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San Francisco Free Wi-Fi Plan Fails 117

Reader r writes with news from San Francisco that Earthlink has backed out of contract negotiations to blanket the city with free Wi-Fi, citing money problems. Seems like only yesterday that Chicago's Wi-Fi deal fell apart for much the same reason. Quoting: "The contract, which was three years in the making, had run into snags with the Board of Supervisors, but ultimately it was undone when Atlanta-based EarthLink announced Tuesday that it no longer believed providing citywide Wi-Fi was economically viable for the company... EarthLink spokesman Jerry Grasso said that EarthLink was willing to work with San Francisco but had decided that it 'was not willing to work in the business model where EarthLink fronts all the money to build, own and operate the network.'"
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San Francisco Free Wi-Fi Plan Fails

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  • Re:3 years? (Score:4, Informative)

    by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:14PM (#20413545)
    Looks like they were planning on making the money back by charging them $20 for a faster connection, and other cities they've done this in haven't seen enough people signing up for faster internet. It sounds like they've been burned in other cities and had the ability to pull out of this one, so they did.
  • Re:Yesterday... (Score:4, Informative)

    by kabz ( 770151 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:26PM (#20413711) Homepage Journal
    The deal in Houston to blanket the area with wi-fi [] has also gone up on the blocks, though Mayor Bill White has wrung a $5mil payment from Earthlink. I'm guessing this one isn't going to go ahead either.

    Comcast and ATT must be laughing now.
  • by ( 213219 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:27PM (#20413725) Journal
    The city of Minneapolis, MN is going wireless and in some areas is already providing service. The estimated completion date is December 2007. The charge is pretty reasonable too, only $20 or $30 per month depending on access speed.

    More info here: s/ []

    Many squad cars and firetrucks are already using the wireless technology and a number of cameras are used for survelence in high-crime areas. Since I drive through one of these areas every day, I can tell you the cameras have already made a real difference!

    There is hope that with this kind of access, that the city will become a more livable place and that some lower income people will be able to use these services to better themseleves. While I hope that this is true, I'll also take it with a grain of salt and say that I will believe it when I see it.

    This service was used for several days after the bridge disaster with very good results. Talk about trial by fire!

  • by jockm ( 233372 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:29PM (#20413751) Homepage
    Here in Portland, OR MetroFi and the city collaborated to provide a similar service. They haven't quite gotten all of the city done, but the core is covered (and is damned spiffy). Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi, some other service, or maybe google alone to pick up the ball
  • milwaukee wifi (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:35PM (#20413841)
    Citywide WiFi in Milwaukee is pretty much in shambles as well. Midwest Fiber Networks and the city made a deal that MFN would pay all costs associated with building the infrastructure. The city has been more or less uncooperative in granting full access to conduits and whatnot to make this happen. MFN keeps delaying the project because of this, and Milwaukee keeps bitching about it, yet it's the city's fault this has happened. In the meanwhile, a shoddy "test" area has been completed, but each party is pointing fingers at eachother for the delays.

    It got so bad that earlier this month, Midwest Fiber Networks wants to pull out of the deal and chalk up the $20 million they've spent on this experiment as a bad learning experience. Can't blame 'em.
  • Philadelphia (Score:3, Informative)

    by ZipprHead ( 106133 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:38PM (#20413897) Homepage
    Philadelphia now has Earthlink Wireless throughout large portions of the city. All of the downtown is covered (about 20 square miles). The rest of the city coming soon. There has been some role out problems and speed issues but starting at 6$ a month for a citywide service, I expect to see a lot more notebooks in the park once they get the kinks worked out. I'll be signing up as soon as my existing contract is up.
  • Re:Google? (Score:2, Informative)

    by atamyrat ( 980611 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:47PM (#20414037)

    Wasn't Google going to do something like this?

