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Wireless Networking Government Hardware News

Philadelphia's Wi-Fi Back Online, Privately 50

Posted by kdawson
from the asymptotically-approaching-the-correct-model dept.
muellerr1 writes "A group of local Philadelphia investors is picking up where Earthlink left off last week. Earthlink abandoned their effort to provide municipal Wi-Fi access because they couldn't lure enough paying customers. The project won't use any additional taxpayer dollars, and the new investors are thinking of using advertisements and fees for business use to support free access for ordinary citizens." The private group won't estimate when the network might be completed (it's at 80%), saying it will take months to assess where the project is and what it needs.
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Philadelphia's Wi-Fi Back Online, Privately

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  • by WaltBusterkeys (1156557) * on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:10PM (#23831239)
    I heartily applaud their attempt to get free coverage. But even if they fail there's still a lot of great stuff on the horizon. The coverage of commercial services like FON [fon.com] is increasing fast. At the same time, the new G3 phones are coming online (new iPhone, anyone?) and tethering is starting to look like a more and more attractive way to get high-speed Internet on the go. I'd love it if Internet were free everywhere, but I'll take iPhone tethering (yes, it's probably against the TOS) as a fallback.

    Kudos to them.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:27PM (#23831439)
      It's all great until some moron who's "attuned to the Earth" sues them claiming that the wireless transmissions are geiving them bad vibrations and the dowsers claim this is totally fucking with their stick pointing duties.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This probably should have been modded "funny" instead of "troll". There really are people suing to get wi-fi shut down because they claim to be allergic to it.

        • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:57PM (#23831785) Homepage
          I'm allergic to stupid loudmouthed inbreds. Can I sue to have them all killed and incinerated ?

          I can demonstrate the effects idiots have on me, and the violent "allergic" reactions I suffer in their presence. Most of them involve uncontrollable flailing while handling sharp cutlery.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward
            I'm allergic to stupid loudmouthed inbreds. Can I sue to have them all killed and incinerated ?

            Not successfully. Just hope someone develops bacteria that can turn them into fuel for your car.
            Meanwhile, don't vote for them.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's all great until some moron who's "attuned to the Earth" sues them claiming that the wireless transmissions are geiving them bad vibrations and the dowsers claim this is totally fucking with their stick pointing duties.

        Have you been to Philly?

        I live here... The last thing we worry about is "bad vibrations", more likely we're afraid of random violence.

        Think I'm joking?

        http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20080617_Police_seek_public_help_in_Beau_Zabel_s_death.html

        http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20080617_Man__18__shot_after_high_school_graduation_at_Liacouras_Center.html

        These were only in the last few days.

        We're not Santa Fe...

    • by Shatrat (855151)
      Tethering is not against the TOS, they'll just charge you ANOTHER 60 dollars a month if you do it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BadHaggis (1179673)
      That's why I use T-Mobile. They encourage tethering and were more than helpful in providing the information necessary to set it up. The caveat to this is I do pay a $20 monthly unlimited data fee, and they have never complained about the amount of data that I put through it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Toll_Free (1295136)
        I have AT & T / Cingular as well.

        Well, originally I was a Cingular customer, but now have signed a new contract.

        My wife and I both have data plans, she has a Blackjack II, I have a HTC Wizard.

        I paid 60 a month extra for unlmtd data on Cingular, 50 a month now on AT & T. With this, I get 200 msg a month and otherwise, unlimited data, tethered or not.

        My only gripe is now that I have experienced her phone, being 3G, tethered on the laptops, I realize just how slow the EDGE and related technology is.

        Bu
  • by Ethan Allison (904983) <slashdot@neonstream.us> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:28PM (#23831457) Homepage
    It's private! Don't you guys have any respect?!
  • by snarfies (115214) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:29PM (#23831475) Homepage
    I was unemployed 8 months ago, and while I had plenty in the bank I was looking to find ways to make it last, so I experimented with Earthlink's wifi service. I got their adapter in the mail and put it in my window.

