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Wireless Networking Government Hardware Politics

New Report On Municipal Wireless 128

PublicNet SF Coalition introduces us to a new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance called "Localizing the Internet: Five Ways Public Ownership Solves the U.S. Broadband Problem." It makes a strong case for municipal ownership of new wireless and fiber-optic networks. The history shows that there is a need for more aggressive public involvement in broadband deployment, and the affordability of wireless is a great opportunity for this.
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New Report On Municipal Wireless

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  • DREAMERS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MilesNaismith ( 951682 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:21AM (#18259696)
    Haven't we been hearing for 5 years now that Muni-WiFi is going to solve all our problems? Yes there are some fools who think because they can setup Aunt Mildred's WiFi-router, that they are now well-equipped to cover a city! Issue of interference, maintenance, management of free-loaders, paying for 24x7 techs (think AT&T linemen) and consequent insurance costs, etc. never seem to enter their minds. I read the RFP for the City of Atlanta muni-WiFi and couldn't stop laughing. For all the freebies and conditions they wanted to layer onto it, there was no contract lockin as incentive. Meaning you could spend years and get a network setup, then the next administration rolls in and says hey we are changing contractors because my cousin knows all about computers, please hand over the keys. Now, where's my flying car?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 )
      Well, there's a solution to that, it's called payment up front.

      Just because the municipalities haven't figured out how much this stuff actually costs, doesn't mean the whole concept is flawed. They're politicians, remember -- and therefore, things take a while to sink in. Of course they're going to start off by making ridiculous demands. When nobody responds, they'll either get serious or move along. Eventually, some city is going to make a serious effort, which means paying for the infrastructure if you wa
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        Get back to me when that's working out for you buddy. I can count the number of fabulous free-internet-for-everybody on .... no fingers of one hand. Sure it's fundamentally flawed. Say someone says "I want free telephones for everyone, cause my Aunt Mildred might need to call 911, and I want her to be able to do that with guaranteed City service!" So everyone dutifully pays their taxes and gets a phone system installed. Designed by committees and politicians, and run by the same type of guys who fill t
        • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:15AM (#18259884) Homepage Journal
          I don't think that anyone is realistically advocating free internet service for anyone. If they are, then I'll join you in calling them a bunch of twits.

          However, what there are some decent proposals for, would be systems where municipalities pay for, and thus own, and absorb the risk of, actually laying the bare infrastructure. So the muni lays the fiber, or pays for the APs, or whatever. Then the municipality, in turn, sells capacity on that network to third parties, who actually provide service to customers. Now, it could be that there are multiple third-parties on the network at once, which IMO would be the best arrangement, because it ensures some customer choice, but practically it might be that there is some sort of selection process and then a recompete or review periodically, which is far less ideal, but better than being stuck with that company forever because they own the only fiber running to your house.

          Certainly I don't want my ISP to be the same bunch of numbskulls who operate the DMV (although, they may actually be better than Comcast, it's sort of a tossup). However, I don't think that municipalities have a terrible history when it comes to the deployment and maintenance of infrastructure. While there are indeed potholes in my road, there is also a road there, and there are roads on each side of it, and there are quite a lot of roads elsewhere, which as a network, are in pretty good shape. (As in, I can pretty much get from any point to any other point without being accosted by bandits or falling into crevasses, or going through a lot of tollbooths, etc.) Looking around, I don't think there are a whole lot of other entities who I'd really trust to take over from them.

          While I normally consider myself pretty far to the Right on the economic scale, I think there are certainly some areas where there are bona fide public interests, and where government is the most capable agency of completing a project (or is the only one you'd want to own and monopolize the finished product); in these areas it doesn't make sense to not do it within the public sector.

          But just because the public owns the infrastructure doesn't mean they have to operate it. Think of the fiber as a canal. Just because the government paid for the canal, doesn't mean that they run the freight companies that ship stuff on it. As a consumer, you can ship goods on the canal using any number of companies, without any contact with the government. The government just extracts their pound of flesh from the companies who ply the canal -- taking the same from each, based on a standard metric -- in order to recoup the investment and do maintenance. The public benefit is in having the canal there in the first place, and in not having it monopolized by one company who is going to maximize profit rather than public utility. (The individual canal boats, in this example, will all seek to maximize profit, but since none of them own the canal proper, they can't monopolize things in the way that a single owner could.)

