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Municipal Wi-Fi Networks In Trouble 294

Posted by kdawson
from the seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time dept.
imamac writes "According to an AP story, municipal Wi-Fi is going nowhere fast. A think tank research director quipped, 'They are the monorails of this decade: the wrong technology, totally overpromised and completely undelivered.' Subscriptions to the services are much lower than expected and lawmakers are concerned that millions of dollars will have gone to waste that could have been better spent on roads or crime-fighting. Satisfaction with the quality of service has also been low, which give some insight into the low adoption rate. Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?"
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Municipal Wi-Fi Networks In Trouble

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:35PM (#19227053)
    The WiFi will go to Shelbyville!
  • by Ice Station Zebra (18124) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:37PM (#19227105) Homepage Journal
    "I'll say anything if you give me money."
  • WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:39PM (#19227139)
    As a tech, I'm dying for these things. I'm getting more and more wireless networks where it just doesn't work because there's too many people with wireless devices in the area. I had one house with 6 wireless networks in range, cell phones, wireless security systems, 2.4 Ghz wireless on the land line, and even a few wireless mice and keyboards floating around. It was too much.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spy Hunter (317220)
      But how could yet another WiFi network be the answer? Personally, I don't see how a municipal WiFi network could ever be considered a good idea, for one reason and one reason only: range. You need billions of hotspots and even so you will inevitably have terrible coverage. Not to mention the conflicts with existing networks. Unreliable wireless is hardly better than no wireless at all. OTOH, municipal *WiMAX* makes lots of sense. Let's use technologies for the purposes they were designed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That is why I run OpenWRT. I can crank up the gain a little to get an edge over my neigbors. I also cracked a bunch of them and set them to one end of the spectrum, reserving the other for myself. That makes me feel selfish so I am considering running on channel 13, which is of course illegal in the US, but is nice clean bandwidth.
    • I use an ethernet cable. Its faster , cheaper , more reliable and impossible to hack from over the air.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:39PM (#19227149) Journal
    Let me say this, Metropolitan networks, whether Wi-Fi or otherwise need one thing to make them both competitive and financially viable; the metropolitan network needs to be owned by that cooperative body within the municipality's control. That means every last 'last mile' connection.

    When the city/county (whatever) owns all the last mile physical plant/infrastructure and ISP's simply rent connectivity to end users the municipality will be functional and profitable. Yes, that is how we would see big bandwidth to every home, and each home would have the choice of ISP services. It is possible to do this and would instantly flatten the cost of entry as well as the rules of engagement.

    Then, if you ad Wi-Fi support to parts of the city that is subscribed to by users who already pay... well, it's not such a stretch to support financially.

    Does anyone see any downsides to this?
    • by Shaman (1148)
      More than that, they need their own spectrum, and they need a lot of it. Which means they need proprietary cards which will connect to their spectrum.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Agent Smart (204871)
      Sure. So the only municipalities that could implement this plan with success are those that have no current last mile connections within their boundaries. No cable co. No big bell.

      The downside is that few municipalities are still free of these existing monopolies, so most could not execute that brilliant plan.

    • by Erwos (553607)
      Sure - who's got the incentive to upgrade the network?
    • The article complained that people are not buying in New Orleans. I suppose that's because they have a free wireless network that works OK.

    • by RexRhino (769423)

      Does anyone see any downsides to this?
      The fact that the networks are owned by the government, controlled by the government, etc. which pretty much gives the police state carte blanche to spy on its citizens. Of course the people who support government wi-fi tend to also be pro-police-state, so you might see this as a plus.
      • by jtn (6204)
        The two issues have zero coupling, stop putting words in other people's mouths. Just what do you do when private industry (the precious "market") has utterly failed? Throw your hands up and say "well, since the market cannot handle it, NOBODY CAN"?

        Some government services work out nicely in most cases (police, fire, water, sewage).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Don't get me wrong: I like the fact that they exist. They can, in fact, be done right. They should exist and we need them and other services like them to break the horrific stranglehold legal monopolies like cable and the Bells have over our connections.

