Tag: "Wi-Fi"

Posted June 17, 2013 by christopher

Wireless networks have been incredibly successful, from home Wi-Fi networks to the billions of mobile devices in use across the planet. So successful, in fact, that some have come to believe we no longer need wires.

We developed this fact sheet to clarify some misconceptions about what wireless Internet networks are capable of and the importance of fiber optic cables in building better wireless networks as our bandwidth needs continue to increase.

This fact sheet defines important terms, offers some key points clarifying common misconceptions, compares 4G and 3G wireless to wired cable, and more. We also include references to additional resources for those who want to dig deeper.

Download our Wireless Internet 101 Fact Sheet Here [pdf].

If you want updates about stories relating to community Internet networks, we send out one email each week with recent stories we covered here at MuniNetworks.org. Sign up here.

Posted May 6, 2013 by lgonzalez

We recently learned about Aztec, New Mexico's, free downtown Wi-Fi  so we decided to contact Wallace Begay, the IT Director, to find out more. This desert community of about 6,600 people not only offers the free service, but uses its fiber to serve government, schools, and even four-legged residents.

Begay tells us that in 1998 the city and school system coordinated to install the original fiber and the entities share ownership. The school wanted better, affordable connectivity for students while the city wanted economic development opportunities. Community leaders used E-rate funding and a Gates Foundation grant to construct the original fiber aerial route.

The town provides water, wastewater, and electric services through municipal utilities with its SCADA system. The public library and all ten Aztec Municipal School facilities connect to the fiber network. Municipal government facilities also use the network.

Even though the city is a co-owner, it took several years for municipal offices to get on the fiber network. Aztec City Council originally decided to install the fiber network as a way to bring in revenue by leasing dark fiber, not as a way to connect offices. When Begay started at the city in 2001, administrative offices still used dial-up connections. Twenty dial-up accounts (and the crawling speeds associated with them) added up to $500 each month.

At the time, Qwest (not CenturyLink) was the provider in Aztec and could only offer microwave or copper connections. Connecting 13 facilities at 1.4 Mbps would have cost the city $1,200 each month. Begay used $500 from the electrical enterprise fund to purchase equipment and pay for tech labor to move municipal offices on to the existing network. The city electrical enterprise fund pays for expansions and updates. The network is now about 12 miles.

Begay is especially pleased about the 2004 expansion to the Aztec Animal Control facility, serving all of San Juan County. Before the expansion, Animal Control also used dial-up and spent a significant amount of time fielding calls from worried pet...

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Posted April 9, 2013 by christopher

Sascha Meinrath, Director of the Open Technology Institute (OTI) at the New America Foundation, joined me at the National Conference for Media Reform to discuss what OTI does and to discuss the Commotion Wireless project.

Commotion is a project that is making it easier for anyone to build wireless mesh networks that allow for secure, affordable, and resilient communications. We explain what each of these components mean and why each is important.

We also discuss the ways in which these networks can make the powerful worry about what happens when all citizens can talk amongst themselves without being wiretapped or overcharged. Commotion should be a game changer both at home and abroad.

Read the transcript from our conversation here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 20 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to D. Charles Speer & the Helix for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted April 5, 2013 by lgonzalez

Smart meters aren't just for electricity anymore. In Santa Clara, the city is now using the technology to bring free citywide outdoor Wi-Fi to the entire community. The Washington Post recently covered the story

New smart meters, now being installed on homes, are primarily for electricity and water metering. The meters send usage reports via the city's wireless network, but they also have a separate channel that provides outdoor Internet access. The more houses outfitted with the new meters, the larger the network.

Santa Clara re-launched the free service in early 2012 after its first attempt resulted in a limited coverage area. In addition to using its fiber for wi-fi, the city also leases dark fiber over its 57-mile network.

While expanding the Wi-Fi network with this new technology won't bring high capacity connections to all households in Santa Clara, it is a step in the right direction.

“This is just one of the major benefits our community will enjoy as a result of our advanced metering technology,” said John Roukema, director of Silicon Valley Power, the community’s utility provider. “Now our residents, visitors and local workforce can get Internet access while waiting for a train, shopping downtown, getting their car washed or relaxing in their yard.”

Posted March 27, 2013 by lgonzalez

San Jose launched its new, publicly owned, downtown free Wi-Fi on March 14th. This is the community's third attempt at bringing a successful free service to downtown and city officials have made much ado about the new "Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi Network." The city teamed up with SmartWAVE Technologies and Ruckus Wireless to design and install the $94,000 network. Ongoing costs are estimated at $22,000 per year.