          The U.S. has a long history of successful heavy-infrastructure projects that were initially funded with public monies, and which paid huge dividends in terms of direct tolls (the canals were huge cash cows, almost to a fault) and economic growth. There's no reason why modern informational infrastructure is any different, inherently, from transportation infrastructure 150-200 years ago. The same trade-offs exist, and the same risk, but also the potential for the same rewards.
          • As I have said other places, keep it simple. Point me to a PUBLICLY OWNED TELEPHONE NETWORK IN A LARGE CITY as an example. Just one. Roads and canals are quite different from telecommunications. Yes there are ways in which they are similar, there are others where they are not. A road doesn't require complete replacement because neighboring roads have switched to a new protocol. Networks and electronics are considerably faster-evolving and not well-suited to the leisurely pace that is an asset in some cit
            • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:5, Informative)

              by Stooshie ( 993666 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:54AM (#18260016) Journal

              ... just point to one city that is actually DOING THIS ...

              South Korea [] funded a national project, not just city-wide, and now has one of the highest penetrations of Broadband in the world. I have also heard that they get 100Mbps standard connection speed.

              • South Korea has much higher population-density making it easier. Does that Wikipedia article indicate that the infrastructure is owned by the government. It may well be, but it doesn't state so in that entry, it just says "the government actively supports this" which can mean a lot of things. Are you going to tell everyone in the USA they need to move out of the burbs, and into apartment blocks because it's cheaper to offer internet that way? Or do we just absorb the enormous cost of running fiber to eve
              • *I* heard they get free chocolate covered gold ponies with every cable modem sold, and actual angels sing their MP3s (with holy enhancement).
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by vic-traill ( 1038742 )

              Point me to a PUBLICLY OWNED TELEPHONE NETWORK IN A LARGE CITY as an example. [ ... ] Pick something that IS very close.

              How about electrical infrastructure? Not the same, of course - I'm a inter-networking guy, not an electrical guy, but it strikes me as having some of the same fundamentals: high availability, ubiquitous, critical service, etc. w/ some real-time elements and danger of maintenance beyond that found in even telco networks. The regulated, monopoly environment was disassembled in a manner similar to the bust-out of incumbent telcos almost a decade ago here, so the business history is similar, too. Close eno

              • Not exactly, those are usually government-granted monopolies. The government has oversight and sets some controls, but is not directly funding anything. In exchange they grant the company the protection of little or no competition so they have a stable long-term guaranteed profit. I rather suspect that if the City ran the power-plants and the substations, my lights would be on about 20 hours out of 24. There's a difference between planning a road network, and keeping the lights on or dial-tone available.
                • I rather suspect that if the City ran the power-plants and the substations, my lights would be on about 20 hours out of 24.

                  I'd be interested to see where that estimate came from. Where I used to live, we had a direct strike by Hurricane Charley (the eye passed less than seven miles away), and we experienced some pretty severe weather from the other three hurricanes that hit my area over the next. My power (provided by a municipally owned/operated utility) was out for a total of 10 hours across all fou
                  • Democracy is not really the way to handle economic decisions, at least not with our current voting method. Voters, at large, do not have the free time necessary to monitor all of the government's actions in multiple industries to insure efficiency, growth, and lack of corruption.

                    For this reason, government administration should be avoided except where absolutely necessary.

            • It's happening backwards here in Australia (or is that upside down?) There was until recently a single government monopoly provider, i'll call them Telescum. Competition was introduced and Telescum privatised. Unfortunately for the competitors, Telescum owns the infrastructure and effectively kept monopoly status. This is also unfortunate for the Australian people, as our tax dollars had paid for every inch of that cable, which was now being used against us to extort ridiculous sums of money for sub-par ser
            • I'll do even better and stick to the topic by pointing you towards two projects that provide municipal FTTH. Both projects prompted the telcos, to call the state legislature and attempt to legislate these projects out of existence.

              • I'll do even better and stick to the topic by pointing you towards two projects that provide municipal FTTH. Both projects prompted the telcos, to call the state legislature and attempt to legislate these projects out of existence.

                [] []
                [] []

                Ah, Wiki has an entry on UTOPIA. I read about it in the IEEE's Spectrum magazine, A Broadband Utopia []


                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  by JazzLad ( 935151 )
                  UTOPIA is a beautiful thing. I had it for about a year and a half (Murray, UT - just moved, no longer avbl to me :( ). Lots of negative advertising by Comcast about how it will ruin/bankrupt/whatever our city, but they are obviously running scared. Reminds me of the movie Head of State ('He's for CANCER!').