    The signal swung wildly between full strength and no signal at all, regardless of where I placed the adapter. Even when it was at full strength, though, the connection would constantly stall, requiring me to log back in (did I mention you have to log in to the service, just like oldschool dialup?). When it DID work, it was quite slow. In short, it wasn't worth dropping Comcast for, and I sent it back after the first week.
    • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:48PM (#23831671)

      The signal swung wildly between full strength and no signal at all, regardless of where I placed the adapter.
      Where they using rotating directional antennas?
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Maybe there was a windmill between his adapter and the other end of the link? Seriously, RF propagation is like black magic. You can learn the rules and get good enough to surprise people, but sometimes it's still guesswork and luck. At 2.4 GHz you can have some very complex multipath conditions and the location of your neighbors car could be the difference between a strong signal and none. Of course, adding a nice directional antenna to the adapter and pointing it at the other end should have solved mo
  • What possesses people (Reuters) to use JavaScript for the next-page links in articles? It breaks opening the link in a separate tab, it breaks the link for anyone that has JavaScript disabled, and it keeps search engines from following the link. I realize this is off-topic, but is there some benefit to this that I'm not seeing?
    • Gmail has the same problem: can't open an email in a new tab. Or, you can, but it also navigates the current tab to the same email.

      Note to developers: javascript and ajax are cute, but don't break the browser's native UI.
  • by LM741N (258038) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:38PM (#23831567)
    The Portland network looked pretty decent in the beginning. The ads weren't too obnoxious. Then one day people found out that the only way they could use the free service was to download some Windows-only program that spewed out ads by the dozen. Linux and BSD users were locked out. Believe me, they should be happy to be locked out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Then one day people found out that the only way they could use the free service was to download some Windows-only program that spewed out ads by the dozen. Linux and BSD users were locked out.

      That's an interesting perspective. When there is Windows only software, I'd think most people would be more concerned with Mac OS X being locked out than Linux (given their relative market share) let alone BSD. Unless, I suppose, one classifies OS X as a BSD.

      OS specific ads seem pretty pointless. There seem to be well proven technologies to inject ads into Web content, regardless of OS.

  • by Collective 0-0009 (1294662) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:45PM (#23831645)

    The private group won't estimate when the network might be completed (it's at 80%), saying it will take months to assess where the project is and what it need
    Half of that sentence isn't true. Either you need months to asses, or you know it's at 80%. Not both.
    • by Bill Dimm (463823)
      A different article [bizjournals.com] about it says it is 65-80% done, so they really don't know how far long it is.
    • by Seakip18 (1106315)
      I think what they mean is....
      "yeah it's '80%' done. But of the '80%', we're not sure if it's reliable. Additionally, we're not sure what is needed to finish the remaining 20%."

      It could be a car analogy where 80% of the car is done, but they don't know if they still want the engine the car was designed for in. Trying to figure out if you could fit another engine can take a long time.

      Side note, since I started reading /., people have told me my analogies have made less and less sense. Anyone else seeing this?
  • Finally.... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Sir_Real (179104)
    City of Brotherly Love indeed. And hey, if you can make it pay...
  • by ubuwalker31 (1009137) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:49PM (#23831699)
    ...not businesses. The whole idea of municipal Wi-fi is that everyone can have it, profit or no profit...tragedy of the commons and all....and since Earthlink abandoned their effort to provide municipal Wi-Fi access because they couldn't lure enough paying customers...it just goes to show that non-public corporations do a lousy job providing public services. The internet is akin to a utility, and should be regulated in the publics best interest, not some investors bottom line.
    • No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:09PM (#23831959) Homepage Journal
      It shows that not enough people were interested in buying into another internet service being happy enough with their current service.

      My problem with municipal wi-fi is, where is the need? Most businesses and even people living there have service. So this benefits who? The poor and down trodden? Most could care less about internet and those who do and are going to the library and getting good access there in a clean and friendly environment. Why would they want to divert monies they could use for shelter and food towards a computer and other hardware needed for the net? The net isn't a priority, providing for family first is. I don't understand why so many people here see the net as opening doors. The problem is that for many of the people who you claim it will open a door for don't even know they need one and many probably don't.

      The internet is not a utility. The last thing I want is it to be under the control of our government, local, state, or federal. We are harp on verizon and such caving in or going to extremes we find unwarranted at every little hissy fit one state or another throws. Can you imagine how damn regulated and filtered your net will be if totally in the hands of the government and the cronies appointed by the powers that be? Think freedom of speech will protect you? It might for what you say but it will not gain you access to what you want. It will also be reduced by "for the children" laws. Combine that with actually trying to get someone to fix your service when its down and out. Its not a life threatening application its not going to be addresses fast. Hell the nearest city to me can't even keep the road patched. They have a leaky water system they haven't been able to fix in ten years. Like hell if I want to trust my internet connection to them.

