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The Hiccups of Free Wi-fi for Cities 223

Posted by Hemos
from the hard-enough-to-make-our-office-work dept.
smooth wombat writes "Several cities around the country are considering implementing free wi-fi for its residents. Currenly, St. Cloud, Florida is the only one that can make that claim. However, the 28,000 residents are still experiencing hiccups in the system more than a month after implementation including being able to see receivers but not being able to connect or connecting at different times with weak signals or not being able to connect at all. As a result, many residents are still paying for monthly landline connections. HP, which has been contracted to build the project and provide customer support, says it is working to resolve the issues by adding more access points to improve signal strength in isolated parts of the city. Despite these issues, HP says that there were only 842 help-line calls out of more than 50,000 user sessions in the first 45 days of service."
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The Hiccups of Free Wi-fi for Cities

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  • Free WiFi AP wiki (Score:5, Informative)

    by suso (153703) * on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:33PM (#15191068) Homepage Journal
    Heh, just last night there was someone on the mediawiki IRC channel asking if his Free WiFi Lan wiki project [freewlan.org] was a good idea. People from here should go there and give this project a boost. Check it out [freewlan.org].

    Ironically, someone asked the guy if his server could take a Slashdotting. From talking to him through email it seems that will will be fine for a comment link.
  • by Trigun (685027) <[xc.hta.eripmelive] [ta] [live]> on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:34PM (#15191071)
    I would be suprised if there weren't hiccups in a rollout this large. Give it six months, and then we'll see. Until then, let's all reserve judgement.
    • I agree with this. But also I wonder if some people don't have unrealistic expectations for a free wifi setup. If you're expecting to pull gigs of warez down and hours of porn, you might very well be disappointed. If you're looking just to pull mail, casual internet browsing or passing through and you need to pull e-mail from your company, then it's good and probaly will do fine.

      But as Trigun said, let's give it time. It took the plant I work in (just one plant, 5 computers on the production floor, 4
    • Given St. Cloud's problems, I've got high expectations for a mess when Portland starts their project. The city is permitting a private company to build a wireless network between 2006 and 2008 offering a $20/month subscription service, or free service paid for by ads. Aside from the fact that the city is giving one lone company permission to build for the whole city (perhaps there's a good reason for that versus accepting bids for specific neighborhoods though), there's also no word yet on how the ads will
  • Free as in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paulthomas (685756) * on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:37PM (#15191101) Journal
    Free as in Beer? More like...

    Free as in at least two million dollars in capital outlay and $400k annually (and they're probably underestimating). Free as in: people using it don't necessarily pay for it, and people paying for it don't necessarily use it.

    That's not a definition of free I can accept.
    • Re:Free as in... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by j00r0m4nc3r (959816)
      Just like Canadian health care is "free".
      • Re:Free as in... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by brunes69 (86786)
        The difference is, when you get laid off from your job because then suddenly need open-heart surgery, you'll be damn-well glad that you paid for that healthcare you "didn't need" for all those years.
      • Re:Free as in... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cam_macleod (59140)
        True, but as a trivia note the US Government spends more on healthcare per capita than the Canadian one does, and that's for coverage of far fewer. Rather off-topic though. :)
    • I don't have numbers to support this (I doubt anybody does at this stage), but there's a potential general economic benefit to providing this service - for instance, supporting small businesses by providing their connectivity, being able to negotiate prices with ISPs as a block instead of individually, or encouraging folks to raise their level of technological competence, making them a more effective workforce. Maybe more?

      I hope there's at least a chance that this pays for itself... that's probably the onl
      • Re:Free as in... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sfjoe (470510)
        ...there's a potential general economic benefit to providing this service...

        But the right-wing doesn't recognize "potential economic benefits". If it doesn't enrich a very small, already wealthy contingent, then it's a communist plot.

    • Your argument could easily be applied to public roads. I don't own a car, yet I'm forced to pay for them. I would hope that you are consistent with your viewpoints and are against public roads as well, as they are not "free" either.
      • Your argument could easily be applied to public roads. I don't own a car, yet I'm forced to pay for them

        And all the goods you buy are delivered to the store how? By airdrop?