      However, they can be done very, very horribly. Case in point: Tempe, AZ (think Phoenix) has municipal wireless. They got it right with allowing some free services to everyone (you can visit asu.edu and such without paying), but the service is run by co
  • Google's Wifi (Score:5, Interesting)

    by James_Aguilar (890772) <aguilar.james@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:39PM (#19227151) Journal
    Google's wifi here in Mountain View is not very good. I can't get any reception on it, and I live less than a mile from their headquarters. If even Google can't get it right, city governments probably . . .

    The rest of the above sentence is left as an exercise for the reader.
    • by Spoke (6112)
      How close are you to the nearest access node? Unless you are within 100 meters or closer with no large objects in between you are unlikely to be able to connect without buying a high powered WiFi router.

      My parents live in Mountain View and had to use a router with a directional antenna pointed directly at the nearest node around 250 meters away to get reliable access.
  • The major issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shaman (1148) <shaman@kosQUOTE.net minus punct> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:40PM (#19227169) Homepage
    The major issue has been that they have given the contracts to implementors that are paid for the number of radios that they install and by gosh they will install more radios than anyone every imagined. But, see, the 2.4Ghz bands were already polluted BEFORE they started and installing 2.4G radios on every block for several square miles when each mesh radio has a practical range (line of sight) of around 20 miles is really not helping things. And just as bad, the backhaul of the mesh radios is almost always 5.2Ghz or 5.8Ghz, which have only a few channels each to choose from (5.8Ghz has more, but still...)

    Don't believe this could happen? Ask anyone that has tried to use the Toronto mesh network downtown. It's flat ugly.
    • by jtn (6204)
      You have several things wrong here. Mesh radios do NOT have a "practical range" of 20 miles. Mesh radios on the client end, are DESIGNED to be low power to provide "mini-cells" of coverage, so they do not step on each other's footprints allowing for reuse of the 3 non-overlapping channels available to 802.11b. This is according to PLAN. As for 5.8 GHz in use for backhauls, this is also according to plan! More bandwidth, separate band, and actually MORE non-overlapping channels available make it ideal for us
      • Re:The major issue (Score:5, Informative)

        by Shaman (1148) <shaman@kosQUOTE.net minus punct> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @07:10PM (#19229583) Homepage
        I operate a fixed wireless ISP with 40 towers and over 1,500 (deeply) rural customers. Just so we're clear on the level I'm speaking at.

        Actually, you have several things wrong. Mesh radios CAN be set to low power modes but invariably they are not. They are set to blast at or near full power because nearby interference causes issues that only power output can solve. Sectorizing only solves so much. But even those that aren't set up that way still exhibit many issues. At a full 36db EIRP, 2.4Ghz will indeed go 20 miles line of site and beyond, if the noise floor is low enough and the radio is high enough. 5.2Ghz cannot use reflectors and only has a useful range of a few kilometers, but it's the lowest power of the available bands.

        Take a look at the 2.4Ghz backhauls that go over 40 miles with standard EIRP. Not that PCMCIA cards will power that far, but the A.P.s will. One company makes a product that claims 216Mbps full duplex over 20 miles, in fact.

        So the question to you: If mesh gear worked so well, why is everyone having trouble with them?

        As for interference... 5.8Ghz noise levels are horrendous around here, 2.4Ghz is only good for backhaul links for towers that are way out in the middle of nowhere, for multipoint it's nearly unusable, and 5.2Ghz is moderately noisy as well. I'm hoping the 5.4G and 4.9G radios will be available really soon because I need them. Speaking of that, my damn Motorola OFDM radios still can't be set to 4.9G even though it says right on the box that they support that band.

        Then there's 900Mhz... the interference in the top of the usable unlicensed band made it unusable and if two WISPs in an area decide to use 900Mhz, they'll both lose... and the beat goes on.

        The only real way out of the mess is to go with proprietary WiMax type products, and if you see another one of my posts, that's not a completely infallable solution, either.
  • Anecdote (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:40PM (#19227173)

    Subscriptions to the services are much lower than expected and lawmakers are concerned that millions of dollars will have gone to waste that could have been better spent on roads or crime-fighting. Satisfaction with the quality of service has also been low, which give some insight into the low adoption rate. Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?