                  On UTOPIA, I got 15mbit each way, seeing sustained downloads of ~11mbit from usenet (uh, doing a lot of reading ...). Comcast started offering their $70 plan for $33/mo (+ taxes) to try to compete (UT
            • Maybe you've heard of UTOPIA [] or iProvo []? Both of them are large muni fiber projects in Utah that act as wholesalers. UTOPIA already serves six cities and iProvo just finished its build-out last year. Combined, they provide service to somewhere in the range of 300K+ users.
          • I don't advocate free wireless for everyone, but I did cancel my cable modem after I started using Google WiFi at home. You should move to Mountain View, CA, home of communism.

            -- greg
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              Yeah I guess a company that has umpty-billions in capital can subsidize wireless so their bedroom community looks leading-edge. What does this have to do with the rest of the country? Is Google going to un-wire the rest of NorCal this year? No, you say? Until then we'll have to come up with other plans. Besides I quite frankly couldn't afford to LIVE in Mountain View. Saving a few bucks on the ISP is hardly a reason to spend a million dollars for a 2x1 1960's ranch-house.
              • d00d, it's not my problem you're too poor to live in modern America. We communists with free wifi must be capitalist stud-muffins or something.

                Which means you might want to stop calling us communists. And you might want to give a little more thought to how to bridge the digital divide.

                Then again, we all know sarcasm never works on the Internet.

                -- greg
                • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                  To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To people in the Tech Industry, every problem can be solved with more computers, more network, and the right software. There are people in this country right at this moment, without telephone service, or cable-TV, or maybe even enough food or enough money for the rent. Those are real problems. Getting internet, not so much.
                  • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:5, Insightful)

                    by @madeus ( 24818 ) <> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @07:18AM (#18260370)

                    There are people in this country right at this moment, without telephone service, or cable-TV, or maybe even enough food or enough money for the rent. Those are real problems. Getting internet, not so much.
                    Just because a small number of people are unable to feed and house themselves despite living in a prosperous western society does not mean that providing internet access to the *working* poor is not worthwhile.

                    Internet access to young families and the poor is potentially very useful to them, and all the more meaningful because of their circumstances (by which I mean they stand to benefit the most from free access). Added to which, they are the least likely of consumers to spend money on something like 'internet access' in the first place because they are spending what money they do have on immediate needs like food and clothing.

                    Internet access opens up the means get cheaper goods and services (they can price compare, order good online for less than retail, etc), as well as an excellent educational resource for both informal and formal learning (with a wealth of government funded - and accredited - online learning initiativesm e.g. things like Lean Direct [], here in the UK).

                    Don't wait to lift the bottom 0.01% up out of abject poverty in a western society before you start helping the rest of the bottom 10%. I've got lazy deadbeat relatives in my own family, and they have had all the same opportunities I've had (some more, in fact). Some people just can't be arsed and there is a limit to the patience of others in a reasonable society when it comes to dealing with them - it's not as if they are in a developing nation and have been denied the chance to improve their situations.

                    • Are you going to provide them a computer also?

                      I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone. To a lot of people, it really isn't. Nice to have yes, important no.

                    • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by moeinvt ( 851793 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:10AM (#18260890)
                      "I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone."

                      Have you ever tried talking to one of your fellow citizens who gets information exclusively from the mainstream media? I cringe to think of what our collective world-view would be if we were still relying on NBC/ABC/CBS as our predominant source of information.

                      Call me an idealist, but I'm passionate about this, and about Network Neutrality. I think that the free flow of information is critical to any sort of democracy, and is at the foundation of capitalism.
                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      Working computers are clogging are landfills. It's a real problem. I have 5 PII-350 PCs that anyone who wants can have for free. They'll probably be gone in a few months. They work perfectly for browsing the internet, email, word processing, etc.

                      I set up a down-and-out friend with "pirated" wireless and a garbage PC and she suddendly had a much easier time job hunting. There are many jobs that are only posted online, there are many employers that require online applications. She's making good money n
                    • That's not an insurmountable problem, but it is an important consideration. People have long wanted to be able to churn out laptop's for $100, cf. OLPC. The problem is that if you want a computer that just does office suites, web browsing, and media, you really only need 1995-era technology, and OLPC projects want a lot more than that. It's ridiculous.