        • First of all, GP poster was obviously making a point about how stupid the previous posters point was, not advocating stopping public financing of roads.

          More to the point, a retailer passes on the cost of transporting the goods they sell to the people buying them. If I accept that public financing of infrastructure (whether network or physical) is an unacceptable use of taxpayer money, why would I want to subsidize other people's purchasing of retail goods? Let the stores build their own roads, and pass o

        • In fact roads are often paid for at least in part by taxes on fuel. These taxes are collected for trucks running delivery services as well as the general public.

          A much better argument that the gp could have would be bus systems. Many cities have a bus system that is funded by gas taxes. This means that people who do not ride the bus pay the vast majority of the money for those who do ride the bus. It complicates problems to do with real estate, those who live ouside bus routes end up paying for those wh
      • Ah, but you do get the benefit of them--imagine how much it would cost to get goods to the store if these roads weren't there.

        As much as I like technology, I don't think wireless Internet access is something taxpayers should be footing the bill for right now. Maybe someday, but right now, it's expensive, hard to maintain, and not heavily used. It was already tried and abandoned in nearby Orlando. [slashdot.org] Someday, fast wireless will work as well as cell phone service will today, but until then, cities that try this
        • My goods would be cheaper if that store didn't have to pay for internet to do their product ordering. It's just a question of scale. You could argue that the costs for an airdrop would be much larger, but then again, road maintenance costs me a lot more than maintenance on free wifi would.

          You either support spending public money spent on items which may not benefit everyone equally (and some not at all), or you don't.
          • You either support spending public money spent on items which may not benefit everyone equally (and some not at all), or you don't.

            Every public project does not have equal value, and saying you should support all or none is ridiculous. Like I said, I don't think municipal WiFi is a good idea RIGHT NOW. The US interstate highway system [wikipedia.org] was implemented about 50 years after the invention of cars, and even then, it didn't happen overnight. See also water, electricity, garbage, police, firefighters, the armed fo
        • "As much as I like technology, I don't think wireless Internet access is something taxpayers should be footing the bill for right now. "

          I hear ya. There are MANY more important things to spend money on than free wifi. Housing problems, bad roads....poor schools, etc. Problems in many cities.

          The internet isn't as much a necessity to living as those other things I've mentioned. And if you can't afford a connection...you probably need to be out getting an education and a better job so that a $40-$80/

      • Your argument could easily be applied to public roads. I don't own a car, yet I'm forced to pay for them.

        And you stay within the confines of your own home 24x7x365? You never use any of those roads? And let's see, having private roads to everyone's house is a real alternative, right?

        Seems like the case for "free" public net access is just a tad weaker than public roads.

      • Roads are not free. They are paid for with taxes. That is consistent with his statement that muni-wifi is not free. It doesn't matter whether or not you think roads are good or not, what matters is whether or not you recognize how they are paid for.

        The point is that the word 'free' is misleading. Of course "free wireless" would be nice. The problem is that it is not free when it is paid for by the government with tax dollars. Let's accept that fact, then we can have a discussion on whether or not taxp
    • Re:Free as in... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 24, 2006 @02:00PM (#15191297)
      That's what "public spending" is about. I have no kids, so get the hell away with child support! I don't own a car, so why bother spending money on more highways? Or I have a car, why the hell does the state still fund those bus lines that only clog the road ahead of me? Public broadcasting, what for, I got cable and their program sucks anyway! To carry it to extremes, I'm no woman, so why the hell should I pay for women's houses?

      Public services are by definition something everyone pays for and not everyone uses. That's not necessarily "unjust" or bad. It's provided to you. You're free to use it. Or not. It's there.
      • In many cases, it isn't that the money shouldn't be spent, just who should decide on the spending. One should be skeptical of how well bureaucracies can dole out our money, or whether in some cases we would be better off doing it ourselves individually or in smaller more maneagable cooperatives.

