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IBM, AT&T and Intel Plan National Wireless ISP 160

dailywireless writes "Cometa Networks (formerly The Rainbow Project), a joint venture by IBM, Intel and AT&T, plans to merge Wi-Fi and cellular networks. 'Cometa's vision and plan for this is to offer a single sign-on, single authentication, seamless-roaming nationwide network,' said Michael Mass, vice president of marketing for the Communications Sector at IBM. 802 Plant reports 'AT&T will provide the network infrastructure and management, IBM the wireless installation and back-office system, and Intel the Banias processor. The company plans to have ubiquitous coverage - no further away than 5 minutes walk in an urban area or 5 minutes drive in a rural area - by 2004. which will require the deployment of more than 20,000 hotspot access sites across the U.S.' What fate awaits "free" networks like NYC Wireless, Seattle Wireless or Portland's PersonalTelco? Will AT&T use CoMeta's blanket coverage, with 20,000 "hotspots", to crush the "free" rebellion like a bug?"
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IBM, AT&T and Intel Plan National Wireless ISP

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  • you know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mschoolbus ( 627182 ) <.travisriley. .at.> on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:41AM (#4826418)
    You know if everybody makes a single signon technology, nobody will have a single signon...
    • This isn't true, in fact it has to be in our interests that as many companies as possible are competing in this market place so the rather immature technology is further improved.

      The key thing is not the number of vendors, but how single sign on systems and user repositories interoperate so that trust credentials are passed between system to enable single sign on between different vendors products.

      The key initiative behind this is SAML [] the Security Assertion Markup Language. All the main vendors of SSO (RSA, IBM, Netegrity) are supporting this standard.

      The major vendors had a bake off recently to test interoperability which I undersand went very well, with all 12 product successfully passing credentials between each other. I couldn't find much about it, other than a list of the participating vendors which can be seen here [].
  • oh my god they are going to take over the world.
    Seriously though, its high time someone developed a peer to peer wireless solution that would be totally open, so all you need to to is buy, or build, a device to talk on it, and you funky computer scientists can come up with some dank routing algorithm, and some company can give out a million of them for free across the country to populate the country with nearby peers for everyone, then sell them, and boy oh boy we'd be all set.
  • Fears (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:43AM (#4826425)
    Okay, time for a PhD EE + MD to tell us that having gigs of porn zipping through our brains every second won't cause any damage.
    • if they're using radio transmission, then the radio waves are already there, they'd just be utilizing them.
    • The average Internet user is proof enough that it does. We're picking up the EM (light) with our eyes rather than getting bathed in it with wireless.

      I like the though of wild propagation of wireless. The potential for increased mutaton rate alone is worth it, I hope I get good mutant powers like superhealing or flying or something and not a sucky one like a super long tongue and green skin. Mutation is such a crap shoot... =)

    • This brings up something ive always wondered

      first of all.. let me just say that NO.. i am NOT wearing a tin foil hat.. However...

      what are the conciquences of having all these waves being beamed and bounced around the world? Radar.. Radio.. TV.. Microwaves.. Cell Phones.. Wireless Internet.. and God knows what the military is REALLY using up in alaska [].. ect.. ect.. ect..

      what are the long long term effects to the earth? the us? dose any one know?
      • Re:Fears (Score:4, Funny)

        by Scaba ( 183684 ) <joe@jo e f r a n c> on Friday December 06, 2002 @01:31PM (#4827685)

        This brings up something ive always wondered

        first of all.. let me just say that NO.. i am NOT wearing a tin foil hat.. However...

        what are the conciquences of having all these waves being beamed and bounced around the world? Radar.. Radio.. TV.. Microwaves.. Cell Phones.. Wireless Internet.. and God knows what the military is REALLY using up in alaska [].. ect.. ect.. ect..

        what are the long long term effects to the earth? the us? dose any one know?

