn't pay off as fast - the study focused on the costs over the first 5 years which contains a lot of one-off costs.

      I'm doubting that too, though - seems a government would be able to leverag

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:33AM (#13012523) Journal
    "JupiterResearch provides unbiased research, analysis and advice, backed by proprietary data, to help companies profit from the impact of the Internet and emerging technologies on their business."

    Thhat don't exactly strike me as comapatible when you're determining whether the governement can or cannot do something cost effectively. This is being sold to companies who, one would presume, would like to convince municipalities to NOT put in a competing (wireless) ISP.

    To take my town as an example, we have 40,000 residents spread over 22 square miles. A lot of these are college students (I've excluded on-campus residents from that number) so I'll say 3 people per "household". That's 13,000 potential "subscribers", or 591 per square mile. I'd say more than half here have internet access of some type. If we GAVE away the wifi cards, we might double the infrastructure cost for the first 5 years (20,000x$40/5=160k).

    I come up with $16.95 per month per internet-using household. Verizon (who was laying fiber down mainstreet last week) and Adelphia wouldn't be too happy, of course.

    Before you think this might be too much money for a small town, we have a PPP for a new parking garage here (and retail shopping building). A developer convinced the town to float at $2M bond to help him build the building, and he gets to charge for parking during the day and for events. Even though we had to borrow the money to do it, the mayor claimed that the town would get (x) free evening and weekend parking spaces for only $20 a month. He forgot that we were borrowing the money, and the number was closer to $50 after interest expenses. That's more than the town pays to lease surface lot space 24/7/365. But, the mayor's been known to go out to lunch - on the developers tab - fairly frequently. Now that its built, of course, nobody wants the park there, because its too far to walk (2-3 blocks) to the "downtown shops", and is used only occasionally when the on-street parking is completely full.
  • If the municipal service is being done in place of upgrading all of the radios in town trucks (garbage, parks, school-grounds, etc.) and emergency services vehicles, and incidentally giving them all access to email and other communications, the benefit to everyone else is just gravy. The goal with any such service is to make it cheap enough that it's not worth metering, and ubiquitous enough that it can be relied on. This is in direct contrast to the goal of any private company, which is to make the highe
  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:39AM (#13012550) Homepage
    Umm, Jupiter Networks needs some basic math skills or to stop being funded by companies who will lose if Muni Wi-Fi succeeds.

    Lets see here, One square Mile in FIVE years costs $150,000. At $25.00 a month (per user) that's $1,500 in FIVE years PER user. Now as long as there are at least 10 freakin people per square mile you've at least broke even... and this is in cities, so I think there will be more than 10 damn people using the system.

    God, these people who are clawing to keep this from happening to benefit the public for their own greed sicken me. I'm glad we try so hard to build useful infrastructure that is affordable and accessible to all of us who pay 30% of our paychecks to gain some usefulness besides lining some corrupt-ass politician's pockets instead. Our money is *much* better in his pocket than in the community where some benefit would be realized.

    And FTR, MY internet access costs more like $40 per month and I'm sure most others do too. Give me a break!
    • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:57AM (#13012641) Homepage
      heh, that would be 100 people per square mile before anyone gang rapes me on the math... it's early and I haven' thad my caffiene yet. My bad.
    • 10 * $1,500 is $15,000, not $150,000. You'd need at least 100 by your math.
      • Yeah, Yeah, I already replied with the corrected math... I knew instantly upon hitting submit that the math nazi's would be on me like white on rice.

        The thing is that even a 100 people per square mile is no big deal in even the smallest one-horse towns. Also you have to realize these numbers include the initial costs as well as maintenance, and they only projected it over 5 years because after that the costs drop off significantly. In any network the initial costs are high and then go to almost nil.
    • Rainstorm, besides the math error you've already acknowledged, I think you're making one other error. My internet access is $40/month also (for 4mbps down). Five years from now, I expect the private sector to provide much cheaper and faster internet access than that.

      Let's say 10 years ago most people were on 56kbps dial-up for $20/month. By my calculations, that's about 36 times more expensive ($/bps) than my service today. Taking the square root of 36 (because we are projecting five years out instead
  • To what end? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eric S. Smith (162) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:40AM (#13012557) Homepage
    JupiterResearch claims that muni WiFi costs outweigh benefits. ... They suggest that such projects only be taken on as public-private partnerships.

    I love this reasoning. "It's too expensive to be worthwhile, so please pay a private firm to do it."