From the press release, reprinted in PR Newswire:

"Utilizing our Smart Wi-Fi technology, this Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi Network offers the fastest public Wi-Fi service in the country, and we’re proud to be a part of enabling that,” said Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless. “On a smartphone, a user will be able to experience speeds of anywhere from two to three Megabits per second. This is easily three to four times faster than any other public network service,” Lo concludes. “There’s a huge, growing demand around the country, and the world, for more reliable public and managed Wi-Fi services to satisfy an exploding population of users now armed with multiple smart mobile devices, and where better to help satisfy that demand than starting with the Capital of Silicon Valley.”

The network will also speed up parking transactions in the City's downtown parking system and support downtown city government facilities.

In a KTVU report, Vijay Sammetta, Chief INformation Officer for San Jose described the new Wi-fi:

"Typically we see municipal a thousand or two-thousand miles per hour in layman's terms," said Vijay Sammeta, San Jose's Chief Information Officer.  "We're upping that ante up to 10,000 miles per hour."

Update: The Wall Street Jounal has also just covered the recent proliferation of community owned Wi-Fi networks.

Posted March 20, 2013 by lgonzalez

Last summer, the city of Staunton, Virginia, sent out a press release about its new citywide free wi-fi service. Four hours later, a destructive storm ripped through Gypsy Hill Park knocking down trees and damaging buildings. Nevertheless, the equipment held on. Five days later, celebrants at the city's July 4th party used the free service in droves.

A William Jackson GCN article from December, 2012, highlights the popularity of the network:

Wi-Fi use in the park had begun well before the formal launch. Almost as soon as installation of the access points began in May, park workers noticed people congregating with their laptops in areas near the points, Plowman said, demonstrating the demand for Wi-Fi access.

Public Wi-Fi has become a popular feature at the park. “People are finding creative uses for it,” [chief technology officer for Staunton, Kurt] Plowman said, such as the woman who used a laptop Web camera to send a ball game in the park to a player’s grandmother.

As we have seen in other communities, a wireless network enhances local connectivity as a complement to a fiber network. Staunton is the County seat of Augusta and home to nearly 25,000 people.

The City owns two separate networks. In addition to the fiber used by city facilities, there is a separate dark fiber network. The city installed the dark fiber with the intention of leasing it to the Staunton Economic Development Authority. The Authority then leases it to local phone, Internet, and wireless provider, MGW. MGW serves residential and commercial customers in south and west Virginia.

In 2012, the city built a new fiber institutional network to avoid having to lease from the private sector.

We touched base with Kurt Plowman who told us that the fiber connects twelve major city facilities, including libraries, fires stations, and public works facilities. There are also over fifty traffic signal cabinets and ten facilities in Gypsy Hill Park on the fiber.

When compared with the city's past lease payments for fiber and data circuits, payback will be complete in 10 years. Additionally, there are more facilities connected and bandwidth is increased.

Plowman also told us that the $1.25 million cost of the project was well below estimates. The...

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Posted February 19, 2013 by christopher

Have you heard of the National Information Infrastructure, or the NII? Most of us either haven't, or have forgotten we once knew what it could be. Dewayne Hendricks joins us to remind us what it was and why we should care. It's "kind of a big thing." Since we conducted this interview, unlicensed spectrum issues became a hot topic; listen below to get a better sense of just how important this issue is.

In our discussion, Dewayne walks us through the original vision, one that now seems fanciful: a world of mobile devices that interconnect with each other on the wireless networks that surround us. While we do have wireless networks in most places, they are often controlled by a few companies, like Verizon and AT&T, that restrict how we can use them and how our devices can talk to each other.

But the NII was to be more decentralized, creating much more space for entreprenuers and innovators to create new business models. A few massive corporations were able to change that vision, creating a lucrative role for themselves as gatekeepers along the way.

Dewayne started this conversation by recommending a 1995 filing by Apple [pdf]. Whether you read it before or after our conversation, it is worth taking a look.

Dewayne has previously joined us to discuss wireless generally and then later to talk about the wired vs. wireless debate. A previous interview with Bruce Kushnick is also referenced over the course of this interview.

Read the transcript from this discussion here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes...

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Posted February 16, 2013 by christopher

Remember that Washington Post story about bigger, free Wi-Fi networks? It went hugely viral with all manner of outlets picking the story up, unintentionally distorting it, and amplifying it.

Some good has come of it. For one thing, I was reminded that Ars Technica does a really good job of tech reporting, better than anyone else in my estimation. Cecilia Kang offered a follow-up story to clarify the original that should help more people to understand what is at stake.