    Now Meraki [] is doing it, a company backed in by Google.
    Read more about it, A Free Mesh Network for San Francisco []
  • For more information (Score:3, Informative)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @05:13PM (#20416723) Homepage Journal
    The best place I've found to get details on news like this is the blog "Wi-Fi Networking News", by Glenn Fleishmann. []
  • Re:3 years? (Score:3, Informative)

    by DECS ( 891519 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @05:23PM (#20416867) Homepage Journal
    The blame is entirely upon the Board of Supervisors. SF Mayor Newsom pushed the plan for years as both a way to bring WiFi to the City, and an option for free Internet access to poor residents. The BoS responded by holding things up repeatedly to tack on political BS to take credit for the mayor's plan.

    Most recently, the board decided to cut Earthlink's contract in half and demand twice the bandwidth, as if they could "fix" things by jacking up numbers. These assholes do this to every project in the City, hoping to load everything up with bulletpoints that they can parade as accomplishments. What it almost always means in reality, however, is that projects never get completed or are delayed for so long that the economic benefit of their add ons is a large negative.

    This also happens in housing projects, where developers come in with a plan to build new housing, and the BoS insist that increasingly high percentages of units are reserved for welfare housing called "affordable housing"--not for the poor, but a for handful of well connected people who want to live on someone else's dime. So 10-20% of a project is subsidized, jacking up housing costs and ensuring that the only people who can afford to live in the new housing are the ultra-rich. Meanwhile, all the housing construction is held up in welfare negotiations until projects are tabled or until they are held up for so long that the minor addition of more welfare units constitute an insignificant trickle of new "affordable housing." This is backed up both by those who think market pricing can be overridden by political pricing, and by those who want to keep the supply low so that the demand and prices will remain sky high.

    The plot to kill SF's WiFi was the same coalition of populists who thought a community group could put together a faster system, and those who didn't want competition to their pay WiFi or internet services. []

  • Re:Wifi monopolies (Score:3, Informative)

    by I'll Provide The War ( 1045190 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @05:59PM (#20417377)
    "And without public schools, only the rich could afford to go to school at all."

    No, funds could be tied to individual students as opposed to monolithic government institutions and private entities could compete to attract these students. That model seems to outperform the US model according to OECD metrics.

    It seems ironic that countries such as Belgium and France rely on free enterprise and competition to improve the quality of education while the US is locked into a poorly run socialist system that outspends these countries 2:1 per pupil with such abysmal results.

  • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @06:20PM (#20417639) Homepage
    My biggest fear about having these monopolies is that the SCOTUS will rule that you have little to no expectation of privacy from government surveillance if you are using the local muni wifi

    No, you actually have more privacy if government operates it. Government is subject to various ammendments, but individuals or corporations are not. Also, there are various privacy acts that apply to government but not individuals or corporations.

    The best one that comes to mind was Scalia's lowering of requirements on police to read rights because of the "new professionalism among police." He based a ruling on how he feels about the current state of police professionalism.

    Scalia lowered nothing. He wrote the dissenting opinion. The court had upheld Miranda.

    His argument was not based upon police professionalism: "The Court did not just apply the Constitution when it handed down Miranda, it expanded the Constitution, imposing an immense and antidemocratic prophylactic rule upon Congress and the states. It was an example of raw, judicial power that simply asserted a constitutional right ... Miranda should not be preserved simply because it occupies a special place in the public consciousness. There is little harm in admitting that we made a mistake in taking away from people their ability to decide for themselves. By overturning Miranda, we reaffirm for the people the wonderful reality that they govern themselves, as stated in the Tenth Amendment".

    Note that by "governing themselves" he does not mean governing themselves well: "Preventing foolish people from incriminating themselves is the only purpose of Miranda, and that is a far cry from what the Fifth Amendment requires in terms of protecting someone from being compelled to incriminate themself. Nor is a lawyer required because the interrogators can do the same as any lawyer can -- tell the suspect they have a right to be silent. The Constitution is not offended by a criminal's commendable qualm of conscience or fortunate fit of stupidity."

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351