        I think this is a pretty good example of something that doesn't need to be a public service. We'll see in a few years whether the quality is adequate for the price and whether this is sustainable and beneficial for
        • One should be skeptical of how well bureaucracies can dole out our money, or whether in some cases we would be better off doing it ourselves individually or in smaller more maneagable cooperatives.

          Um ... it would be pretty hard to build out citywide Wi-Fi on an individual, person-by-person basis, don't you think? Blanket coverage of an entire area is the goal. You may not be interested in using said service, but ... see grandparent. You are of course free to move to a municipality that shares your libert

      • by Damek (515688) <<gro.kemad> <ta> <mada>> on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:25PM (#15192018) Homepage
        The really awesome part of spending in the public interest is that there are usually residual benefits even for those people who don't directly use the services.

        Public roads? Lubricates the commerce (at the very least), which makes the economy as a whole better for you to participate in.

        Social security? Keeps the unfortunate & market-abused from being too much of a drag on society and potentially a destabilizing force; IOW, it keeps society secure for you, too.

        Subsidized communications (incl. wifi services)? Facilitates democracy, free flow of information, not to mention commerce like roads & public transport also do. Which makes the economy and your democracy all the better, even if you choose other avenues to participate in commerce & government.
    • Check out Wireless Leiden [wirelessleiden.nl]; an all volunteer, all community, all donation based free (as in beer) wireless network; covering an area with some 500.000 inhabitants; its FreeBSD based, under a BSD-ish licensen and both code and config tools can be checked out of SVN right away.

      So - all of you; stop talking, grab the code and compete who is next !

      :-)

      Dw.

    • TFA states they expect to be able to recoup the expsense by the money they save from cell phones, etc. Now if they are correct or not I cannot say (and I assume you cannot either). However, if they can get the system to work acceptably and don't realize a cent of savings I'm still glad someone out there is giving it a shot. $400,000 per year for a city of 28,000 people is only $14.29 per YEAR of service per person. The upfront costs are less than $100 per person.

      I don't know if it will all work out o
    • That's not a definition of free I can accept.

      You accept it for your "free" roads. Or is it just that you hate democracy? I imagine that the exorbitant of about $1.20 per month per "user" is just way to high for you. These same users either voted on the expendature directly (most likely for a town action of this nature, from what I've seen) or they voted in the people that did approve it (and can vote them out for people that will do a better job if they don't like it).

      If the town in question agrees th
    • Your right ... its not free...

      Lets see... 28,000 residents (lets call that 10,000 households)
      $2,000,000 outlay = $71 per resident ($200 per household)
      $400,000/year = $14 per resident PER YEAR ($40 per household PER YEAR)

      So $200 setup free, and $40 bucks a year for wireless internet. Where do I sign up?

      Around here I'd pay $300.00/year (EVERY YEAR) for ADSL "Lite", and I can only use that in my house, not anywhere in the city. Even craptastic dialup at $9/month costs more than this after a very short time!!

      T
      • The article states the outlay is $2.6 million, not $2 million. And it states there are 3500 registered users, so the initial outlay was:

        $2.6 million / 3500 = $742 / user

        And the monthly expense is:

        $400,000 / 12 / 3500 = $9.50 / month / user ($114/year)

        If you compare that to $40/month, you are saving about $30/month, but you paid $742 up front. It will take you 742 / 30 = 24 months to make up the initial cost. My guess is that within 24 months, one of the following will be true:

        1) New technology will exis
        • I disagree. "3500 registered users" is not the right metric to valuate on. First it merely represents the number of people who have signed up to a project that has *just* been launched. At least give it a couple years before using "registered users"; or use some other more reasonable metric like I did: households or even households + businesses.

          And to address your specfic points:

          For point 1 and 3 -- New faster technology is not that relevant, they're building "last leg" infrastructure. Assuming its 802.11g
  • by callipygian-showsyst (631222) on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:39PM (#15191109) Homepage
    Currenly, St. Cloud, Florida is the only one that can make that claim

    BZZZZZZZT Thanks for playing!

