Tag: "Wireless"

Posted June 21, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

A Recipe for Starting a Local Broadband Wireless Network via Federal Stimulus Funding

Wally Bowen has created a "cookbook" with step-by-step instructions for creating a community wireless network. This is a solid introduction to wireless networks.

Federal broadband stimulus funding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local nonprofit organizations -- especially community media centers -- to become Internet service providers (ISP) and begin developing new revenue streams. It's also an historic opportunity for advocates of Internet Freedom. Creating community-based broadband networks would be a huge step toward creating the critical "third pipe" alternative to the cable/telco duopoly. The proliferation of these community-based networks would generate market pressure to force the major carriers to restore “net neutrality” protections for broadband users.

In short, this broadband stimulus opportunity opens the door to the possibility of a new “Jeffersonian Internet” comprised of a “network-of-grassroots-networks” where civil liberties and quality journalism are valued over Wall Street business models.

"Local Network Cookbook: A Recipe for Launching a Local Broadband Wireless Network" is aimed at helping nonprofit organizations -- especially those already using digital technologies -- move quickly to plan and submit a broadband stimulus funding proposal for one of the three application windows.

Posted June 13, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

MuniWireless.com has updated their list of cities that have large scale Wi-Fi networks. The list combines communities that own the network with cities that have networks owned and controlled by private companies, but it is a useful starting point for anyone looking to find cities that have explored this wireless technology.

Posted May 12, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Australia is planning to build a nationwide open access network that will be owned by the public. Ars Technica recently covered their progress - Australia has released a consultant report on the proposed network.

If the major incumbent, Telstra, works with the government on the network, the costs will be lower. But Australia will not let Telstra dictate the terms of their relationship:

But it's clear that the new network won't be held hostage to Telstra's demands. The consultants conclude that, in the absence of an agreement, [the fiber network] should proceed to build both its access network and its backhaul unilaterally." [src: Ars Technica]

Between the original plan and a revised plan suggested by the referenced study (bullet points here), over 90% of Australians will have a real choice in providers over a FTTH connection whereas the rest will have a combination of wireless and satellite options. The prices are expected to be affordable, and will probably be well below what we pay here in America.

The Implementation Study has some words about ownership of the National Broadband Network (NBN):

Government should retain full ownership of the NBN until the roll out is complete to ensure that its policy objectives are met – including its competition objectives

On technology, they reiterate what we have been saying for years:

Fibre to the premise is widely accepted as the optimal future proof technology with wireless broadband a complementary rather than a substitute technology;

Have no fear though, we will undoubtedly hear from many apologists for the private telecom companies that Australiai's NBN has "failed" because it is losing money. Estimates on the break even are many years out:

BN Co can build a strong and financially viable business case with the Study estimating it will be earnings positive by year six and able to pay significant distributions on its equity following completion of the rollout;

Brace yourself for a slew of reports noting the operating losses in the early years as "proof" the government should never have built this broadband infrastructure. These are the tried...

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Posted May 3, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is pleased to release this comprehensive report on the practices and philosophy of publicly owned networks. Breaking the Broadband Monopoly explains how public ownership of networks differs from private, evaluates existing publicly owned networks, details the obstacles to public ownership, offers lesson learned, and wrestles with the appeal and difficulty of the open access approach.

Download Breaking the Broadband Monopoly [pdf]

Executive Summary

Across the country, hundreds of local governments, public power utilities, non-profits, and cooperatives have built successful and sometimes pioneering telecommunication networks that put community needs first.

These communities are following in the footsteps of the publicly owned power networks put in place a century before. We watch history repeating itself as these new networks are built for the same reasons: Incumbents refusing to provide service or charging high rates for poor service.

Cities like Lafayette, Louisiana, and Monticello, Minnesota, offer the fastest speeds at the lowest rates in the entire country. Kutztown’s network in Pennsylvania has saved the community millions of dollars. Oklahoma City’s massive wireless mesh has helped modernize its municipal agencies. Cities in Utah have created a true broadband market with many independent service providers competing for subscribers. From DC to Santa Monica, communities have connected schools and municipal facilities, radically increasing broadband capacity without increasing telecom budgets.

