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Wireless Networking The Internet Hardware

EarthLink Says No Future for Municipal Wi-Fi 126

Glenn Fleishman writes "EarthLink dropped its final bombshell on city-wide Wi-Fi, saying that it wouldn't put more money in and was talking to their current deployed cities about the future. The company had won bids in dozens of cities, and then backed out of the majority of them before building or finalizing contracts a few months ago. The remaining towns they were building out, like New Orleans, Anaheim, and Philadelphia, will ostensibly be turned off unless local officials come up with scratch or a plan of their own. EarthLink pioneered the model of free-for-fee networks, where there would be no cost or upfront commitment from cities, and EarthLink would charge for network access. Apparently, you can't make money that way."
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EarthLink Says No Future for Municipal Wi-Fi

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  • by erlehmann ( 1045500 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:11AM (#21389863)
    for example in the eastern part of germany, after reunification, there were lines in cities that could not be used for DSL. the german "freifunk" (literally "free wireless", both as in beer and as in speech) project managed to build some sizeable city mesh nets using a routing protocol known as OLSR [1,2].

    just look in awe at the leipzig cloud [3]. also, try to imagine wireless cell phone / pda mesh nets (probably doable right now with openmoko).

    [1] []
    [2] []
    [3] [] -- careful, images is 3165x4206
  • What? You're nuts. That is not at all necessary to create the network, nor have you even mentioned the greatest drawback to using wifi - you're only allowed to (legally) use three of eleven channels, which is all they're going to be able to use even if home users use others, and you're only allowed to transmit at low power levels by the FCC - if you use a high-gain antenna, you are legally obligated to decrease power if necessary to keep your signal strength below a given limit. All problems not faced by the hobbyist, who let's face it is not going to get a visit from the FCC unless they're interfering with the signals of others. WiFi is simply NOT the right tool for this job.
  • by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:31AM (#21390005)
    First, you can legally use all eleven channels of 802.11b in the US. It just so happens that if you want to have perfect channel separation, channels 1, 6 and 11 are the way to go. I've sat in on a discussion about using 1, 4, 8 and 11 or some such combination and achieving acceptable separation provide the APs aren't on top of each other.

    Regardless, using the three channels and 120 degree directional antennas to cover the full 360 is the most effective way. That isn't cheap. Even if you roll your own using a WRAP board or some such thing, last I checked you can't get a weather proof AP with all three channels and antennas for less than $1,000. That doesn't count labor.
  • by eggboard ( 315140 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @12:12PM (#21390289) Homepage
    It's a great point. In some cases, EarthLink had won a bid, but not started contract negotiations. In some cases, a contract was on the table, but not signed. In some cases, a contract was completed, but the city hadn't executed it (often, a mayor works out the details and a council approves it, and then a utility has to be involved to agree to pole uses).

    Where a contract is in place, EarthLink will have to unwind its obligations. In Houston, it paid $5m for not starting the network. In Philadelphia, they will likely pay out millions to walk away.
  • by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <rustyp AT freeshell DOT org> on Saturday November 17, 2007 @01:09PM (#21390647) Homepage Journal
    using a routing protocol known as

    You're kind of missing the point in this example. Citywide 802.11x is not going to work. The protocol can't handle it. It doesn't scale up to even 100 users at once.

    The obvious solution is to use some other protocol.
  • Re:Unnecessary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) < ... NBSDom minus bsd> on Saturday November 17, 2007 @02:30PM (#21391157) Homepage
    Netstumbler is awfull, all it does is send out probe requests which make it blatantly obvious what your doing. It also won't detect cloaked access points, give you any idea how many clients are connected to each ap or log any unencrypted traffic thats receivable by your card. Try Kismet or KisMac (mac gui version), it works a _LOT_ better.
  • by Reaperducer ( 871695 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @05:17PM (#21392297)
    When the city of Chicago abandoned its citywide wifi network plans a couple of weeks ago, the thing I found most interesting was that it was dropped it mostly because of power issues.

    The city (via AT&T) planned to put the access points on light poles. But it turns out that in most neighborhoods when the lights go "out" they don't just switch themselves off -- they're actually cut off from power entirely at some central point that controls hundreds or thousands of lights by pretty much pulling the plug on them.

    To a techie, this seems silly because instead of a central sensor, you can have individual light sensors on the poles that can determine when to be on or off. But from a city-building standpoint, it makes total sense. It's completely simple, and there are far fewer parts to break. It's like yanking the plug on a string of Christmas lights. Low-tech brilliance.
  • by dekemoose ( 699264 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:27PM (#21394723)
    This isn't the same thing at all. In this case the city had to kick in a sizable chunk of cash, most (all?) of Earthlink's efforts have been on their own dime. Earthlink backing out of these agreements leaves the city without that mode of Internet access, but I don't see it as fucking over the citizens. They tried to make a go of something and then decided that it wouldn't fly, so they shut it down. Is there anything preventing another firm from making a go of it in their absence?
    In Minneapolis Earthlink lost a bid to build out a Wi-Fi network to a local firm. That network is just starting to come online and should be completed soon. It will be interesting to see how the local firm does with what Earthlink considers unprofitable.
    If what you claim happened in fact occurred, then that would clearly be a case of the city bending over and taking it in the keister from ATT.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner