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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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  • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:28AM (#18259716) Homepage Journal
    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 want to end up owning it.

    It's not complicated, just expensive. It'll find its way through eventually.
  • by Louis Guerin ( 728805 ) <guerin@gm[ ]et ['x.n' in gap]> 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.

  • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MilesNaismith ( 951682 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:01AM (#18260030)
    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.
  • 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.
  • Re:Here's an RFP... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MilesNaismith ( 951682 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:16AM (#18260064)
    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 "wireless" versions of solving the last-mile issue boil down to one of these:
    1) Duplicate a bunch of corporate services
    2) Put a gun to the head of existing companies and tell them "offer freebies or else"
    3) Nationalize private-owned networks

    Anyhow, we took a pass on the whole thing. Quite frankly there are going to be some vultures who will suck up the funding for this. They are ethically-challenged enough to play the game where the city pretends they are getting a great deal on your service, while actually money is passing hands in all kinds of funny ways and creative billing lets you bury in some dial-tone fee or some crazy junk like that to actually make some money on the deal. Because you know the way the politicians have to pitch it to the voters is it'll be CHEAP. We ran the numbers and there were very few incentives, a LOT of risk, and absolutely no will from the city side to offer any guarantees. We could spend a lot of money, be forced to operate at very minimal profit levels with a lot of oversight and junk to deal with, with no payoff down the road. Ultimately any rational being has some idea that if I slave away for 5 years there should be some payoff for this. Not as far as we could see, it was just maybe you'd get to keep slaving. No thanks.

    You want my favorite bit from the crazy laundry-list that was the Atlanta RFP? Read the bit about maintaining WiFi service in moving vehicles. Obviously written by politicians without technical oversight. It simply is not possible to have continuous WiFi signal in a vehicle driving rapidly around a large urban area. Someone was thinking, well it works for my cellphone so those smart-boys can make it work for the WiFi card in my laptop too right?
  • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vic-traill ( 1038742 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:31AM (#18260132)

    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 enough - what do you think?

    If yes, the Utilities Commission where I live in Ontario, Canada was a publicly-owned not-for-profit entity for 85 years, until 1998 (during the period of electrical deregulation in Ontario) when it was spun into a for-profit group of companies owned by the city I live in. Makes money, too.

  • 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.

  • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:33AM (#18262264)
    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 now, and wasn't before. I'd say that's important.
  • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:56AM (#18262542) Journal
    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 could also point to the post office, the fire departments, police and military as examples of publicly owned and run services that function quite well.

    In fact, recent attempts to privatize military services have been abominable failures *cough*walter reed*cough*. Attempts to privatize public services such as power and water in South America have also failed miserably.

    So, you give it a rest. The free market is not perfect. It handles certain situations very well, others not so much. I know it is tempting to believe in a one-stop solution such as "privatize everything," but the real world is too complex for any single solution to work in every situation.
  • Re:DREAMERS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @01:31PM (#18263950) Homepage Journal
    "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 and there.

    I tried setting her up on a windows box a couple years ago...with a dial up connection to get her to start emailing with me, and tried to show how to surf the web. After finding out that actually just getting her to be able to control the mouse on the screen, and understand what to click...we gave up on it. With free long distance now on cell phones and some landline plans...well, we just talk. She really has no need whatsoever for a computer. I got her a tivo...and she has learned to use that decently.

    That being said, I'm gonna try to set her up again, this time with a mac, which I think she can more easily start out with.

    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.

    Widespread broadband connectivity..Nice? Yes

    A necessity? No, at least not yet in this day in age.

There's no future in time travel.