                      What we need is for someone to make a "Fisher Price" type computer someone can buy for under $200 that has the bare-bones software and OS installed and rea
                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
                      "I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone. To a lot of people, it really isn't. Nice to have yes, important no."

                      I was thinking along the same lines. I know lots of people that just have no interests or real need, actually of a computer in the home, much less one connected to the internet. My Mom, so far, is one of them.

                      Her job really doesn't involve computers at all...just enough interaction to clock in/out at the doorway, and for a few sales figures here a

                    • But, really, I've known lots of people, some definitely on the lower socio-economic scale, day laborers, that just really have no interest in computers or the internet, and frankly, just don't have the time after a long, hard day of manual labor.

                      I've worked with a number of poor people, having worked through day labor pools myself, and a number of them were homeless. For this reason and others they may not of been interested in having a computer never mind internet access. However many of those today w

                    • by @madeus ( 24818 )

                      Are you going to provide them a computer also?

                      I don't think it's as expensive compared to cost of on going internet access as you can get them quite cheaply second hard, from people who are giving them away and even get decent, cheap systems (at least for browsing, email) new from stores like Wallmart.

                      I often find it funny that very technical people think internet is important to everyone. To a lot of people, it really isn't. Nice to have yes, important no.

                      Here in the UK, and pretty commonly in most other countries in Europe I would imagine (and I bet at least some local government offices in the state operate similar programmes), things like TV's are seen as 'basic fundamental goods everyone ought to hav

                    • I've installed XP and Office 2003 on a PII-233 w/512MB of RAM. It ran well, but I agree that it isn't always as easy to just install and go as a modern machine.

                      Also, in this case, there are Compatability Packs that allow reading and writing of Office 2003/2007 files with earlier versions. There are other options for compatability, such as OpenOffice.
                  • If in ANY western country a non-mentally retarded person finds themself in a situation where they can't eat or pay the rent should anyone really feel sorry for them?

                    I mean isn't it kind of a test for life to be able to feed and house yourself?

                    I've never heard of incompetent lions receiving social benefits if they are too stupid to catch a wilderbeast to eat.
                    • by rhakka ( 224319 )
                      that's true, they don't. And they fight each other for the right to breed.

                      Interestingly enough, humans rule the earth, not lions. I wonder if those behaviour tendencies might have something to do with it... co-operative capabilities do seem to confer some interesting benefits, no?

                      We live in a world where one of the greatest scientific minds of our generation would, in any other generation, have died years ago. That may illustrate that "survival of the fittest" means something a little different in our so
          • So you guys wouldn't mind if municipalities provided the capital (=network infrastructure) and absorbed the risks and costs of maintaining the infrastructure while ISPs took home the profits?

            I guess i wouldn't mind that either -- if i were an ISP.

            One other issue that hasn't come up yet is convenience. When i cancelled my parents' overpriced and underperforming Charter internet service, i had to drive an hour to Charter's "local" office to do it. I could have walked to city hall in 10 minutes.

            • So you guys wouldn't mind if municipalities provided the capital (=network infrastructure) and absorbed the risks and costs of maintaining the infrastructure while ISPs took home the profits?

              Simple to remedy the cost, don't offer access below cost. Instead offer a price point that allows you to recoup your cost as well as maintain the infrastructure. With open access to the infrastructure ISPs will be either working to provide the lowest cost service, the best quality of service, or a combination of th

          • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:01AM (#18261262) Homepage
            "The canals were hug cash cows."???

            Surely you jest! The Erie Canal was profitable, but none of the subsequent canals built in NY generated enough income to cover the public money sspent on them. Socialism has always been a bad idea. Didn't ork for the Puritans, didn't work for the communes (e.g. Amana or Oneida), didn't work for the canals or railroads, and currently isn't working for government schooling. Give it a rest!
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by spun ( 1352 )
              Socialism has worked for communes and collectives, where are you getting your information from, capitalist propaganda. Ever hear of the Mondragon Collective in Spain? Socialism seems to work well enough for a number of prosperous Western states as well. You know, like most of Scandanavia?

              I disagree that government schooling isn't working, and from what I've seen, attempts to privatize schooling have failed miserably, with greedy corporate schools treating children as cash cows to be siphoned dry of money. I
              • I disagree that government schooling isn't working,

                Don't tell me, let me guess: you were educated in a government school, right? quod est demonstratum.
                • by spun ( 1352 )
                  I went to government schools, mostly, some private. The government schools were better. Only people with no good argument resort to ad hominems, you resorted to ad hominems. Only very poorly educated people have no good argument, you have no good argument, therefore, you must be very poorly educated. Quod est demonstratum.