    Internet as a utility needs time to develop if it is ever going to be adopted. Take a look at my situation. I pay for a cable modem and not for a municipal wi-fi connection. Why? Well, because I occasionally like to watch television and television service is bundled with internet service. If I buy them separately I'm paying a whole lot of extra cash. What would make me change my mind? Well, if I could rent legal TV episodes over IP for a very, very low price akin to that portion of what it costs to see them on cable TV. Until that time, however, why should I pay extra?

  • by XorNand (517466) * on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:43PM (#19227237)
    Here in Oakland County, Michigan [wirelessoakland.com], they took a different approach. Our nascent, county-wide wifi network was almost entirely privately funded. The county agreed to provide the space to mount the antennas (on land already owned by the county) and to promote it. The actual design and implementation was bid out to the private sector. The winner agreed to pick up the infrastructure tab and to provide free wireless to everyone in the service area. In exchange, they are permitted to offer plans with more bandwidth and traffic prioritization to those willing to pay for it. It's a win-win: It didn't cost the taxpayers anything and we all get free access, and the private company gets to keep any profits that they make from the premium service.
  • No demand for it (Score:2, Informative)

    by meatmanek (1062562)
    There are only a few groups of people who want wireless everywhere:
    • College students. Most colleges already have wireless for their students, and students spend most of their time on campus. Time off-campus is typically spent working or finding some other form of entertainment.
    • People who need internet for work who already have blackberries or cell data cards.
    • People who want wireless where they hang out, but many of these places (coffee shops, etc) already have wireless.

    Most other people might have

    • I'm in the second category, but as I'm self-employed, I'm too cheap to buy a cell data card. (There have been enough free WiFi hot spots in town, and now there's a municipal WiFi going in.)

      But even without constant WiFi, I manage fine without it. The only times I really miss it are when I need to look up new directions on the road, and I have to rely on EDGE-speed cellular (over Bluetooth from my cell phone) to do my Google Mapping.
    • by arth1 (260657)
      I think the main problem is that people who might use something like this want service both anywhere and anytime. If they have to sign up for it first, it's not anytime, which means it's really only going to be useful where they live, and where they just as well can sign up for DSL or cable. And if they want it on the go and not just at home, they might as well subscribe to an UMTS service and get service anywhere. If you've bought a laptop recently, it might even have a built-in UMTS card, and all you h
      • by jtn (6204)
        - Limited availability

        Implementation dependent, not a failure of muni wifi.

        - Limited support

        Contract support organization. Not difficult.

        - Limited compatibility

        Implementation dependent, not a failure of muni wifi. I've not run across a single muni setup like you're describing.

        - Only available if signing up ahead of time

        I'm not even sure what point you're trying to get across here.

        - Guaranteed to be monitored

        Cite examples. Show me this "guarantee".

        Also, UMTS is far from universal and also requires similar ve
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by arth1 (260657)

          - Only available if signing up ahead of time

          I'm not even sure what point you're trying to get across here.

          If I'm visiting a city with Municipal Wi-Fi, I can't just open my laptop and access it. That was the initial promise of Municipal Wi-Fi -- it should be free for all, and anyone could access it -- not just those who had signed up in advance.
          Then the crusade against child porn and copyrighted entertainment shot down that idea, because there was a "need" to register who did what.
          It wasn't meant to compete

  • the project get sent to a private company who uses it as a tool to gather demographic information, annd is overly paranoid about the right kind of information.

    Let people connect. If you MUST have something, put a 1 page explaination. Period. Then let people use it. If somene crosses the line, deal with them.

    • by ScentCone (795499)
      ...a private company who uses it as a tool to gather demographic information, annd is overly paranoid about the right kind of information ... If somene crosses the line, deal with them.

      Um... if you don't have accurate information about your users, how are you supposed to deal with them when they abuse the system? Fleets of roving, packet-sniffing vans with directional antennas trying to track down the mac address of the kiddie pr0n guy that keeps popping up all over town... or? Or, how about: if you wan
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You can't take books from the library without ID

        I can read books in the library without ID. And depending on which library I visit, I can use the computer without displaying ID, too.

        • by ScentCone (795499)
          I can read books in the library without ID. And depending on which library I visit, I can use the computer without displaying ID, too.

