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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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  • Maybe they thought 'if it takes 3 years to just write the contract, we'll never even get the wireless installed before we're all dead.' That would sure change my outlook on whether or not it would be possible to make money from it.

    Of course, if they could break even on this one, the next one they could make a little money (having had experience) and then have a massive rollout where they mass-produce everything and make a killing.
    • 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.
    • I would not put the blame 100% on Earthlink, from what I see on the news, SF's Board of Supervisors could screw up anything.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DECS ( 891519 )
        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, h
        • by zahl2 ( 821572 )
          Somebody has a chip on their shoulder.

          There are developers in other states that would kill for the amount of profit San Francisco developers claim they "need to have to break even". What you don't mention is that even the "affordable housing" isn't very affordable. Working class people can only afford to live in San Francisco if they were there before the .com boom in a rent-controlled apartment. Half a million dollars will maybe buy you half of a house. None of my tech friends have bought a house there. An
          • by DECS ( 891519 )
            Homeless people have laptops.

            If you have nothing in a tiny flat, buying a $50 wireless card for your laptop is a lot easier than paying $40-50/month for internet service.

            Sounds like the baboonery that says the iPhone is terribly expensive at $600, compared to $99 crap phones. But when you look at the real cost of service, it's actually significantly less after two years. It's the ongoing service that's always the expensive part.

            August 2007 Zoon Awards for Technical Ignorance and Incompetence []
            In an effort t
  • Wifi monopolies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:10PM (#20413471)
    Really, why are authorities even promising monopoly wifi to companies anyway?

    • "Really, why are authorities even promising monopoly wifi to companies anyway?

      Yeah I never liked the idea of government run internet access. First it is anti-competitive, and second I do not like the government censor^H^H^H^H^H^H providing my access to information.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vthokie69 ( 549779 )
        I'm not quite sure where people get this notion that local government run internet access is anti-competitive. If the people of a locality do not like their choices or those choices are too expensive or limited, it's certainly within their rights to build out their own wi-fi network. If anything, it would put competitive pressure on traditional internet service providers. What's anti-competitive are various state laws that prohibit local governments from rolling out community wi-fi. As far as censorship
        • Re:Wifi monopolies (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @02:35PM (#20414665)
          And it's within their right not to fund the local government internet access through taxes. It's illegal though. So you can
          - pay the local governement for internet access and use it, or
          - pay the local government for internet access and not use it
          Whao, that *is* choice!

          • Community internet access is not any different than other government-run services such as parks and recreation or county libraries. Tax payers generally don't have the choice of whether or not to pay taxes for those services either. That's just a fact of life. You did, however, leave out a few more choices in the matter. There's the choice of attending public county board meetings to have your voice heard. You can write your board members to complain. You can run for county board or city council yours

            • Re:Wifi monopolies (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @04:57PM (#20416467)
              Sorry but that's not a "fact of life" that's a fact shove down your throat by power hungry men backed by the full and heavily armed power of the IRS. I'm all for free widespread internet access in cities, but only if it's provided on a voluntary basis ( [] is a great example ).

              Govt provided internet would (among many other bad things) reduce choices. Think of schooling for example, when everyone has to pay for public school regardless of usage, the private schools can only cater to very specific niches (mostly religious and wealthy).
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ultranova ( 717540 )

                Govt provided internet would (among many other bad things) reduce choices. Think of schooling for example, when everyone has to pay for public school regardless of usage, the private schools can only cater to very specific niches (mostly religious and wealthy).

                And without public schools, only the rich could afford to go to school at all.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  "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 outsp
              • That may be the reason for the fact, but it doesn't change it. It's not like there's much of an alternative though. The only sure things in life are death and taxes. It doesn't matter where you live, you're going to subjected to taxes of some sort.

                You may be right about public schooling but then again that's a completely different beast, is off-topic and doesn't relate to community broadband at all. Given that, your post was hardly insightful as it didn't provide any insight whatsoever into how govern

                • You may be right about public schooling but then again that's a completely different beast, is off-topic and doesn't relate to community broadband at all. Given that, your post was hardly insightful as it didn't provide any insight whatsoever into how government provided community Wi-Fi reduces overall choice. Please give some explanation of that and the other possible negative consequences of it.