    Sunnyvale, CA (a city of 115,000 people) has free city-wide WiFi, too.

    • Just,

      Went to Metro-FI and looked up the old address where I lived at in Sunnyvale and they say they don't have it there, hmmm.

      Also where I have a vehicle of mine serviced at is in Sunnyvale and they don't see the free Sunnyvale service either.

      Personally I think free WiFi is a pipe dream imagined by those who have a lot of imagination and not a lot of implementation experience.

      WiFi can be done, but from my own personal experience in my home with dead spots, neighbors on the same channel, etc. I would say tha
      • I use it. Dropped Comcast like the plague. Live in the same area.
        • > I use it.

          That's cool, at least someone is getting to use something.

          Funny thing is I live in an adjacent city, Cupertino, and I (plus all the neighbors down my street) got a metro-fi ad on the front door the other day saying metro-fi is in Sunnyvale.

          Well, that's great if I'm out driving around with my laptop, but it doesn't do me a lot of good otherwise.

          And, I wonder why would Sunnyvale be essentially advertising to those living in Cupertino?

    • BZZZT... BZZZZT.

      My neighbor also has free wifi... off my connection. I am sure there are thousands of others who do as well (not off my connection, but off of others).
      I don't mind him on my connection. I tell him "no child porn and I'll send you an email if I am playing a game" (to keep my speed good). He gets the raw end of the deal, I kick him for shits and giggles all the time. I also download tons of stuff off of UseNet maxing out my connection, I can't imagine what it is like for him at those times.
    • Strike two. Another Sunnyvale resident that lives north of the railroad tracks. Their advertising claims that it's "available" in Sunnyvale, but if less than half the city is covered, even that unqualified claim seems misleading. Sure it's available, just not for you.

      Life was better when we had Metricom. It was slower, but ran on 900MHz for better home penetration, and their protocols supported mobility.

    • Most of you may have heard of New Orleans and their wireless network [google.com]. Works fine, thanks.
  • Despite these issues, HP says that there were only 842 help-line calls out of more than 50,000 user sessions in the first 45 days of service."

    Actually I would remove the "Despite these issues" and "only" portions of the text in this submission. That's an average of about 19 calls per day and a call every 59 sessions. That's rather high, but then again it's based on about a month and a half into a new network. Extrapolate this out if the subscriber numbers were significantly higher and their help desk wo

    • You also have to figure in PEBKAC errors. Which if my years of helping family and friends out with computers is probably 90% of the calls.
    • Despite these issues, HP says that there were only 842 help-line calls out of more than 50,000 user sessions in the first 45 days of service.

      How many droppped calls? How many customers hung up before they got to talk to an analyst?

      • Good points. I used to be an IT Call Center Manager for a large cellular company. You had to take into account abandoned call rates and other outside factors to truly determine your service level provided to customers. If half of your customers are waiting in queue for 30 minutes to an hour and only to bail out then that's a definite side to the story. Who knows in terms of this article's specifics...
    • I work in municipal government in Florida. We looked at free wifi and came to the conclusion it's too expensive to cover massive areas and has little gain. We are mostly done with covering city hall and the outlying buildings (the ones within about a 1/4 mile). I live in a pretty wealthy area and it's still just not worth it to cover the whole city. We are looking at expanding to some of the areas with coffee shops near the water (we don't have a downtown), but that will probably be it.

      We are hoping to b
    • That's an average of about 19 calls per day and a call every 59 sessions. That's rather high,

      I don't know what planet you are on, but that's pretty darned low. 19 calls a day? That's 25 minutes between calls. When I worked in a call center (long long ago), my average call time was about 3 minutes. One full-time guy could easily handle 19 problems per day. And a call every 59 sessions? I work for a wireless ISP. If we got down to 1 in 60 for new users we would be extatic. You greatly underestimate
      • Based on the population I would envision whomever is doing tech support for the project isn't doing it as their sole duty. I picture an entry level person that's part of the city's IS/IT/MIS department. They probably have to hop under city employees' desks, help support some servers, etc. All of this is speculation, but I would feel pretty sure that whomever they have isn't just sitting there 25 minutes between calls playing Freecell.