These pioneering cities have had to struggle against many obstacles, often created by incumbents seeking to prevent the only real threat of competition they face. Eighteen states have passed laws that discourage publicly owned networks. When lawsuits by entrenched incumbents don’t thwart a publicly owned system, they cross-subsidize from non-competitive markets to temporarily reduce rates in an attempt to starve the infant public network of subscribers.

Despite these obstacles, more and more cities are building these networks and learning how to operate in the challenging new era in which all media is online and a high speed tele-communications network is as much a part of the essential infrastructure of...

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Posted April 26, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

After focusing on the North Carolina battle at the Legislature (regarding whether cities should be allowed to choose to build their own broadband networks or if they should solely have to beg the private sector for investment), I wanted to check in on Salisbury, which is building a FTTH network.

Salisbury has persevered through many obstacles, including finding financing for the project in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Depression. They will begin serving customers this August.

After choosing the name "Fibrant" as the name of the network, they have established a slick web presence at fibrant.com. The site has a a blog, but is rarely updated currently.

Earlier in the month, the local paper discussed the ways in which the fiber network will aid public safety. The short answer is video, video, video.

Video can be used for security cameras (both in public places and in private homes) as well as to give officers better situational awareness when they arrive on a scene. But wireless video access is often the key - both so officers can stream video in the cruiser and because wireless video cameras are easier to place (no pesky wires to run) and move around.

Though wireless video is helpful, it creates of a lot of data that is best moved across fast, reliable, wired networks. This is why fiber-optic networks and wireless are better understood as complements than substitutes. A robust fiber architecture greatly eases the problems incurred by creating a wireless network because the wireless nodes will be more efficient if all are tied into a fiber network. Rather than streaming data across the entire city to send a single feed to a cruiser, a local access point will stream it across a smaller footprint.

"They are potentially looking at helmet cams," Doug Paris said, assistant to the city manager. "Those who are sitting outside (the structure) will be able to see what's going on inside."

It would make little sense for the fireman to have wires coming out of their helmets. But that wireless signal from the helmet probably won't propagate to the fire hall or police station. Instead, a wireless access point near the fire can grab the signal and make it available to anyone...

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Posted April 23, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

David Pogue, a NY Times Tech columnist, recently wrote about a partnership between cable companies to share Wi-Fi access points:

I, a Cablevision customer, can now use all of Time Warner’s and Comcast’s hot spots in these three states. If you have Time Warner’s Road Runner service at home, you’re now welcome to hop onto Cablevision’s Optimum hot spots wherever you find them, or Comcast’s Xfinity hot spots. And so on. It’s as though all three companies have merged for the purpose of accommodating your Wi-Fi gadget, hugely multiplying the number of hot spots that are available to you.

The companies call this kind of partnership “the first of many.”

Now, I think this development is fantastic. It hits me where I live. It’s free. It’s fast and reliable. I love it.

He goes on to ask, what's in it for them? Apparently, David Pogue has little understanding of how dominant firms work together to cement their power and limit competition.

He then put up a post with an answer from an insider:

“David, widely available WiFi makes our service better, and more useful and valuable,” he wrote. “And we don’t compete directly with TWC or Comcast for high-speed Internet customers; we compete with phone companies that offer a wide array of services, including data plans over increasingly over-burdened and sluggish cellular networks for an extra $60 per month."

Bingo. Big cable companies do not compete with each other - one suspects these companies have tacitly divided the national cable market with an understanding that they will not overbuild each other. The barriers to entering the cable/broadband market are already substantial: any new network requires a massive upfront capital expenditure. This Wi-Fi partnership with cable incumbents makes that barrier even larger.