      The internet should not be treated as a utility, its not a right, it is not essential to life.
      • by wattrlz (1162603)

        ... Most couldn't care less about the internet and those who do and are going to the library and getting good access there in a clean and friendly environment...
        There, fixed it for you.
      • Honestly I wouldn't have bothered, except some anarchist-leaning mods gave you +5 insightful for being totally wrong. But as is unfortunately often true, in this case the anarchistic position has the effect of being a shill for Big Telecom; what you're suggested is exactly what their monopolies want. And don't mistake me here for a big government advocate in the broad scheme of things - I believe in the power of the free market, and I want things to be cheaper and more efficient for everyone which does no
    • I think the problem is that they were slow to get this set up. The big corporations already had footholds in the business (as opposed to old school local dialup ISPs). There are also too many ways to provide internet access... and frankly, the government would screw it up anyway. The only reason we see speed increases now is that cable modems fight DSL and FIOS and maybe eventually WiMax and whatever else.
      At least here in Philadelphia, there was major opposition to the project coming from corporations like
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:01PM (#23831865) Homepage Journal
    muellerr1 writes:

    the new investors are thinking of using advertisements
    TFA doesn't say anything about ads. If it's true, it's cause for concern, since there's no way to implement that without altering packets.
  • by Toll_Free (1295136) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:50PM (#23832491)
    What happens when you're using it, and your neighbor fires up bittorrent.

    Wifi is nowhere near the point of replacing broadband. Hell, cable modems have more bandwith to share between customers than wifi.

    It's a good backup, though. I'll give it that.

    --Toll_Free
  • by KenDiPietro (1294220) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @08:37PM (#23832991)
    Earthlink had offered to give a non-profit $1 Million in cash plus roughly $2 Million in brand new equipment. Most of the network had been built using first generation Tropos equipment, at the edge, which based on the time the first radios were installed puts them at more than 2/3rds through their usable life. While there is blame enough to go around for everybody involved, the reality is that Earthlink has now decided to focus on dialup, a plan that most of us here would look at as a long term solution - depending on what you define as long term and what solution you would like to see Earthlink come to. Good luck, Philadelphia, because trying to use the equipment you have is going to sink this network faster than it did last time.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:18PM (#23833359) Journal
    I think that there is a broader message to be seen in the fairly numerous stories of wide area wifi deployments meeting with limited, at best, success.

    Lesson 1: WiFi actually pretty much sucks for this type of job.

    Lesson 2: We try to use it anyway because open spectrum allows amazing stuff to be built. Unfortunately, WiFi isn't all that great, and neither is the 2.4gHZ band. And yet, by virtue of being pretty much the only open spectrum networking technology with wide availability(There is also bluetooth; but that is explicitly slow and short range), it is amazingly useful.

    The moral of the story: We need more and better open spectrum. If WiFi can do as well as it has, shoved in with microwaves and cordless phones and baby monitors and cheap RC toys and low end wireless mice and whatnot, imagine what we could do with some real open spectrum.

    Now, I realize that our chances of prying spectrum loose from the grip of the plutocrats currently "monetizing" it are incrementally worse than nil; but that doesn't change how nice it would be.
  • by johnpaul191 (240105) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @09:18PM (#23833361) Homepage
    Good news for iPhone1.0 owners? Wi-Phi should be faster than AT&T's 3G..... and AT&T's EDGE coverage blows in Philly.

    Around town we all heard they would be using some form of ad-supported net access. I hopped on it (using an old 802.11b equipped iBook) to see if it really was free and open, and it was. I was not in a place with good coverage, but it was pretty usable. I know where the base stations are, and I was located *just* at the edge of where they stopped putting them up.
    I didn't see any ads, but i was using Safari with ad blocker installed. Not sure if that removed them or they just didn't put them in yet? Maybe the ads thing is a rumor. It also let me run iChat without a hitch.

    If there are details about the new system, i have not seem them yet. One report on the radio said the new company will be selling wired broadband to businesses and that will subsidize all or some of the network? This article says companies would have to pay for their employees to use the otherwise free Wi-Fi? Not sure what that's about, or how it will work out. People seemed to get very different info from the same press conference. 80% of the city is already covered in (802.11b) base stations. some neighborhoods will give you the ability to see half a dozen networks.
  • I was at Philadelphia international airport in May and was able to connect to free public wifi after agreeing to some legal document that I didn't read. I had about a 1mbps connection that I used to run instant messaging, check e-mail, surf the web and remote desktop to my torrent box 1000 miles away. They had no problems with my mac address being 00-11-22-33-44-55. Had I lived in the area I may have purchased a directional antenna.
  • The private group won't estimate when the network might be completed (it's at 80%), saying it will take months to assess where the project is and what it needs.
    This could lop months off their timeframe!
  • Today's Philadelphia Inquirer has an article on it:
    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20080618_Investors_picking_up_wireless_Internet_plan.html

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