        I believe bad grammar and chronic misspellings are the first signs of irreversible brain damage caused by radio waves. You should have worn the hat...

      • what are the conciquences of having all these waves being beamed and bounced around the world? Radar.. Radio.. TV.. Microwaves.. Cell Phones.. Wireless Internet.. and God knows what the military is REALLY using up in alaska [].. ect.. ect.. ect.

        With respect to the tinfoil hat, read up on:
        - the inverse square law (i.e. they're REAL weak except right near the transmitter - why don't cell phones run the antenna out the BOTTOM of the handset?) and
        - the skin effect (high frequency stuff doesn't penetrate well into things that conduct {like skin}, due to canceling currents induced near the surface of the conductor).

        Then consider that radio photons are individually too non-energetic to break a chemical bond - so you need to add 'em up to cause damage. That happens in three ways:
        - Structures that are conductive (relative to their environment) and somewhere close to half the wavelength.
        - Really strong fields (so the resistive heating adds up)
        - Really REALLY strong fields (so the electric field from the coherent individual photons adds up to more than the ionization potential of the bond to be broken.

        what are the long long term effects to the earth?

        Probably about zilch. Strong audio-frequency voltages in the earth might make earthquakes happen a little earlier than without. Maybe a slight effect on weather if really strong microwaves drive the ionosphere non-linear (and cause all sorts of OTHER havoc to communication). A few insects have log-periodic structures that MIGHT be antennas, leading to speculation that they might directly sense extreme microwaves or near infrared as radio signals - so these bugs might get confused. Just about any other effect amounts to a microscopic increase in thermal pollution in whatever structure absorbs the signal.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Free networks will never be orgainzed or capable
    enough to offer this same level of service as
    the "free rebellion" is far too disorganized
    to ever pull it off. The small community networks
    will exsist, but a national network would suffer
    at the hands of the dishonest, and greedy.

    Perhaps if you have 20000 people as crazy as RMS,
    yeah, it might work.

    Now leave the drugs alone and face reality.
    • thats what everyone said about linux os. First of all, RMS is not crazy. He is only doing what he believes in. and RMS is not the only one who is running the 'free rebellion'. Its there because there are enough people around who are willing to spend time/money to keep it running and its going to be here for a long time. That the actual reality that people who think otherwise should face
    • What about Linux?

      Linux is a very organized free-software movement that's gotten rather ubiquitous. The small, free networks have a chance- but they will have to work together, and I'm not seeing that happen.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "'Cometa's vision and plan for this is to offer a single sign-on, single authentication, seamless-roaming nationwide network,' said Michael Mass, vice president of marketing for the Communications Sector at IBM."

    As well as a single point of break-in for the whole shebang.
  • free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kp833 ( 608343 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:44AM (#4826433)
    well nothing is going to beat free stuff. 20,000 access points is not going to make any difference just like 20,000 copies of window cant stop free OS.

    • Of course, being in a room full of Windows users doesn't degrade your free OS performance. The real question is how other 802.11 users will be able to communicate.
    • Limited bandwidth. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Irvu ( 248207 )
      True Windows hasn't succeeded in crushing Linx, but the "bandwidth" of pcs is unlimited. If I buy a new computer and put Linux on it it doesn't directly effect the neighboring systems.

      WiFi is different. There you have a limited amount of bandwidth that is availible and inevitably debates will arise over who can have it. The First Come First Served argument probably won't cut it unless you can afford the same quality legal teams as IBM, Intel, and AT&T.

      Take the case of Starbucks vs. Oregon's Personal Telco reported here []. In that cose both sides are using open spectrum but Starbucks is claiming some sort of "inalienable right" to own the frequency since it is the same frequency that they use in any other city. Personal Telco is a volunteer project so they can hardly afford the lawyers to fight this one off.

      And, even if the established free projects don't get shut down the revolution may still be stopped. Those free projects aren't ubiquitous. If Starbucks, AT&T and the rest overload the spectrum in other areas (such as rural areas) then there will be no room for new groups to start up.