        And these are just tech support calls. I used to be a call center tech m

  • Before any of the "you get what you pay for" comments come out, of course someone is paying for it.

    It's paid for via taxes. Therefore the taxpayers should solicit the local city council for action since taxpayer money is being used because it is being paid for. No one should be putting up with these many problems, especially if the entire city is having these problems together.

    I'm not pro or con the whole city wide free wireless internet thingie, just pointing out some facts.
    • In my city [teamfredericton.com] not only is the Wi-Fi free, but it actually turns a profit for the city, who resells bandwidth on it's fibre ring that powers it to local companies.

      In essence, the city is acting as an ISP. The ISP offers free bandwidth to residents, and leases surplus bandiwdth to other companies.

      It can also be seen that, even if a city did not turn a profit on it's own network, the increased tax revenue from people migrating to the area because the WiFi is there couldpay for the cost of the network.

      I am not saying that this is the case in this particular city, I am just pointing out that free Wi-Fi can be a win-win situation for all residents if you have smart people in charge of the thing.

  • by Odiumjunkie (926074) on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:40PM (#15191119) Journal
    "As a result, many residents are still paying for monthly landline connections."

    Is this surprising, or some kind of a sign of failure? I think that free city-wide Wi-Fi is a nice idea, but I still wouldn't surrender the autonomy, privacy, control and efficiency of my own pipe.
    b
    • It's not a sign of failure. It's a sign that people want the band width that you can't get with a free service or they run services like a web server or ftp server or what have you.
    • by Surt (22457)
      You, as a slashdot poster, are surely not like the majority of residents. I would expect that most people would ditch a $30/month tethered service (existing landline DSL or whatever) in favor of free, everywhere available service. Most people have much better things to do with that $360 per year, whereas a slashdot poster probably gets more use out of that service than anything else he could spend the money on. The fact that most people are not dropping that monthly bill is surely an indicator that some
      • "I would expect that most people would ditch a $30/month tethered service (existing landline DSL or whatever) in favor of free, everywhere available service."

        It's an interesting point, but if it's true, why do ISPs keep rolling out lines with more and more bandwidth?

        If "most people" do a little light browsing, some e-mail, hell, maybe even a little bit of file downloading or watching streaming video, why do ISPs bring out packages with more and more bandwidth? For "most people", surely latency would
        • Actually, I'm afraid I have to continue to be condescending, because I think it will unfortunately answer all of your arguments.

          First, the average computer user has no sense of how latency impacts their experience (exception: gamers), and the latency advantage available to an ISP is negligible. They could try to deliver a low latency package, and some gamers would know enough to be interested, but who else would buy it? Further, all they can do is nock a couple of ms off the last step ... most internet la
        • It's an interesting point, but if it's true, why do ISPs keep rolling out lines with more and more bandwidth?

          Because more is always better, right? It's like home theater receivers and powered speakers with regards to output power. A lot of people think that if the number is higher, it must be better. And a lot of people figure, well, if I can spend only $10 more but get twice the speed, wow, I should do that. Never underestimate the power of marketing.

          I have a 6mb (max, I did test the speed, and g
    • TFA wrote: "As a result, many residents are still paying for monthly landline connections."
      TFP wrote: Is this surprising, or some kind of a sign of failure?

      (a) It's a sign that the thing's only been up for a month. (b) It's a sign that not everyone using a tethered connection has WiFi hardware. (c) What is this "many" number, anyway?
    • It's probably a sign that many residents don't know how to buy or install a wireless card. Talk to some cable company istaller occasionally. They get called to plug in the cable in the back of the computer because customers don't know where it is supposed to go. Even though there are only one or two jacks an Ethernet cable will fit into and either of them works.
      • OH lordy yes!
        speaking from experience, two plugs where something can go in is ALOT more stressful to joe technophobe than 1 plug. I am not surprised at all, as i vividly remember having to colour code the telephone cable and the LINE jack to eachother and in extreme cases, fill the "phone" jack with paper and tape. This is despite of the fact that the words "phone" and "line" are printed on the brackets of most modems ive ever seen.