          But reading books in the library doesn't really lend itself to launching DoD attacks, maintaining your Russianm kiddie pr0n site, following up on your phising project, etc. And most any library that allows anonymous computer use runs filters, proxies, and logs. Regardless of how appropriate the comparison is to other utilities, the GP's notion that municipal WiFi isn't taking
  • Municipal WiFi is hard. Municipal WiMax would be a lot easier.
    • by Shaman (1148)
      WiMax has its limitations too, and plenty of them. Chief amongst those is that it doesn't work as advertised (3 miles non line of site? In absolutely perfectly ideal conditions, perhaps). It's good... but it's basically good old OFDM re-packaged into multipoint.
    • That is my thought as well. Though WiMax sure is taking a long time to ramp up.

      Cellular internet may have already taken over by the time WiMax is ready. Though WiMax may get a boost if the cellular providers are the ones providing it, which is likely what will happen around here (WiMax base stations on cell towers, telco offers yet another package to their users).
      • by Erwos (553607)
        You bring up a good point, which is that the space municipal WiFi is supposed to fill is already being filled by cell providers. Right now, I can choose between any of four providers for 3G access anytime, anywhere (or at least as good as our own teensy municipal WiFi network provides). As far as I'm concerned, areas with decent EVDO/HSDPA coverage have no business going down the municipal WiFi path - government has no business competing with private business.

        Is it as cheap or fast as some people want? No.
  • by Wonderkid (541329) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:46PM (#19227287) Homepage
    ...if a broadband or near broadband wireless connection is not available everywhere, then it is pointless. People cannot run their lives hoping to find a connection. Far better to put up with a slower but acceptable 3G or equiv connection through the cell/mobile providers where coverage is often assured. I reside in the UK and have a Vodafone 3G connect doo dah connected to my Macbook via USB and it works like a dream, anywhere I go. Even when it slows to GPRS, it is fast enough to surf most websites. I only use WiFi when back home or at the office where I am more likely to waste time watching YouTube videos and downloading stuff. :-) Seriously, my point is valid and when 4G is introduced (Google Samsung 4G trials), that will be it for public WiFi.
  • It's the marketing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by L. VeGas (580015) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:46PM (#19227293) Homepage Journal
    When the internet was taking off, we had great catch-phrases like "Information Superhighway"." Now that's a name I can get behind.

    "Municipal Wi-Fi", in contrast, sounds so lackluster, like "Deparment of Leisure Services". Proponents use lame slogans like "Wi-Fi? Wi-Not?" and "Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not useful."

    We need something that will make folks excited, like "Naked Bimbos Everywhere".
  • It may be a matter of scale and what you are trying to accomplish. Spokane, for example, has a muni system downtown that is free for X hours. They use it as a convention/tourist draw. Bremerton is installing one as we speak for the same reasons. They are trying to revitalize the downtown area with a new convention center/hotel, etc. If the goal is to get people to sign up and pay money so we can make a profit, maybe it won't work. But if the issue is to draw people to the area with a wi-fi infrastructure to
  • There have been various articles about it, but I only found one that talked about pricing - $17.70 per month [blogs.com] (via thenewsroom.com).
  • Suprised? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by folstaff (853243)
    The government nearly always performs at this level: substandard. Why?

    1. Unlike the free market, they only answer to the people every couple of years. The sellers must respond to the buyer every single day.

    2. When government screws up they spend your money to figure out what happened and to come up with a solution. In the free market, you can just change providers.

    • The free market is neither really free nor is it what you're making it out to be. In the free market we also see monopolies where there is no alternative to switch to and business behavior which indicates businesses which do not have to "respond to the buyer every single day". It's sad that American memory is so short in regard to the recent corporate scandals (Worldcom, Enron, Exxon, etc.) which dominated the headlines and the lack of structural change that resulted from those scandals. In software, all
  • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated AT ema DOT il> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:53PM (#19227417) Journal

    It is not that City-wide Wi-Fi doesn't work or there is no tech powerful enough to run it; it's just poor implementation and, more importantly, poor advertisement.

    For one, rural and suburban municipal Wi-Fi would be a much better implementation because some of these cities are still on the lower-end of personal internet connections (think low-speed DSL...). Running a Wi-Fi network with its network connection coming from an area with a much faster internet connection or a satellite-capable connection could possibly happen...