      I'm not arguing that AT&T has this in mind or that they have "no right" to step in and provide this service. But, I do believe that when push comes to shove (I'm certain that it will) and lawyers get involved, then the issue will be decided on the decidedly skewed playing field of the courts, in front of the FCC and in Congress where AT&T's deep pockets will hold sway.
  • So.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by myusername ( 597009 )
    I didn't read the article yet, but I'm guessing this isn't going to be an open/free network. I can't wait till the day when you don't have to worry about where you can get on the internet. It's going to be nice to just be able to pull my handheld computer out of my pocket and get online anywhere and any time right over the airwaves for free. I know it would make my life a lot easier. Plus there is the cool factor of just knowing you can jump online at any time from anywhere.
    • Re:So.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RazzleFrog ( 537054 )
      Well I suppose if you wanted to pay for it through your tax dollars that could happen. Of course, the millions of people who don't want to pay for it would be mighty pissed. The truth is that these things cost money. Free is great and it can work in small places like Bryant Park where there is a not-for-profit (in this case backed by HBO and other large companies in the area) that can pick up the cost. But for large scale nationwide service a big company is going to have to take charge (and charge).

      By the way - offtopic - Bryant Park is an incredibly historic place and a great place to have lunch when in New York. Visit [] for a bit of history.
  • Fear and Loathing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SmartGamer ( 631767 ) <> on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:45AM (#4826436) Homepage
    This is terrifying. It's an obvious attempt at a communications monopoly- they already have all the suppliers planned out.

    The problems with such are obvious. If this is allowed to occur, it would be one company controlling it all as it is what is most availible. Start with low rates to kill the competition, then use the almost-monopoly position to kick the price tag way up.

    Wait, that sounds like M$.
    • Competition

      Pros: Can compete based on features and customer service, yay capitalism

      Cons: Customer service is equally poor everywhere, all of the features are the same, coverage is redundant and competition is difficult (witness failing broadband providers)

      Government Regulated Monopoly

      Pros: Price is fixed and rate hikes must be petitioned for and approved, coverage is universal and not overlapping, companies required by law to provide support in reasonable, predictable timeframes

      Cons: No competition based on new features (technology adoption may be slow), customer service probably won't be that great (slow), boo socialism

      Bottom Line

      Take your pick. Honestly, with the customer service and feature set I get with my current providers (which I don't have much of a choice over anyway) I think I'm better off with a government sanctioned/regulated monopoly...a single wireless utility for the U.S. I'd much rather deal with 1 government regulated monopoly than 2 or 3 non-regulated corporate monopolies.
      • Unregulated Monopoly

        Pros: You'll be familliar with the company... maybe

        Cons: Massive prices, price fixing, no need for good service as there are no alternatives, only one feature set, their way or no way, no change, about 3,000,000 other complaints
        • True, but I can't see an unregulated monopoly being unregulated for long. Look what happened to Bell. AT&T and IBM have already had brushes with the law, which means 2 things: 1) they will probably be more conscientious this time around; and 2) the government (FCC, FTC) will probably have their eye on this deal. If it works, and it works well, and other business start getting gobbled up and suffering, I think the government will make a move to regulate it.
  • Battery-life? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What do they do about the high power-consumption 802.11a and b require. If I'm not mistaken it's about 50 times as high as 3G.

    Also, the lack of possibility to "walk" between the base-stations must be a major drawback.
  • by Lt Razak ( 631189 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:45AM (#4826438)
    "End-users will be able to keep existing sign-on procedures, e-mail addresses, IDs, passwords and payment methods regardless of the access point, whether its an ISP, corporate VPN, telecommunications provider or cable operator.

    For service providers, it will mean the ability to offer wireless services to their customers without having to invest in the wireless infrastructure themselves." I don't know. I'm already unhappy with my cable provider, with no other choice available. Do I really think that they could handle this reliably? I doubt it!

