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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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  • 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.
  • Google's Wifi (Score:5, Interesting)

    by James_Aguilar (890772) <aguilar.james@nosPAM.gmail.com> 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 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.
  • Re:the answers: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SQLGuru (980662) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:46PM (#19227279) Journal
    The reason that subscriptions are so low is that they've concentrated on the business districts.....

    1) Most businesses have their own network (which, BTW, is faster than the service provided)
    2) Most CBD's are "vacant" during the evening when individuals would be using it.
    3) It doesn't make it to the 'burbs where I live.

    Layne
  • by dgym (584252) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @04:46PM (#19227285)
    Municipal WiFi is hard. Municipal WiMax would be a lot easier.
  • by colfer (619105) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:20PM (#19227895)
    Ridiculous article yestersay in the Wash. Post about a large outer-suburban MacMansion-style development that is stuck in a 75-year contract for internet/phone/cable. Some years ago it seemed like a good deal since the company ran fiver optic to each house. Now it's a ripoff monopoly. Hard to feel sorry for the MacMansionites, who are busy violating their own association rules by sprouting satellite dishes, and should have known what a contract meant.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2007/05/20/AR2007052001724.html [washingtonpost.com]
    If you don't know about these U.S. developments, almost all the "affluent" growth goes into outer suburbs, while the inner ones, not really built to last, start to peel and crack. Many or most new developments are private entities, with "association" rules and regulations layered on or replacing normal local law.
    So if you're looking for virgin territory for high-speed internet service, that's where it is. Or was.
  • by gauss314 (640591) on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @05:25PM (#19227987)
    Um, what gives you the "right" to food, clothing, shelter, and medicine? Are those people who are engaged in the manufacture of those products and services your slaves? Why not a right to free music, free sex, and free insert_whatever_you_want_here? You should really think about differentiating between "rights" like (life, speech, etc), and consumer products.
  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @06:13PM (#19228889) Journal
    Uhhhh, I am an anarchist. An anarcho-syndicalist. We think your concept of individual ownership of natural resources will automatically lead to an oligarchy of a few owning class people. We believe in democratic control of natural resources by the workers actually using those resources.

    Government is a control structure, and like any it can be abused. That includes the control structures of private ownership, which aren't as efficient as you may think. In studies of privatization, privatization of competitive industries works well, while privatization of natural monopolies has always failed.

    With government, there is a system of checks and balances. In the free market, there are no checks and balances to curb the runaway positive feedback loop of wealth accumulation. There are no checks to stop the exploitation of the natural failure modes of the free market: information imbalance, natural monopoly, and externalities. I have yet to hear a Libertarian give a cogent explanation of how their system would deal with those three factors.

    You accuse me of not understanding Libertarianism, I accuse you of not thinking through the consequences.
  • by Shaman (1148) <shaman@@@kos...net> on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @07:16PM (#19229647) Homepage
    Municipal wireless & fibre is no problem as long as it's open for competitive access. That's rarely the case, in which point it's an abuse of government funding. But let's not open that can of worms.

    I'm entirely behind the concept of the municipalities running fibre and wireless networks, as long as they don't try to shrug existing providers aside and provide open competitive access to service providers using their network.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday May 22, 2007 @09:42PM (#19230999) Homepage Journal

    Maybe - just maybe - we noticed that everything the gov't does could have been done better, chaper and faster by private companies or individuals?

    I think there's plenty of evidence to support that the only thing private companies do "better" than government is enrich themselves. You may not have noticed, but to a great extent, many of the economic problems we're facing in the US at the moment are the direct result of the fanatical belief that "free markets" are good in any way shape or form.

    The reason we had a strong middle class in the US during the second half of the 20th century is because of the "socialist" programs of FDR and his followers. That, and Labor Unions were the two forces that created a middle class where families could live off the salary of one working parent and kids could expect a better life than their parents (mostly gone, now). All unfettered capitalism and free markets got us last century was a whopper of a Depression and a tech bubble.

    By the way, after a decade of Republican, pro-capital, "free market" rule in Congress and 5 years of Bush, we've just about done away completely with the American middle class. Things like thederegulation of the banking industry have leeched an incredible portion of the wealth that had been gathered by the middle class. If we keep this nonsense up much longer we're going to have a very small group of rich people and a whole lot of serfs. That may suit some of you, but I don't really have the temperament for serfdom, and I certainly don't have the necessary greed and lack of morals required to become one of the elite.

    I get such a kick out of midlevel techie "managers" who swear they're doing so much better under Bush, until you find out the amount that they owe has been increasing every year, and their real income has been declining at about 7 percent annually (despite their 2 percent "raises").
  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:16AM (#19232645)

    I get about 20 or so and they're ALL encrypted so I can't even bum off someone else's connection!

    Two thoughts:

    • Wi-Fi encryption is weak. Get some software to crack it and bum off somebody's connection anyway.
    • Take charge of the situation: set up a community meeting and work out a plan to equip the apartment complex with one shared Wi-Fi connection. If you can't get signal, chances are nobody else can either, and they'll welcome the idea. Besides, if you do it right you should be able to make everybody's connection both cheaper and faster than the 20 separate cable or DSL connections they're probably getting now!

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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