                  My mention of public schooling was just an analogy to explain why a government run ISP would restrict ISP choice
              • Govt provided internet would (among many other bad things) reduce choices.

                It reduces choices, that's true. But choice is not always beneficial. The weird thing about networks of any kind is that they *are* monopolies naturally. You're either on a network or you're not. Yes, there are interconnections, but those interconnection points are either opportunities for wasteful bickering that hurts customers on both sides of the bridge, or for collusion that's as bad as a monopoly. Think about roads or sewers.

                • If there is a natural monopoly for this service (we don't know that), then it will be optimally provided by a single vendor. The vendor has an incentive to keep customers happy because any set of dissatisfied customers become a niche market for competitors.

                  (and liberal democracy is an oxymoron)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Free government-run internet is still a lot better than free government-controlled, corporate-run internet. With the latter, which this would have been, the corporation gets to limit traffic as they see fit, then charge money to anybody who wants a data rate better than edge, gets to keep any other corporations out of the city, etc., plus the government can probably insist on censorship. You get the all disadvantages of corporate backing PLUS all the disadvantages of government backing.

        What we need is m

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          What we need is municipal Wi-Fi provided by the government, with the equipment owned by the government, but with a strong, liberal government to keep the censorship at bay.

          That sounds a lot like a benevolent dictatorship. Nice to have, but politically impossible.

          • Oh really? History is full of benevolent dictatorships [] - and malicious democracies.

            It's not Godwinizing to observe that Hitler's rise to power was by democratic and constitutional means, is it? And are Iraq's and Iran's democracies really freer and more pleasant than Oman's Sultanate?
            • Benevolent dictatorships rarely survive the dictator. Even a dictator who intends to be benevolent will often, like Stalin, do evil things in pursuit of good. These two reasons are why benevolent dictatorships are not sustainable, even without corruption and the like. I don't dispute that democracies can be as tyrannical as dictatorships, but that doesn't exonerate benevolent dictatorship as unattainable in the long term.
              • I don't think anything's been tenable in the long-term. Even the US was torn apart by a Civil War, and its own populace seems to be comfortable pushing an imperial agenda and the surrender of civil liberties in the name of security. The longest tenure of a political system that I can think of still goes to feudalism.

                The record is pretty much the same across the board.
                • Well, first we have to qualify what we mean by "success". We want a benevolent system of government that lasts for as long as possible. A slightly less benevolent system that lasts much longer is better than a slightly more benevolent system that doesn't last very long at all. If so inclined, you can think of it as an curve of benevolence over time where we are trying to maximize the integral. We also have to define what we mean by "benevolent", but there lies all of social ethics so let's gloss over that p

      • by fm6 ( 162816 )

        Yeah I never liked the idea of government run internet access. First it is anti-competitive...

        Right, because private companies are just falling over themselves to create WiFi networks.

        But in fact they're not. When there's a need (I'm not convinced that we really need municipal WiFi, but let's suppose we do) for a service, and the private sector isn't interested, it makes perfect sense for the government to either provide the service or charter somebody to do it.

        Delivering letters is the classic example.

    • Really, why are authorities even promising monopoly wifi to companies anyway?

      By the same accord, why extend telephone/DSL and cable TV/internet monopolies?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kohath ( 38547 )
        For cable TV, it's a corrupt deal. The cable company pays for exclusivity by collecting a lot of taxes from their subscribers. They funnel this money into the city's coffers to be spent on goodies (essentially vote-buying for the city council).

        City councils should cut those taxes and allow cable companies to compete, offering subscribers better TV service at lower prices. But people see the new municipal goodies and credit their city councilman then they blame the cable company for the size of the bill.
    • It seems many governments and politicians see Internet access as a right, and the only way to ensure everyone can exercise that right is to provide free access. I have wondered if the next step is to then hand out free machines (laptops, desktops, or some other kind of Internet-using-appliance). Again, to ensure everyone can exercise their right to Internet access.