  • It costs me over $50/month for a broadband internet connection from Comcast. If someone offered me a reasonably similar connection for $30/month, I'd jump at it.

    • Hmm./. ya'd think so right?

      I have at home comcast, at work location one comcast, and work location two verizon dsl.. (residentail class) it's prone to erratic drop outs, it seems at time to be weather/damp related but it doesn't matter, verizon REFUSES to come on site and test the line.
      they 'test it' and a few hours/maybe day later the automated recording calls to notify me that everything is clear on the line.

      let me tell you, it's not.

      the one time my line dropped inexplicably from comcast (tv cabl
  • by VolciMaster (821873) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:51AM (#13012609) Homepage
    I personally believe that anything that can be done via private companies and competition is better than the government getting involved. Obvious exceptions to this include things like roads.

    In the case of municipal WiFi, there are a huge number of public or semi-public hotspots all over major cities. The local governments would have to be offering a really good deal to make this beneficial to everyone. And if this is really a government service, though, one presumes it would be paid for via taxes of some kind. It would be better if the city got involved in helping private companies find places to put access points, perhaps providing some measure of physical security to those locations, for a fixed amount per location per month (let's say it's $3 per AP per month with a minimum of 1000 APs to cover a decent area). The company could then use some kind of authentication mechanism to make sure people connecting had paid for its service (maybe $25/mo).

    The university I attend is modifying its wireless network to broadcast two seperate SSIDs - one that authenicated users (ie students, staff, faculty) can use (and is firewalled, etc) and a second that is wide open for anyone to use, but has no security whatsoever. Non-authenticated users could use a lower speed, and unsecured, version of the network (throttled back to a max of say 802.11b), while the paying subscribers would be able to use the higher available bandwidth (802.11a/g). This would allow people in lower income areas to still use the internet, but people who wanted more speed could pay for it.

    Of course, with the new precedent set in Tampa Bay FL [slashdot.org], how would municipalities actually be able to act on people using the network for illegal activity? (I personally think that it's the user's responsibility to not do anything illegal, but heaven help you if you believe in personal responsibility in America.)

    Such muni WiFi projects could also impact other types of internet subscriptions (especially dial-up), and might be viewed as very anti-competitive to local, traditional ISPs.

  • There are already services that provide broadband speeds for 80 dollars/month on a pcmcia card. Couldn't the city have a contract with a company that provides this? Then they could workout whatever details they want (i.e. have a subsidized rate.)

    Or you could have a private company put in the infrastructure and get a monopoly for X number of years with the city paying a subsidized rate until X years is over when the city takes over.

    seems like there are lots of options...
  • All about density (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wenzi (6465)
    The report talks about costs per square mile. But those costs rely on the population density.

    If you look at certain parts of Tokyo and Taiwan, you have some of the most densely populated areas with high rates of broadband usage in the world.

    Maybe cities should not be building WiFi networks covering corn fields in Illinois, but they certainly make sense for place like Tokyo , Taipei, New York and Bombay.
  • by Deadstick (535032) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:06AM (#13012703)
    ...or any of several small communities in this state if they'd prefer an inefficient WiFi network to no broadband at all.

    Qwest has the DSL rights in Colorado pretty well locked up, and simply won't give service in the rural towns until it's damn good and ready..and that won't be anytime soon, because it hasn't even finished wiring Denver yet. Meanwhile, it's lobbying for a state law to ensure that its monopoly will continue to await Qwest's whim.

    rj
  • by anothy (83176) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:18AM (#13012771) Homepage
    let's take the $150,000-over-5-years and $25/month-per-user benefit numbers at face value (ignoring the comments of earlier users in here). somebody check my math:
    $25/month = $300/year = $1,500 over 5 years
    1500 * 100 = 150000

    so they just need to get 100 users per square mile to break even, given these assumptions? am i the only one who finds these numbers to be a tremendous argument for benefits outweighing costs? add to this the fact that most people are paying more than $25/month for internet access, and i think that's exactly what this shows.
  • by MarvinMouse (323641) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:18AM (#13012774) Homepage Journal
    150,000 per square mile over 5 years.

    so that works out to 150,000/5 years/12 months = 2500 per square mile per month.

    Which means that if you have 100 users in a square mile, which is far more than reasonable, you will be getting equivalent costs to benefits.

    Let's say I misunderstood it, and it was 150,000 per square mile per year over 5 years. So then it would be 150,000/12 = 12500 ~ 500 users would be needed, again, really small number for a large city.