Let's imagine that a city wants to build a publicly owned network that will compete with one of these companies. Customers of the private incumbent have Wi-Fi access all over the place, across three states - and probably more to come. The incumbent gets the benefit of investments from other cable cos in the partnership.

Any guesses on whether the publicly owned network will be...

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Posted March 12, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Pulaski's public power provider is building a FTTH network and already seeing efficiency gains on the electrical side of their operations. Pulaski has 15,000 electric customers and 5,000 have been passed by fiber, with 1600 taking telecom services. Like Chattanooga, they are using a combination of wireless and fiber for smart-grid applications. Those who take telecom services are used to aggregate the wireless signals from neighbors who do not have a fiber line to their home. This is a great article to read for those curious about the benefits of smart-grids and how wireless can be successfully combined with fiber backhaul (as well as why wireless alone is insufficient).

Posted February 28, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Though it may not be a major selling point for communities considering building a network, they can offer tremendous research potential. Local communities are more approachable for researchers and more likely to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Consider an interesting story about the Oklahoma City Wi-Fi network and weather researchers.

This is a massive network -- at 555 square miles, the largest in the world. Local universities have teamed up with the city to closely monitor the weather constantly throughout the network. This data is useful in tracking how air currents move around a city - which is really helpful for those trying to understand and mitigate terrorist chemical or biological weapon attacks... for instance.

This is just one of some 200 applications the City uses its network for:

Steve Eaton, information security architect for Oklahoma City, characterizes the project as the most unique application the city utilizes. The Wi-Fi network currently runs about 200 applications that range from video surveillance to GPS tracking systems.

Posted February 10, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

I've often wondered what it would look like if a reporter wrote about a Wi-Fi network without any ideological baggage to slam it. Now you can see - Mollee Francisco wrote a lengthy and fair article for a local paper in Chaska, a suburb of Minneapolis. Like so many publicly owned citywide Wi-Fi networks, Chaska.Net accomplished many goals but was a disappointment for others. In particular, it was more expensive and the technology was more difficult than expected, but it introduced faster broadband than was available at the time. It continues to service 2100 customers, one of which is a household with close friends of mine. They love having the option of taking service from the City - they've been happy with the customer support and lower prices. That the speeds are slower than what cable networks offer doesn't bother them, they prefer to save the money. The article also discusses the wireless network in Buffalo, Minnesota, a city further away from the metro than Chaska that sees a brighter future for its public wireless network.

Posted November 20, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

Tropos is a California-based company that sells wireless networking gear, frequently to municipalities. They filed comments with the FCC regarding the National Broadband Plan in response to the request: "Comment Sought on the Contribution of Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Government to Broadband."

We fully support their framing of the issue:

Municipalities that own and control their wireless broadband networks, operate public services more efficiently, prioritize broadband traffic for emergencies, and put unused bandwidth to use to attract new businesses, afford educational opportunities to students and in many cases, provide free broadband access to unserved or underserved residents.

Tropos calls for an end to preemption on community networks.

Congress should not adopt legislation that would prohibit local governments from building and operating broadband networks to provide services within a community. Local governments should have the freedom to make decisions on how they want to provide broadband within their community.

And finally, Tropos harkens back to the same political battles from one hundred years ago:

A century ago, when inexpensive electricity was available to only a small fraction of the U.S. population, incumbent suppliers of electricity sought to prevent the public sector from offering electricity for many of the same reasons incumbent broadband providers now argue against community broadband deployment and services. Back then, incumbents sought to limit competition by arguing that local governments didn’t have the expertise to offer something as complex as electricity. They argued that their own businesses would suffer if they faced competition from cities and towns. Local community leaders recognized that their economic survival and the health and welfare of their citizens depended on wiring their communities. They understood that it would take both private and public investment to bring electricity to all Americans. Fortunately, they prevailed. Just as municipal electric systems proved critical to making access to electric service universal in the 20th Century, municipal networks can be part of the solution in making broadband access universal in the 21st Century – and should be included in the build-out of a national broadband infrastructure.

The...

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