      Being in the technology field, I *do* see great benefit to widespread access, so I can partially, at least, understand the politicians' desires
      • Okay, when I first heard about these city-wide wifi coverage plans, I was under the impression that the city themselves were going to build it. Now. it's become apparent that the cities themselves weren't building them, but were making token payments to Earthlink and others to do it for them.

        Well, what the Hell did they expect? You're telling a company "We're going to give you a trivial amount of money (about 10% of the actual costs). And for that, you have to blanket the entire city--even the shitty neig

  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:10PM (#20413473) Homepage Journal

    Seems like only yesterday that Chicago's Wi-Fi deal fell apart for much the same reason.

    Because it was?

    Ok, so it was reported yesterday, but it happened close enough to be reasonable called "yesterday". :-P
  • Their city-wide WiFi plan fell apart when they paid a bunch of money and got nothing.

    • by eln ( 21727 ) *
      I remember this because I worked for the company that was originally supposed to provide the wireless (Usurf America). As it turns out, that company is a bunch of crooks.

      I used to work at an ISP called Cyberhighway before it got bought out by Usurf. They sold the owners of the ISP on the deal by saying they were a well-funded public company (their shares were at around 11 bucks then, now they are at 2.5 cents) and they were going to take the ISP national. It turned out that what Usurf really wanted was C
  • by kammat ( 114899 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:18PM (#20413595)
    I wonder if this will affect Philadelphia also. We've been receiving advertisements in the mail announcing Earthlink as Philly's citywide wi-fi provider, but with Chicago and San Fran now stopped, and San Fran not seen as profitable, I find it hard to imagine that the Philadelphia city area will be as viable.
    • The difference between the Philadelphia contract and these other contracts is that Philadelphia never promised free wifi. You have to pay for Philadelphia's citywide wifi; a cost of "as low as $6.95 per month", which in ISP language translates to "$6.95/month for the first six months and $19.95 thereafter". This is assuming you don't choose to rent their "wireless modem". Pardon me, but I thought we had graduated to integrated and compact adapters.

      I signed up for Philadelphia wifi and haven't used it. W
    • by klenwell ( 960296 ) <> on Thursday August 30, 2007 @02:52PM (#20414869) Homepage Journal
      Last year Earthlink rolled out wi-fi in the city of Anaheim with much (well, a bit of) local fanfare. I was leasing a small office for myself for part-time use in Anaheim and it sounded like a pretty good deal, esp. compared to what AT&T was offering for a small business package (which was basically the poorest home broadband package at 3x the price.)

      I signed up on the year-contract to get the best rate. Service was very spotty. Aggravating at times, but generally ok for my purposes since I was using my access now and then to check email and to research any questions that came up in the course of my work. Most my work was being done offline.

      What really turned me off the service is that Earthlink offered no email support -- you had to call their support line (off-shored) and wait on hold for an indeterminate amount of time to get simple questions answered. Also, I was never able to pick up a signal from my laptop's wireless card. I needed to be cabled into their ugly little wireless modem. Even from the Starbucks at the epicenter of the coverage area (across the street from City Hall), I couldn't get a signal on my wireless card directly.

      I had a suspicion that the service was going to be a colossal failure. I canceled just last week as soon as my year was up. Hadn't even used it the last three months I paid for it. Interesting now to see these agreements crumbling left and right. I get the impression that it's much harder to deploy reliable city-wide wireless service than it looks on paper. (I saw crews installing the little wireless transponders on lampposts across the city -- how much has to be put in maintaining these things? Bird shit a factor?)

      And with the limited initial rollout area, I always wondered how economically viable it was going to be. It was supposed to be citywide by around this time, but even then I question how many people are going to sign up for this. Finally, I suspect it's much less viable for the high-demand media-rich content people are now coming to expect online.

      It's too bad because the failure of wi-fi just reinforces the cable/telecom strangehold over broadband service. Is wi-fi actually succeeding anywhere?
      • by Jon Kay ( 582672 )
        > Is wi-fi actually succeeding anywhere?

        Yes - it's doing very well in places where there's either no DSL or cable, or where there's just one and it's bad. It must cost too much to directly compete easily.

        I went to a seminar about broadband rollout in rural Texas here in Austin awhile ago, and that's what I came away with.
    • Good thing Earthlink was not picked to handle the wifi for Minneapolis. Minneapolis seems to be fairly functional, though still not finished there are a bunch using it that are generally satisfied from what I understand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:20PM (#20413627)
    I've been to two Socialist countries, two Communist countries and three Free Republic/Deomcratic countries.

    I kiss the soil of the U.S. every time I return.

    I've see Communism first hand. Being told "sorry, you don't have water on Tuesdays and Thursdays" is unplesant. Yes, I understand there is a failiure in the infrastructure but it isn't corrected without incentive. People, sadly, acclimate to piss-poor surroundings. One or two generations of that and getting out is difficult.

    What does this have to do with Wireless? A lot.

    I thought about designing my own 'free' wireless network. The manpower and cost to keep it up and running is obscene. Even with free hardware and ISP service, the cost of making sure it's running 100% is a full time job, if not two.

    Without a financial incentive, there is little to be gained. The leaches of society would tear down the system.

    While Capitalism has it's flaws, humanity isn't willing to share and play nice. Yet.
    • by hxnwix ( 652290 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @06:03PM (#20417437) Journal
      You are quite right - public ownership of essential utilities leads to nothing but problems. In California, for example, the privatization of electric utilities resulted in nothing but rainbows and ponies. And it is a good idea for San Fransisco to sell the Golden Gate Bridge to Goldman Sachs, because private companies can do no wrong.

      Here's a thought: perhaps the USSR's problems were not entirely caused by who owned what.
  • Free?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TonyXL ( 33244 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:21PM (#20413641) Journal
    It's only free until you get your pay stub.
    • With the way our governments borrow and spend money these days, it's free until our children or grandchildren get their pay stubs.
    • Parent: Free?! It's only free until you get your pay stub.

      FTFS: 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.'

      Earthlink's website []: No financial commitment by the City, taxpayer burden, or risk for the design, deployment, operation, maintenance or support of the network

      The free users (at 300kbit) were supposed to

    • by Socguy ( 933973 )
      Nothing is free in this world. If a solid majority of people feel that a service should be universal then it should be provided in a universal manner. People must then pay for it, either through a special levy or through their taxes or though an additional fee on their regular bill. If a service is to be provided in a universal manner and it's cost is now shared by all people, it is incumbent on government to ensure that it's delivery is carried out in the most timely, reliable, and efficient manner poss
  • by JamesRose ( 1062530 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:22PM (#20413661)
    Its just been re-organised, now its

    San Fransisco- Wi-fi free
    • Maybe if they sold the naming rights to the city, they could get a big corporate sponsor to spring for all the costs:

      San FranCisco Systems, CA?
  • The fact that Google is blanketing the area in free wifi probably has something to do with this decision.
  • 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
    • I hope the MetroFi and and the airport aren't one and the same, as I'd hold out the PDX stuff as an example of free wi-fi being absolutely horrible. Extremely low throughput, and DHCP leases in the 5-10 minute range. Absolutely useless for any sort of real use.
      • by jockm ( 233372 )
        Well every wifi system I have used is in the YMMV category. I have had problems with T-Mobile and other paid services in static locations. In my experience MetroFi has been rock solid. As for throtteling, yes they do on the free service. However I will point out they throttle to 1Mbps, whereas the Google/Earthlink deal in SF was to be at 256Kbps.
      • by Phroggy ( 441 )
        They're not. My experience has been that the PDX airport wifi network works just fine, while MetroFi is horribly broken to the point of being unusable, but I haven't used MetroFi as much (because it hasn't been around as long, and I don't actually live in the city), so maybe they're working on that.
    • by bataras ( 169548 )
      MetroFi is pretty good here in PDX. ff adblock also removes the frame they use for ads. And the portland airport's free wifi puts to shame the OAK and SFO airports. I mean shit. You fly to/from the epicenter of the internet, flip open your laptop in one of those airports and get a fucking tmobile pay to play page. Just like starbucks. Laughable.
    • At my house, their "free" network is just strong enough to cause interference, but too weak to be useful.

      In my experience, nearly all free WiFi efforts are like that. All they do is pollute the spectrum. WiFi isn't meant for city-wide blanket coverage. If people try to force it to work like that anyway, pretty soon no one will have working WiFi.

  • This will only be a monopoly deal until competitors complain and then it will be like just another utility. Everyone will use the same equipment but be billed by different companies. I'm saying billed in reference to a "free service" because this is going to be free until the local governments and companies realize that they're losing money on this.

    As it stands, here is the business plan:
    1. Spend millions on infrastructure.
    2. ????
    3. Cost recovery/Profit

    Anyone would be a fool to invest in such a venture as i

  • milwaukee wifi (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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 poin
    • Ok, being a Libertarian-leaning individual myself, I'm obviously a little biased. But really, why did anyone think getting local government involved would produce better/more efficient results than we'd see without them?

      Personally, I think there were more than a few people enamored with a utopian ideal of "free Internet for all!", without considering the reasons it hasn't really happened spontaneously first.

      My thinking is, if the *demand* was truly there for wi-fi practically everywhere in a city, you'd al
  • 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.
    • Philadelphia now has Earthlink Wireless throughout large portions of the city.

      I got curious. Is this Wireless internet behind a NAT? Does it support IPv6?
  • how much do you want to bet comcast and at&t mentioned they might not be so willing to continue to lease those lines to earthlink if this went through? Thanks for the free and open market FCC!
  • 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. If the muni wifi drives out competition in most areas, that would mean that you would end up with a system where the government could run rough shod on civil liberties.

    The SCOTUS and other courts frequently pull legal arguments out their ass. The best one that comes to mind was Scalia's lowering of requirements on poli
    • 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."
      • 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.

        You're kidding, right? Sure the laws apply to the government. But who *makes* and enforces those laws?
        I am very opposed to a government monopoly on any kind of information medium. Private corporations, sure. Let them have it. There will always be ways around it, ways to beat it. Who knows, the free market might even "correct itself" and eventually a competitor would come along and provide an alternative service and bingo! no more monopoly. But try and circumvent the government monopoly internet? That's

  • Technical Issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sarusa ( 104047 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @02:06PM (#20414303)
    Earthlink badly overreached themselves here with two major mistakes - first, deciding to use Tropos equipment to paint an entire city. Most of the money you burn in setting up a wifi installation is in the install and then trying to get everything to work when your planning tools are out of sync with reality (which is almost always). Tropos's mesh equipment is crap, so they've wasted months and burned untold money trying to nail jello to a wall.

    Second, trying to blanket an entire city at once is doable, but it's far more practical to grow the network from little seed areas (while keeping future growth in mind) - blanket a six block area of downtown, for instance, and then expand from that. This lets you get everything right for a small area before you apply that to larger areas - it's the way almost all WISP (wireless ISPs) operate and it works fairly well.

    I think Earthlink finally realized it wasn't gonna work, which of course makes all the assumptions under which they signed contracts not so great for them.
  • Remind me again what the business plan is for free municipal wifi ?
    Oh right, there is none.
    • by 21mhz ( 443080 )
      Didn't stop them here [].

      Yesterday, I surfed the net from a tram. Every Wi-Fi equipped tram here has its own webpage with a dynamically updating list of upcoming stops with ETA, and a location map.
  • I live there (here) and there are a lot of great things about the city, but one of them is not the city's ability to deal with infrastructure in any way that makes even the least bit of sense. Progress, such as it is, occurs as if the time dimension in space-time had no earthly relevance. Don't get me started on Muni. But anyway, if people had started putting up antennas, there'd be years of environmental studies about electromagnetic radiation poisoning (and people wondering, is WiFi organic?). That wou
    • by kbob88 ( 951258 )
      Yes, you're absolutely right. When I lived in Noe Valley, some local crazies stopped all sorts of cell towers, no matter how small they were. It would be years before the city would be able to deal with all the environmental and safety reviews, plus all the ensuing legal challenges.