    Also, I live in a fairly popular city in the United States. I believe we have city-wide Wireless internet, but I have not heard a WORD from our city's government (either that or it was taken down). Plus, another poster mentioned a good point that there is just too much cross-talk; I could be in a cafe with Wi-fi enabled, but it will not be that advantageous with the SEVENTEEN other wireless networks that are in the air...

    I think this is a case where 802.11a might hold a candle. But that's just me, and maybe it's not right either ;-)

  • Well.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by untaken_name (660789)
    "Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?"

    Well, based on my experiences with municipal bureaucracies, I'd say yes, yes, and maybe.
  • I read this article on the way in today and saw some of the stumbling blocks they hit. One of them was that in many instances the materials the houses were made of prevented a clear (if any) signal from getting through. This requires additional equipment to get it to function. The speeds offered by these services are also usually that all that super. Then it mentions this kind of service has been a possible motivator for the local cable/telephone companies to suddenly offer services in the area. The en
  • by sycomonkey (666153) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:02PM (#19227603) Homepage
    802.11 wasn't designed to be used city-wide. Of course it's expensive and unpopular to try to blanket the town with WiFi, the stations barely enough range to cover a whole house well, much less a whole block. Furthermore, 2.4ghz is way too overcrowded for this sort of thing. Better solutions would be WiMax or a simular tech using the analog TV frequencies when they finally get auctioned off. The idea of Municipal Internet is very good, but this isn't the way to do it.
    • by Shaman (1148)
      You nailed it. To a degree, I have to disagree that Wi-Fi will ever be a good technology for blanketing a whole city, but I agree mostly on the concept of a properly done WiMax setup.

      However, this is not without its problems either. Customers would have to buy Wimax equipment and also pay spectrum licensing fees, since it's far from free to buy it. And it doesn't work as well as the vendors would like us to believe.
  • huh (Score:3, Funny)

    by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland@gmail. c o m> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:03PM (#19227611)
    better spent on roads or crime-fighting.

    Did anyone else instantly think "SimCity" when they read that?

    Yeah? No?
  • I don't see the point of commercial municipal Wi-Fi. A private company is perfectly capable of installing a few hundred 802.11n base stations in the city, unlike the burden of, say, laying down cables or water pipes. Such a solution also does nothing for city visitors, who are more likely to need Internet access in some arbitrary location than residents. Would you want to open dozens of separate accounts for each city in Bay Area? Starbucks hotspots will probably do better for you.

    On the other hand, a free
  • Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:09PM (#19227719) Homepage Journal
    Simple question is why have wi-fi everywhere in a city? What problem does it solve?
    Do people constantly use their computers in parks? On the sidewalk?
    Most people use the Internet in their home. A few will use it at a coffee shop or restaurant.
    If you want to provide Internet access then a community DSL or fiber network is the place to start. Then selective hot-spots. like at schools, libraries, community centers, and maybe some parks.
    Why would I pay for access to a metropolitan wifi network when I have a WAP at home, internet at my office, free wifi and a couple of restaurants I go to, and a browser on my phone?
    metropolitan wifi networks are a solution seeking a problem.
    Now Monorails are cool. Actually they do tend to be cheaper than subways and a lot more attractive than elevated trains. I think they are a good solution to mass transit. Too bad buses and light rail are cheaper still.
  • "lawmakers are concerned that millions of dollars will have gone to waste that could have been better spent on roads or crime-fighting."

    No, not that millions of dollars will have gone to waste. That "lawmakers are concerned" bit. It gets me every time.

    I mean, they took the money from someone, to give to someone else. They're not feeling the pain, and they're not really feeling the benefit. Build the matrix:
  • What an awesome "related stories" list! I want my city to get Wi-Fi too!

    Municipal Wi-Fi Can't Beat Laws of Physics

    Companies Grow Wary of Building Out Municipal Wi-Fi Networks

    Expert: Wi-Fi Laptops 'Pose Health Risk to Children'

    Hackers Target Wi-Fi Hotspots in New Phishing Attacks

  • Our suburb is scheduled to have municipal online, as it were, in quadrants over the course of this summer. But one thing I've never seen was straight talk about what it will cost:

    Lompoc recently slashed prices by $9, to $16 a month, for the main household plan.