                  How about some evidence to back up your claim rather than just being a dick? Because, chances are I can out-dick you without even trying. A dick-waving contest is fun, but rational discuss
            • Well, that was sort of why I said "perhaps to a fault." The problem was that, after the Erie canal became wildly profitable (and it was almost ridiculously so; it paid off its initial investments far earlier than expected), people started building canals willy-nilly, without realizing that they were building the 19th century equivalent of dark fiber. They were too late, and competition by the railroads bankrupted most of the canal companies.

              However, what's important to note, is that the Erie Canal happened
            • Seems to work for Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations just fine, same with most of the European Union and especially Sweden. Lassez-faire is dead.
          • I don't think that anyone is realistically advocating free internet service for anyone. If they are, then I'll join you in calling them a bunch of twits.

            The public libraries in my area have offered free internet access to residents using their terminals for more than a decade now. Are they twits? The county's wireless program is in the process of blanketing the entire county with free low speed (.5 Mb/s) wireless and it has been up and running in the high population areas for a year. Are they twits for offering this? So far they are within budget and seem to be doing okay, with a number of trials of users who have upgraded to a higher speed connection on

          • While I normally consider myself pretty far to the Right on the economic scale, I think there are certainly some areas where there are bona fide public interests, and where government is the most capable agency of completing a project (or is the only one you'd want to own and monopolize the finished product); in these areas it doesn't make sense to not do it within the public sector.

            I'm the same, though I am libertarian and believe in freedom including economic freedom I also believe local communities an

          • by jc42 ( 318812 )
            I don't think that anyone is realistically advocating free internet service for anyone. If they are, then I'll join you in calling them a bunch of twits.

            You're responding to a common rhetorical technique called a Strawman [] argument. It basically consists of attacking an extreme or distorted misrepresentation of your opponent's views. It's a standard part of most political arguments. It's useful to know that there's a traditional name for it, so you can recognize it when you see it.

            Few people are suggestin
        • I can count the number of fabulous free-internet-for-everybody on .... no fingers of one hand.

          Where in the world does "free" access come from? TFA does not use the word "free" once. However Google and Earthlink, both for profit businesses, are setting up wireless broadband access in San Francisco []. The two companies are setting up a wireless mesh wherein businesses and residences can signup for a free Meraki wireless router, and can buy a range extender for $50, to join the network. The free basic se

    • Here's an RFP for Atlanta: Rather than build a completely new infrastructure for a city-wide WiFi system, let's pay all the cell companies to offer the service through their existing antenna locations. They already have most of the issues you've mentioned solved, merely increase the bandwidth to each tower, add a centralized login system, and you're gold.

      Oh, wait...

      Aren't the cell providers already planning high-bandwidth services? At least two different flavors? Don't they have it rolled out in a few p
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I already read the Atlanta RFP. If you had read it in detail, you would see one of the few things they are able to offer as incentives was use of THEIR towers as broadcast locations. However they aren't usually all that well-sited for this particular need. What's a good tower height and location for a HF-radio system, may not work at all well for a GHz system. We ran a quick budget because the Atlanta neighborhood WISP I work with was interested. The numbers quite frankly suck.

        Again, many of the "wirele
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by galego ( 110613 )
        What is proposed about network security? Do you want the municipality/state handling the security of your connection and the helpdesk? To get adequately skilled staff and support, they'd have to pay well ... means more taxes of course or less often garbage pickup.

        And this is /., so I can't believe someone hasn't raised the issue of a government entity (local nonetheless) overseeing the network. Of course ... we, the people, are supposed to constitute the government, and should hopefully be more involved a
    • by jotok ( 728554 )
      there was no contract lockin as incentive.

      Whatever company steps up to the plate to provide this is going to make money hand over fist. Make no mistake about that. They're also going to be positioned to snap up bids from other cities. Why whine about having to compete with other vendors after the install, when the incumbent is almost always favored (incompetence notwithstanding)...

      The only reason why companies haven't jumped on this is that they're waiting to see what bigger fish (ie, telcos) are plannin
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      Bla Bla Bla, are you done spreading fud?