  • "there were only 842 help-line calls out of more than 50,000 user sessions in the first 45 days of service."

    So almost one in 50? I'd say that's pretty shitty when you consider a lot of people didn't know the number to call except... hmm, maybe by looking it up on the INTERNET? Let's also not forget a lot of people wouldn't have tried it out until after they were away from their homes and actually needed the net.

    Nice spin.

  • More than a month?

    A month is not a very long time for a new service to get it's act together.

    If you assume they deployed the equipment and started offering services it is quite likely they are a) inundated with customers, b) brand new equipment failures, even if only 5% causing untold grief. c) limited experience trouble shooting the network since it is brand-new.

    Initially when my parents signed up for Cable modem service I warned them to expect problems for the first few months. There were a few minor hicc
  • Poor Quality? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kwiqsilver (585008) on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:42PM (#15191137)
    On a government provided service? Shocking!

    But at least they have the comfort of knowing they're paying more for the service than they need to. And since it's a tax- (or debt-) funded service, they get to keep paying too much for it, unless they can somehow find a politician who will vote to reduce a budget.

    • You'd also need to get politicians in office who were willing to remove the exclusive service rights from cable and telephone monopolies. Removing this form of corporate welfare would allow capitalism to work and save the consumers money.
      • Re:Poor Quality? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kwiqsilver (585008)
        Agreed!!

        Fortunately cable & phone monopolies are slowly going obsolete, because of competition from satellite, cell phones, phone over cable, tv over phone lines, etc.

        Just goes to show what wonderful things the market can do, even when burdened by government backed monopolies.

        • 2 or 3 monopolies in an area, providing the same service, does not make for competition. It just makes for an oligopoly.

          They will still each keep their prices exceptionally high, knowing that they will still have customers because of their unique positions which can't always be provided by the competition.

          My cable company had a $30 512k internet service about 3 years ago, when DSL was only partly available around here, and was $50 even then. Now that DSL is cheaper, and much faster than they, instead of l
  • These are the same problems plaguing WiFi in general. I haven't setup a wireless network and have had the same results each time. I have worked with some pretty lousy equipment (ahem, DLink) and the problem is exasperated when the router itself is defective.

    Even once set up, walls, wireless phones, other wireless computer equipment all can interfere and make WiFi problematic.

    The problems experienced by muni-Wi-Fi is just a high concentration of the same kind of problems people will experience individually
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:51PM (#15191209)
    Someone said they would get rid of the wifi hiccups, but then I was told, 'Don't hold your breath.'
  • Give 'em some time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 24, 2006 @02:04PM (#15191326)
    Remember when broadband came? I do.

    An uptime of an hour was rare. An uptime of a day was unheard of. Downtime of a day, on the other hand, was quite common.

    You're complaining after just a month? Don't tell me you already quitted your cable provider, thinking that this works "out of the box".

    Seriously now. Cut 'em some slack and let them iron out the wrinkles. If they don't improve after 6 months, you have something to complain about. But after a month? C'mon, be realistic, this is more or less uncharted water they're trying to wade in.
    • No. Getting it, if not right, than close to it, first time is not impossible. I got a cable modem within a few months of them becoming available in my area, and there were few outages.

      What makes you think it's reasonable to pay for a service as bad as the one you describe? If I signed up for something that bad, unless I was getting it cheaper as a beta tester, I'd be complaining.
  • Stupid idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by realmolo (574068) on Monday April 24, 2006 @02:12PM (#15191395)
    Anyone that has ever tried to setup a WiFi network to cover a large municipal area knows that it's essentially IMPOSSIBLE to make it work well. WiFi is just to sensitive to interference. Trees and building stop WiFi in it's tracks. The only solution is to flood the area with access points, which is so expensive to do that it's not practical.