But more importantly, we saw a lot of media coverage about something really important, whether we allocate future spectrum for everyone to use (much like Wi-Fi) or will we reserve it just for AT&T, Verizon, or another big corporation?

Harold Feld has a strong opinion on the matter:

This past week, we’ve had quite the discussion around Cecilia Kang’s WashPo piece describing a plan by the FCC to create a national WiFi network by making the right decisions about how to allocate spectrum between licenses for auction and what to leave available for the unlicensed TV white spaces (“TVWS” aka “Super WiFi” aka “Wifi on steroids”). As Kang describes, the FCC’s opening of sufficient spectrum for TVWS could lead to “super WiFi networks (emphasis added) around the nation so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.”

Needless to say, the article faced much pushback, despite a subsequent Washpo clarification to indicate the FCC was not, actually, planing to build a network. Amidst the various critics, there were some general defenders of the concept. My colleagues at EFF noted that increasing the availability of open spectrum for WiFi-type uses , and my friends at Free Press argued that such a free public wifi network (or, more accurately, series of...

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Posted January 17, 2013 by lgonzalez

In 2007, the City of Amherst, Massachusetts received a $150,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a wireless mesh network. DARPA and NSF have long been interested in developing mesh networks that are more resilient than traditional hub and spoke type networks.

The City IT Department, UMass Amherst Office of Information Technology Department, DARPA and NSF collaborated to deploy the network that now covers much of the city.

According to GazetteNet.com, the city is now investing another $50,000 to upgrade the system which now extends a mile through downtown. From the article:

“We definitely have the fastest and largest outdoor Wi-Fi network in the state,” said Information Technology Director Kristopher Pacunas.

The new system, which replaces aging equipment that was part of a smaller municipal Wi-Fi system, will be a boon to those who live, work and shop in downtown Amherst, said Pacunas, who anticipates as many as 2,000 different people will use the system daily.

“We’ve seen data in the short time we’ve had this (that) people will come to downtown areas with free Wi-Fi,” Pacunas said.

While the new upgrades were not officially launched until the start of 2013, Pacunas said that over 10,400 people used the system in the weeks leading up to the new year. Pacunas also notes that the network has limited functionality indoors, being designed mostly for public outdoor spaces downtown.

 The Town of Amherst Public WiFi website describes how the design was meant to blend in with the look of the city and the light and utility poles that house the access points. There are 30 wireless mesh access points and burst speeds up to 80 Mbps. This is another example of how a municipal network can create direct benefits AND indirect benefits simply through its implementation. Also from the article:

Alex Krogh-Grabbe, director of the Amherst Business Improvement District, said he sees the benefits of the system.

“The new downtown Wi-Fi put downtown Amherst and its business district way ahead of most communities in...

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Posted January 11, 2013 by lgonzalez

Cottage Grove, Oregon, is on the cusp of adding up to 250 new jobs with the aid of its fiber optic network.  A recent Register-Guard.com article by Serena Markstrom details the potential project between the City and First Call Resolution. The company is interested in expanding to a Cottage Grove shopping strip. While the space is the right size and location, it does not have the needed telecommunications connections for a high-capacity call center.

The City is looking into expanding its fiber optic network to accommodate First Call. City leaders will seek a state economic development grant and recently approved funding for an engineer's construction plan to lay the cable to get an accurate cost estimate. Initial estimates are $450,000 for an entire underground installation. Council members have already suggested that the expansion makes sense, regardless of whether or not First Call becomes a tenant. The 7 miles of fiber are primarily located in the southern part of the city while the shopping strip is in the north.

The City Manager Richard Meyers hopes the added infrastructure will bring more than just First Call Resolution to the shopping strip. From the article:

The commercial strip being considered for the call center has much empty space. “The whole plaza needs help,” Meyers said. “We need to do something to see if we can get other things in there.”

If more businesses moved in and started leasing the cable, the city could collect money — just like any utility — from those who tapped into the network and use those funds to continue to expand fiber optic cable around town, Meyers said.

“With our fiber and what we’ve developed, we’re within 4,000 feet of connecting” to the Village Center, he said. “That’s how close we are,” he said. “It’s not a huge distance. We can do it. (It would be a) piece of cake to connect our system to his network and so all of [First Call Resolution's] call centers would be on the same network.”

The city network also offers a Wi-Fi network throughout 80% of the city. Rates vary, ranging from 10 free hours each month at 128 Kbps to 7 Mbps unlimited with tech support for $50 per month. According to the CGWiFi website:

...

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