      I help with a working community WiFi setup using "aunt millies routers". we have point to point setups and quite a few hotspots that cover what is needed where it is needed and it works JUST FINE. none of us are FCC certified technicians or are using overpriced cisco crap, our current darling is a buffalo $49.00 wifi router running a custom openWRT install for each hotspot, and yes placed right you can get 4 of them to cover a park very well all on the same channel.
      • Actually I work with a small neighborhood WISP myself, so I wouldn't characterize it as FUD but informed opinion.

        We use a dozen Linksys AP's. Can we cover all areas in our neighborhood? No. Maybe 60%. A lot of that has to do with interference in the 2.4 GHz spectrum. With only 3 usable non-interfering channels and cordless phones, baby monitors and microwave ovens, there are swaths of areas where interference is so intense no amount of fiddling we have tried would let us cover them. Things may be differen
    • Meaning you could spend years and get a network setup, then the next administration rolls in and says hey we are changing contractors because my cousin knows all about computers, please hand over the keys.

      As you say, contracts can stop this. IEEE's magazine Spectrum had an article about a group of communities in northeast Utah who were creating a "A Broadband Utopia" [] to be owned by them. It's speed will be capable of 50 Mbps, it can even be 100Mps. Though the infrastructure is owned by local governme

    • I travel a lot and wireless is really hit and miss here in the states. When I go to Europe, I have absolutely no problem at all with wireless access. But then again, they're not as smart over there as we are and they're in to all that social democracy crap where everyone has tax-supported health care and other garbage like that and most of them think that's OK.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )
      We already have a municipal wireless infrastructure to support utilities operations (like meter reading, SCADA, etc.) police and fire operations, traffic control, video surveillance and more.

      The only reason I'd cry 'Dreamers!' is: Dreamers! Who do you think you are that AT&T and Verizon won't stop you dead in your tracks through the strategic purchase of a few key congresspersons?

  • killer idea. (Score:3, Informative)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:24AM (#18259704) Homepage
    this is a great idea. It's not about ownership of the network, but innovation on top of that baseline platform which is important. When everyone has access, the quality of services increases for everyone through competition. Well, at least, ideally.
    • To my mind there is a debate about building infrastructure so that innovative and agile enterprise can develop new business models (a concept I'm sure I heard about wrt web 1.0), or securing monopolies to make it easy for big business to take it easy and stifle innovation.

      I'd like to see this work, but I worry that the power of the lobbies will take will hand the benefits to big business

      Having grown-up in post Thatcher UK, I think many of us have been forceably persuaded of the benefits of capitalism, so

    • I'm afraid I can make no sense of your argument. Something about everyone getting access, and somehow this leads to good things.
  • by MilesNaismith ( 951682 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:33AM (#18259738)
    The article mentions wireless as a solution, but is not the focus of the article. Overall, this is an incredibly vaugue policy puff-piece. It seems "for" city ownership of networks mainly by comparison to things cities already own like roads and sewer systems. I'll note that it studiously avoids the obvious comparison... TELEPHONES! Why don't we talk about case-studies of cities owning phone systems in the public interest. That would be directly applicable experience to running a complex network. It is conspicuous for it's absence.
    • Did *you* RTFR? (Score:5, Informative)

      by modeless ( 978411 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:28AM (#18259922) Journal
      The article may be vague, but the report is quite specific and detailed. There are many case studies of publicly-owned communication infrastructures, some offering telephone services. There is also debunking of industry-funded studies claiming failures of projects which are actually succeeding.

      As I read the report, I found myself constantly nodding my head. It sounds like it was written by a Slashdotter (but then edited for clarity). This report lays down in plain language every single good reason why communications infrastructure, including both wireless and fiber, should be publicly owned (not necessarily publicly operated). Every public official from city council members up to Congress needs to read and understand this report before they make policy decisions on these issues.
      • Yes I did, and it's filled with more words but the same determined and deliberate vagueness. Lots of hand-waving and analogies. Let me give you a SPECIFIC example, the "FR" talks about WiFi as an easy and cheap method to provide access. I work with a small WISP and I can tell you there are streets we simply CANNOT cover, because the people who live there already have private 2.4 GHz devices in large number and enough strength to make it impossible. Not difficult, IMPOSSIBLE. Is the city going to mandate
        • The fact that the report doesn't go into detail about technical problems with WiFi deployment doesn't make it "vague". The report's major purpose is not to advocate any particular technology for Internet access, so a critique of Wi-Fi's problems is not directly relevant. This report is not a blueprint for constructing municipal WiFi; it is an advocacy piece for a policy of public ownership of infrastructure.

          That said, overall the report is rather cautious about WiFi. It does in fact quote a 90-95% covera
          • In our urban area, I would consider 30% of the area not feasible to cover due to interference and similar issues that are beyond our control. Notice how the headline used "wireless"? Notice how the article and report both mention wireless? Hmmm..... Is this like a loss-leader in sales? We don't actually have the item you posted in the flyer, but now that we've got you in the store we'll sell you on one of these other items that maybe isn't quite such an unbelievable deal... You see it as a simple marke
            • The wireless hype in the headline is just typical Slashdot summary sensationalism; don't blame the report for the deficiencies of Slashdot's editors. But of course the report does mention WiFi; what kind of report would it be if it ignored the most common technology in current municipal broadband deployments? I don't know what "business as usual" you're accusing them of; are you insinuating that this report was bought by supporters of WiFi over other municipal broadband possibilities? If so, they forgot
        • Universal WiFi in an urban area is a pipe-dream. Yes you can point to tiny examples here and there like Mountain View where a company with more money than God can make it work, but that's hardly a fair comparison. Downtown Atlanta is not like Mountain View.

          Okay instead of Mountain View, let's try San Francisco []. That company with "more money than God" along with Earthlink is offering free, as well as a paid for service, wireless there.


  • by Louis Guerin ( 728805 ) < minus physicist> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:35AM (#18259744)
    The Wellington (NZ) council is looking at rolling out a regional fibre network, on top of CityLink ( to ensure widespread broadband access because a decade of private enterprise has singularly failed to provide it. However local whiners the Association of Progressive and Residents' Associations says they will fight it ... because of visual pollution caused by an additional overhead cable.

    For anyone who's been to Wellington, a dense, hilly city built on hard clay and rocky soil, there is no other feasible way to connect properties - and there are *already* shitloads of cables, so one more ain't making a damn bit of difference.

    This'll be blocked by a combination of private interests saying stupid shit liek `public ownership == communism' and short-sighted interest groups.

  • Why not? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The government has done a great job operating the public school system, maintaining the levees in Louisiana, and keeping civil order in Iraq. Why not have them run the Internets and everything else as well?
    • I don't have any mod points today, or I'd mod the parent post up; not necessarily because it is a great or insightful or even funny post, but because it doesn't deserve the 'Flamebait' mod someone gave it. "Macz rule, PCs sux" is flamebait. "George W Bush is a baby killer" is flamebait. A factual, on-topic post like the parent is not flamebait, even if you happen to disagree with the opinion it presents.
  • It is not simple to plan and deploy a wireless network. You need to secure broadcast sites, do frequency planning, power planning (too much power and a neighboring cell will see too much interference), and cell planning (which includes specifying sectors and antenna directions), and this is typically done with specialized and often proprietary topological modeling tools. And then there are the issues of lost connections - either from a poor deployment or new-building construction that can lead to shadowin
    • So what you're saying is that because one profit-driven monopoly failed, a service-driven monopoly will also fail.

    • by 0x0000 ( 140863 )

      this is typically done with specialized and often proprietary topological modeling tools

      Could you give an example of what sorts of tools are used [for Wireless network topology design]? It sounds as though you're talking about cellular phone networks, which may be a viable model for muni WiFi design, I'm just not aware of exactly how cell networks are designed...

      40% for frequency licensing

      It was my understanding that WiFi networks use "public" frequencies (54Ghz, 900Mhz, etc) - what frequency licensi

    • capitalized basis. So owning the equipment is not a big deal ~ owning the spectrum

      Is this a redhering? TFA says nothing about what radio spectrums will be used and not all radio spectrums are licensed. For instance the wifi frequencies aren't.

      I see it today in our cable television monopoly, which is municipally 'outsourced' to a cable provider. This is what most municipalities will end up doing if wireless is publically owned. Our service provider, Time Warner, is too stupid to make our cable modem

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:03AM (#18260034) Homepage
    The forces for this are those who stand to benefit from it the most, obviously...we the [geek] people. The rest of the world think they will get better service by paying for it.