    Supposedly WiMax has better coverage, but honestly, until the FCC opens up some of the lower UHF/VHF frequencies, wireless internet access "for the masses" is never gonna work right. 2.4Ghz is just too high a frequency to push through stuff.
  • by Urusai (865560) on Monday April 24, 2006 @02:14PM (#15191407)
    From what I gather, there are only 3 practically usable channels (1, 6, 11), it has an inefficient collision avoidance method, its bridging capability causes exponential bandwidth decay with the number of hops, and it uses open frequencies that are also used by wireless phones, etc., thus being susceptible to interference.

    Just give us fiber to the home already. We've already paid for it in the form of tax breaks to the telcos.
    • From what I gather, there are only 3 practically usable channels (1, 6, 11),

      That is true with high-densities. When you have the APs spread sufficiently far apart, 4 channels becomes an option. Actually, with sufficient proximity, there are only 2 non-overlapping channels, as 6 will still overlap enough with 1 and 11 to cause interference. The "3 non-overlapping channels" is the simplified way of thinking of it that doesn't account for proper wireless engineering.
    • It's the wrong technology mostly because of the protocol.

      Cell phones also use the ~2Ghz range and are also vulnerable to the same los problems [hint: this is why GSM has a sub-Ghz band].

      If wifi was a bit more co-operative it could be shared properly.

      That said, yeah, there also just isn't enough bandwidth on 802.11[abg] to share with 100s of users. It would be different if it provided Gbit wireless then sharing would be less problematic..

      I can also see public wifi systems getting exploited or DoS'ed. There
    • Yea, there's lots of fibre, but wired links are supposed to be for high-bandwidth usage. The whole idea behind wireless everywhere is that it's just simpler; no more cell phone or landline phone -- just wireless. Cable can still be delivered via video-on-demand over fibre, but for surfing the web, VOIP, or email, you want wireless.

      WiMax has multiple channels, better signal qualities, and TDMA (instead of CSMA) at its core, allowing you to get better network throughput as you reach (and exceed) subscriber
  • My roommate Rashid Ahmed is Sr. project coordinator for the Unwire Portland project. The city just signed with MetroFi. Project should be rolling out in the very near future!

    http://www.pdc.us/unwire/faq.asp [www.pdc.us]
  • Do these cities with free wifi access have an intrusive monitoring policy, is there an EULA for usage, or is it basically, you are using the government's shit and we can do whatever we want on it. This is why communications has always been a privatized industry. As someone who has helped design municipal communications architectures (Emergency band, New York City), I'm not a big fan of making them available to the public.
  • I live in Santa Clara CA. This City, Cupertino and Sunnyvale (not dale) are all under a free WiFi umbrella from a company called MetroFi (has for over a year). So St. Cloud is neither the first nor the only. Google. will soon have MountainView online, as well. Yes there are hiccups. However the original premise that St. Cloud is the first is off kilter a bit.
    • The article (and Slashdot intro) make it clear that St. Cloud is the first CITY not first COMPANY to offer free citywide service. MetroFi started as a paid service, started testing free a few months ago, and then switched to ad-supported free service as an option; you can pay a monthly rate if you want no ads at all.
  • I can't wait for the outrage later when it is discovered that various agencies at the local, state, and federal levels use their ownership of this "free" internet to trample the hell out of the users rights. Hopefully they will do it in new and interesting ways, like charging you sales tax for something bought from out of state, or asking you to report the income on an in-game gold sale, or flagging you as a trouble maker for reading 2600.org.

    "Your honor, as you can see from these records, the defendant fo
  • Marquette? (Score:2, Informative)

    by zip0nada (883919)
    Marquette Michigan is one of those cities that DOES have a working WiFi network almost citywide. The Northern Michigan University provides nearly complete WiFi coverage throughout Marquette and plan to complete this coverage soon.

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