    OK. Here's the thing guys. If I didn't already have cable or DSL broadband, at $25 I would tack it on with my current provider instead of dealing with yet _another_ provider. At $16 I suppose you will get a great percentage of dial-up people to up
  • As much as wireless has a "cool factor", it still sucks. I can't get my Linksys wireless AP to throw a reliable signal 50ft through the house even after buying high-gain antennae, upgrading to a 3rd-party firmware that lets me double the output power and switching to 5.8GHz cordless phones. A municipal deployment might use better equipment, but dropping several thousand dollars on an access point that might cover a radius of several hundred feet strikes me as... inefficient at best. Considering the signal i
  • A lot of cities got sold a sucker deal by companies like Tropos which have some badly performing and hard to deploy equipment (among other things they think one radio is sufficient for mesh and access points). But they also have a huge sales, marketing and schmoozing staff to wine and dine officials into signing contracts. So Earthlink is up to its neck in its deployments just trying to get the equipment to function at all.

    Whereas other deployments that chose decent equipment like Tranzeo's two radio wifi m
    • by Shaman (1148)
      Relatively good post. Tropos' stuff is horrendous.

      Tranzeo is kind of a neat company. Their stuff is damned inexpensive and it works pretty well, from my experience.
  • Its just bad timing, not a bad idea. The public isnt ready yet for wifi to become another 'utility'.

    Give it 5 more years.
  • by bizitch (546406) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:33PM (#19228105) Homepage
    I've sold municipal wi-fi to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum, it put them on the map!
  • Hmm. Lompoc introduces a municipal wireless network. Just as the city starts, the local DSL and cable providers suddenly do massive upgrades to their systems. Upgrades that the city has been asking for for years, and that the DSL and cable providers have found it infeasible to do. One wonders whether this sudden change of heart on the part of the private providers might have something to do with the failure of the wireless network, and whether those providers would have had that change of heart if it weren'

  • ...in Lawrence, Kansas. Thanks to Lawrence Freenet [lawrencefreenet.org], a 501c3 nonprofit, community organization, we have a wireless network covering almost the entirety of Douglas County. Downtown is one giant hotspot, local businesses have access points, and there are repeaters located on street lights, water towers, you name it. Not to mention their prices beat the local cable company, performance beats the DSL providers, and they are the ONLY provider of broadband for rural residents.

    If your family can't afford the f
  • " Is municipal Wi-Fi just a bad idea, has it been poorly implemented, or is the technology just not there to support such an endeavor?"

    WOAH. False Choice fallacy winner here.

    "A think tank" study, eh? I don't have to look at the name, as I can guess. Lissen up; the "think tanks" are really, REALLY well funded right wing propoganda outlets dressed up as friendly wonks. Who's picking up the tab for this "think tank" study? Would that group have a deep interest in reaming us bloody with corporatized, right-size
  • Hmm. I take it for granted that the government is generally both slow and dumb, but any implementation beats my current options:

    • Comcast: $59.95 / month

    DSL doesn't reach. SpeedNet is a privately owned WiFi network downstate-only for rural areas, at the rural price: $50.00 a month. And Sprint's WiMax [wikipedia.org] is *years* away.

    ANY muni wi-fi service would beat the Comcast monopoly. So just get your act together and make it happen.

  • "It seemed like we announced we were going to do this and that, and the next day we got trucks from the providers doing this and that, when we've been asking for years and nothing ever happened," Lompoc Mayor Dick DeWees said.

    If nothing else, the muni wi-fi forced the commerical players to upgrade. That by itself make the project a success.

  • Municipalities have limited resources. They need to be marshaled wisely. Investing in widespread WiFi is a bad idea. They will always be behind the technological curve. Maintenance and support will chew up more resources. As soon as a widespread vulnerability is discovered, they will have to spend again to put in emergency fixes. When someone who hates porn takes over, that will be censored. When someone else who hates gays takes over, any material that is ruled "objectionable" will be censored. Think they
  • Municipal wireless, using current WiFi technologies, is a half-baked idea. Realistically, wireless access points only have a range of about 20-30 feet. It works in homes, office buildings, hotels, and areas with dense pedestrian traffic... But, for the goal of having internet connectivity anywhere, a technology like WiMax or EVDO is more appropriate, because it'll actually work.

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