    The forces against this are the usual suspects who also, coincidentally, require the pressure of law to require that they build infrastructure to slowly escallating minimal standards. They also work the hardest to prevent the municipality from owning the infrastructure they, themselves, do not want to build. If they build it, they will have some control over it. Why they aren't rushing to build these things up themselves, I can only guess. First guess would be because it's cheaper to hire lawyers and lobbyists to prevent the infrastructure from being built than it would be to build it themselves to prevent the municipalities from building. If I'm guessing correctly, then I'd say this is just another example of howcorporate interests are too often detrimental to the public interest. They need to be checked.
    • Last I checked any city owns all the right-of-way it needs to lay all the fiber into the ground it wants to.

      So what you are saying is your politicians, all of them, in every city have lacked the WILL to spend the money put fiber everywhere.

      Sounds like a problem you should be taking up, by talking to your politicians.

      Again, I come back to the point of "just do it and let me know how it works out!"

      Quite frankly to most rational people there are pressing problems on their list that outrank internet service and
      • by moeinvt ( 851793 )
        Based on the number and frequency of your posts, it's clear that you've got some major issues with the concept of publicly owned communications infrastructure. Technical issues, risks of poor implementation, spending priorities, etc. All valid points.

        It's clear that you have some expertise in the matter however, so let's change the tone of the discussion slightly. If funding broadband with public $$ is inherently flawed and unworkable, what's your proposal for providing access to those of us who currentl
        • This reminds me of a guy who proposed I should come up with a plan for winning the war in Iraq instead of criticizing George Bush, and that if I didn't have one I should just shut up. I think that criticism in public policy is useful. You disagree.
  • What exactly is the Broadband problem? You mean the hysterical stories spun here on Slashdot every 3 days or so?
  • by CompMD ( 522020 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:02AM (#18261268)
    I volunteered with Lawrence Freenet [] (LFN) when it was starting up. Its a 501c3 nonprofit organization that has collaborated with the city to provide low cost and free wireless internet access in the city of Lawrence, Kansas [], the sixth largest city in the state with a population now close to 100,000 (based on growth and the last census). LFN provides linux or windows based PCs and Internet access to needy families. Users of the service have a no-maintenance box with an antenna mounted outside at their residence and a cat5 cable coming in. The main downtown area is soon to be lit up as one giant WiFi hotspot thanks to LFN. Anybody downtown can use the connection.

    There have been some successes. Lawrence Freenet has been running for a couple years now. The service is reliable and costs less than the local cutthroat cable company. The staff is friendly and works for LFN because they love the idea of a community wireless project. Its been great to watch them grow from the office in the founder's garage and the only vehicle his beat up Winnebago into an organization with an office, high-end equipment, quality staff, and some nice new vans. But they still have the Winnebago. :) As screwed up as the state of Kansas is, we got this right. Community wireless internet that works. There is a consulting company founded by the same guy that dreamed up Lawrence Freenet called Community Wireless Communications [] that helps set up municipal wifi networks. They are a good resource for cities that want to enjoy the same success Lawrence has with community wireless.

    • Good will and charity are unstable in the long term, and it would be foolish to base national policy off expectations of altruism.
  • Time for me to link to the locally spawned OSS mesh software. The basic idea behind it is that everyone is a node, or can mount a node up on their roof. The software utilizes the HSLS algorithm to self-optimize the layout of the network. So once you've installed your node, you *are* the last mile solution. []
  • Sure a public network might be more likely to provide universal access (IMO, that's the only valid point in the whole article). OTOH, a public owned network would almost certainly be BAD at: controlling costs, customer service, innovation, network maintenance, and quality. If all you want is universal access, leave it private and legislate that one aspect. If you want to ensure "net neutrality", you can legislate that as well. Personally, I don't see why this is something that needs to be regulated. I
    • The issue is that the monopoly operators have no competition as the cost of putting in new wires is very expensive. So if you want to switch you are screwed.
  • I wrote an OpEd piece a while back which touches on this whole issue. I argue that instead of auctioning all of the spectrum, the FCC ought to hold back some of the analog TV stuff for Open Spectrum, and instead auction off naming rights. I still think this is a good idea. .html?display=Op+Ed []
  • Not much fanfare.. It's cheap, works, and no need to worry about ISPs gouging the consumer with pricing and routing. []
  • A few years back, IEEE-USA did some work on US broadband policy. First, there is the issue of defining "broadband." In the IEEE-USA view, anything under a bidirectional gigabit to the home is legacy technology. Essentially, the "blazing fast" 5 megabit broadband being offered by current broadband providers is dumbed-down compared to what other countries are installing. Note that bidirectional gigabit technology means any subscriber can become a content, applications, or services provider.

    Having legacy b

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant