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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 unity100 ( 970058 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @10:47AM (#21389681) Homepage Journal
    Check that out. a company goes into many wifi bids, wins most of them, and then suddenly decides 'city wide is not worth it'.

    thats foul play at its best. proxies, they are.
  • bah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Danzigism ( 881294 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @10:52AM (#21389723)
    Since WHEN does Earthlink know ANYTHING about providing good service for the public?
  • Re:Unnecessary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Professor_UNIX ( 867045 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @10:56AM (#21389755)
    Do you just walk into random houses and use their computer or phone whenever you feel like it as well?
  • by Gigiya ( 1022729 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:00AM (#21389785)
    When they make and win the bid, why aren't they legally obligated to follow through with it?
  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:14AM (#21389891) Homepage Journal
    Normally, I might agree, but if they did back out before the contract was signed, so the cities should be able to fall back to the next bidder in line. If they did sign the contract, then there should be penalties for not abiding by the contract.

    Another problem is that WiFi just isn't very well suited for city-wide networks and it looks like these companies are finally figuring that out.

    The consumer access points being cheap and virtually everyone's computer having a client-side adapter doesn't help the cost issue enough to help make it affordable to the users, unless the network rollout is charity work. You need to rent utility pole space on every pole or every other pole for APs, assuming there are utility poles, some cities have been pushing towards underground wiring. You'd also need to worry about getting power to the APs. For every block, one T1 wired network drop for connection to the internet. I don't think those access points are consumer units either. Even if they were, the weatherproof enclosures are expensive too. Then there would need to be maintenance. I just don't see a viable, affordable competitor coming out of that. To me, all that makes WiMax seem viable, relatively speaking. Maybe if someone like Canopy can make pocket EC/34 or USB network adapters, then I think Canopy would be a better alternative.
  • Re:Unnecessary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ron_Fitzgerald ( 1101005 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:37AM (#21390053)
    If their music radio was playing loud enough that I could hear it, should I still ask permission to listen?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:55AM (#21390169)
    This is yet another example of the general public being fucked over by a so-called P3: Public Private Partnership.

    The idea is that instead of the municipal government setting up an organization to perform a specific project, they basically contract out the job to private firms. Supposedly this will lead to more economical and better quality service. Instead, what we've seen time and time and time again, is nothing but higher prices, and far shittier service.

    Then we get cases like this, where the private interest just pulls out of the deal when it's no longer profitable for them. Of course, it doesn't matter that they've fucked over the community. A lot of the time these companies have little to no ties with the community they are servicing, so leaving the public there high and dry causes these private firms little grief.

  • Re:Unnecessary (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2007 @11:57AM (#21390187)
    Do you just walk into random houses and use their computer or phone whenever you feel like it as well?

    Do you ask permission to use a drinking fountain? You know water isn't free.
  • Re:Unnecessary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macaddict ( 91085 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @12:44PM (#21390477)
    Do you ask permission to use a drinking fountain? You know water isn't free.

    Except drinking fountains are the equivalent of municipal wi-fi -- paid for by taxes to benefit the public, or provided inside a publicly accessible building for the benefit of visitors. Unless it's in a private, non-publicly accessible building, they are generally understood to be available to anyone, with the cost of the water provided to strangers being willingly paid for by the owner.

    I think the example you're looking for is: "Do you ask permission to hook your hose up to your neighbor's faucet to water your lawn? You know water isn't free."
  • Re:Unnecessary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Saturday November 17, 2007 @01:01PM (#21390595) Journal
    Time for analogy wars!

    Do you just walk into random houses and use their computer or phone whenever you feel like it as well?

    Yes, I do, if the computer/home has all of the the following attributes:

    -There's a big sign outside that says "computer in here" (access points advertise their presence)
    -There's an instruction set outside the house that says "To access the computer, rotate the knob on this door and push forward. Walk into home, then enter second room on right. Press power button, wait for authorization, and then use." (access points tell you how to use them)
    -After pressing the power button, a message says "request for computer use received ... access granted" (access points must receive a request for use, and then grant permission)
  • by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Saturday November 17, 2007 @01:44PM (#21390893) Homepage Journal

    Eventually i think it will become another utility like water or sewer or trash pickup, paid for by yet another line item on your local taxes.
    I hope not. Why should I pay for somebody else's internet access? I thankfully don't pay to give people free cable TV or free phone service. Water, sewer, police, and fire are essential city services, but the rest aren't and therefore shouldn't be paid for by the government (and therefore all taxpayers).

    Unfortunately for me, San Francisco (where I live) just passed a proposition whereby the city is to set-up WiFi. I really don't understand why. For example, there are at least half a dozen coffee shops within walking distance of where I live and they all have WiFi. Some of those also have computers for customer use (for a nominal fee). WiFi access is all over the city already provided by the private sector.

    Since Earthlink is pulling out, it's not clear how San Francisco will actually implement the WiFi they're now obligated to set-up. The only viable option I see is Google stepping in (Google already did Mountain View, CA).

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