    Finally, let's say I'm completely wrong and that 150,000 is per month. Then it would require 6000 users for there to be benefit. Which in a city like New York or San Francisco, is far more than reasonable.

    Unless, of course, Jupiter is stating something way off, their math makes no sense at all. The cost they are giving is way more than reasonable for the benefits to the general population.
  • reverse logic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:26AM (#13012821) Homepage
    They suggest that such projects only be taken on as public-private partnerships.

    A well-managed public service will always be more cost-effective than the same service provided by a well-managed private operation, because there's no profits being taken out before the bottom line. That's basic math.

    The trick of course is getting the public service to be well-managed, but that's mostly just a matter of political will. The local Chamber of Commerce will of course pooh-pooh the very notion and sometimes even stand in the way of it, because their interest is in creating niches for private businesses to exploit instead. And of course employees (especially if organized) will try to get as much out of it as possible as well. The government just needs to show some backbone and do it right, regardless.

    The only reason a private entity truly needs to be involved is if investors are needed for the capital, and the government doesn't have the means to raise it through bonds or taxes. Otherwise, let the public sector hire the same people to do the same job at the same salary/wages the private company would have hired them at. If the argument is ideological (that government shouldn't do this sort of thing) that's another matter, but if it's a question of accounting, the advantage is to the fully-public approach.

  • Counter-case (Score:4, Informative)

    by CosmicDreams (23020) on Friday July 08, 2005 @10:15AM (#13013166) Journal
    Well I haven't done extensive research into this matter myself. But where i live in Chaska, MN. We've had wireless internet across the town for nearly a year now. Monthly costs to citizens who have elected to use the service is $15/month for a variable 256kb/s connection.

    If this was such a money loser, I don't see how the service could last as long as it has.

    For us, originally, town-wide wireless was a necessity. Internet access is now a major factor in people's decision on where to live. And when the larger internet companies would not lay high broadband cables out to us, we took it upon our selves to fix the problem.

    The solution is a local-government run Internet provider. And although I had early issues with stability, I have been more than happy with the quality of service over this year.
  • by coyote-san (38515) on Friday July 08, 2005 @10:43AM (#13013392)
    Why does everyone try to reduce every question to money alone? Oh yeah, they're selling stuff.

    Governments should strive to provide services for as little cost as possible, but that doesn't mean that it should fail to provide a service at all if just because somebody declares it to be not cost-effective.

    Guess what, public libraries are not cost-effective.

    Public parks are not cost-effective.

    I'm sure others can add their own examples. Cities provide these service because it benefits the residents and makes the city more attractive to others. E.g., it might encourage a company to locate new offices in this city instead of another to keep the employees happy, and unlike the usual "development incentives" these investments actually benefit the people, not a few executives.

    Should cities provide wifi - even free wifi - in downtown and business areas? I think it should - because the public good (e.g., allowing people to check their email from anywhere in the area) outweighs the cost. If the city really, really needs to offset the cost it could impose a nominal head count on the employees in the area, and by "nominal" I mean $2/month/full-time equivalence person. It won't cover the entire cost but it's a symbolic gesture.
  • TFA just says that you have to consider breakeven when planning your municipal system. That's not surprising -- it's just like any other business venture.

    It shouldn't be hard to make the numbers work, provided that one can divide:

    $150,000
    Amortized cost over 5 years (whole system)
    $2500
    Cost of whole system per month, amortized for 5 years
    $25
    Benefit to each regular user per month (from TFA)
    100
    Number of regular users to break even

    Finding 100 users per square mile should not be hard. Medium-density suburban lots are typically 0.3 acres, for an average of about 1000 houses per square mile (including a factor of 50% for infrastructure). So if one in ten households uses the WiFi regularly, the system breaks even at the stated price.

    City centers might have a factor of 10 more people in them; so if 1% of city core dwellers use the WiFi regularly, the system is working.

    On the other hand, low-density suburban areas might have only 100-500 households per square mile; those areas might not get enough users to make sense.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:45PM (#13016544) Homepage

    The study ignores a basic item: the municipalities that're looking at this are doing so because they can't get broadband service to residents any other way. Whether it'd be more expensive than private service isn't relevant if the private companies won't provide service in those areas. When one of the lobbyists for the cable and telephone companies gets up and blasts the cities for wanting to waste taxpayer's money, I'd love a legislator from the affected area to get up and ask "So then, will your company agree right here and now to provide broadband service at a price no greater than what we're proposing (that you say is too expensive)? What's that, you won't? Then if you won't provide service why are you complaining that it's unfair that we go ahead without you?".

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