      Plus add in the fact that this was Mayor Newsom's baby, and the dysfunctional Board of Supervisors is always looking for an excuse to stick it to him (because he's too 'conservative', which would be 'very liberal but not totally
  • Washtenaw county is home to CmdrTaco (Rob Malda), which has a plan to bring wireless to the whole county []. It, too, seems to be having problems with financing []. The plan was to have a free service with paid members getting faster access. The second link claims that to be profitable, 5% of the county needs to sign up.

    But a good portion of the population (i.e. most of Ann Arbor) can get fairly cheap DSL through AT&T/Speakeasy (okay, maybe Speakeasy isn't so cheap), or most of the county (I think) can get
  • by athloi ( 1075845 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @03:02PM (#20414991) Homepage Journal html []

    One astute commentator [] wrote:

    A better idea might be to sell repeaters (and bandwidth) to businesses at a discount rate, so that they can give their customers free public wi-fi. If the City of Houston chipped in for a few of its parks and libraries, we'd be basically complete, since there are almost no public spaces in America that aren't businesses or government institutions.

  • With all the Starbuko's in SF, they should think about blanketing the city with free Wi-Fi and the only catch is to put up with Starbucks popups. The Yuppie nation in SF would dig that and the $5 dolla make you holla coffee.
  • Down in the CBD, which is only about 5 sq miles, you can get the country's first free municipal wifi network []. It started up shortly after the hurricane. It's done wonders for stimulating opportunities for lower income residents. Well, at least the business folks making five times the average population can get free wifi.
  • They've been talking about something like this in Annapolis (capitol of MD, kinda halfway between DC and Baltimore) for awhile now, and as far as I can tell there is some network you can connect to based out of one, kind of out of the way part of town. Unfortunately, when you even CAN connect to it (difficult because of how far off it is and all the interference in between) you can't actually use the Internet. So "free" wifi is still limited to a couple cafes, living in an apartment building, or living near
    • Oakland County (Detroit suburb) seems to be having some success with their effort. []
      • Interesting. I'm a little confused by the funding, though. What do they mean by "assets"? At first it looked like they were saying that the setup cost was publicly funded but that maintenance would be handled privately, but towards the end of the paragraph it almost seemed like the private companies would foot the whole thing. Any clarification on that? In principle it seems like a good idea. I note also that they were pretty upfront with the possibility of wireless transmissions being intercepted, which is
  • Wi-max? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @04:13PM (#20415879) Homepage
    It sounds like Wi-Max will be available soon, and will be able to provide wide-area coverage without requiring nearly as many base stations. Perhaps this is one reason why companies are suddenly deciding that big Wi-fi projects are a bad idea... because after investing $$$$ on thousands of Wi-fi stations, the competition will next year be able to take their customers away by installing just a few dozen Wi-max stations?
  • Springfield, IL, too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spune ( 715782 ) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @05:12PM (#20416701)
    Our plans for municipal wifi through AT&T just fell through, too. All of these muni-wifi plans biting the dust at just about the same time seems a little suspicious.
    • It's only surprising that it's taken this long for people to figure out wifi is not a very good medium for tranporting service as an ISP. Many more APs are needed than believed to provide good coverage, and even when you have coverage you cannot stop other people from putting up APs that interfere with the muni APs. It was only inertia that kept so many projects going. It's comparable to what happens when there's a run on some form of investment such as subprime loans that have been in the financial news r
  • 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. []
  • Please stop trying to buy the internet. I don't want you to control my access or anyone elses because then you will be able to control *what* I have access to.

    Government and the internet are like Pirates and Ninja.. they don't mix ok.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"