    Whenever you add another layer of bueracracy, you're just going to get help desks saying "It's not our fault, it's 3i's fault, and 3i saying it's Comcast's fault".

    Of course, I could see both of them saying it's Microsoft's fault, please reboot.

  • great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nuwayser ( 168008 )
    just what the United States needs: another nationwide wireless air interface. not like we don't have enough already (1xRTT, GPRS, and WCDMA/UMTS already in testing []).

  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:46AM (#4826453)
    I find this rather disturbing. The spectrum that 802.11a/b uses was not intended for for-profit service providers. Their use of this spectrum will degrade the performance of the intended users.

    Where is this going to end? Are cellular companies going to offer phone service using VoIP over 802.11, complete with roaming via IP roaming?

    I think whenever spectrum like that used for 802.11b/a is assigned, the FCC should prohibit people from selling services based on it--users that sell services should buy their own spectrum. Otherwise, such companies will just take over what was supposed to be a public resource. It's kind of like allowing businesses to just take over parts of the public park or street. Such restrictions wouldn't mean you can't use it for business purposes: you can still buy the equipment and use it internally, and you can still give service away to your friends.

    • I tend to agree. In the UK (where I am) the regulators actually did prevent use of 802.11b spectrum for commercial service. Unfortunately this rule was recently changed under pressure from the telcos.

      Of course, the assumption that the goverment automatically owns all spectrum, and can "lease" it to other people might be regarded as highly debateable in some quarters anyway.
    • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:31AM (#4826740)
      The band isn't regulated, so you can do what you want. They have to accept interference from your 2.4Ghz devices.. soo.. read between the lines if you're spiteful.

      If widespread 802.11 is what it takes to get reliable, IP-based wireless everywhere, then so be it. The power is in the hands of consumers now to do it themselves.. and yes, I've been to some wireless presentations where industry experts have said 802.11 based cell phones are not out of the realm of possibility,expected and planned for. The only reason they don't exist now is the manufacturers don't want to piss off the people who got hosed by the joke that is 3G.

      Which just opens up an opportunity for someone else.
      • The band isn't regulated, so you can do what you want. They have to accept interference from your 2.4Ghz devices.. soo.. read between the lines if you're spiteful.

        I believe that same law states your device can not cause interference to other devices also. Not that a law could actually prevent interference.

        I would venture to say that if this ever did catch on, the rules would be changed to protect the business that is profiting from it. The FCC did the same thing with frequecies that are currently used by pagers, cordless phones, and cell phones. Since the invention of radio wave broadcasts these allocated frequencies were open to monitoring from the public. Big companies came along and made a conscience effort to roll services using insecure unencrypted cell phones and pagers in these regions. To protect their business and promote a false sense of security the government passed laws to make it illegal to listen to these bands and added to the law several times to prevent equipment from even recieving these bands. So, after the fact the government stepped in to protect the business cash flow. What used to be open and free to recieve was taken away.
        • I believe that same law states your device can not cause interference to other devices also. Not that a law could actually prevent interference.

          Your interference is my modulation scheme. Notice I'm not arguing the ethics of that point.

          Well, the right to listen to cellular conversations wasn't taken away in my country. Of course, I can copy music legally here, too. Nor was the equipment to recieve 800mhz made illegal. It is illegal to tell people about what you hear though, only fair, I guess. YMMV. Fix your legal system, or elect people who listen. Or something.

          802.11 is unique in that it is the first time consumers have had access to a fast, flexible, inexpensive and high bandwith wireless communications medium. That just hasn't ever happened before. I've been a ham radio operator since I was 13 - the concept of being able to walk into Staples and buy a 10mbit/s spread spectrum transciever in a PCMCIA form factor for $100 would have seemed impossible 10 years ago. No wonder people are doing crazy stuff with it.

          I would venture to say that if this ever did catch on, the rules would be changed to protect the business that is profiting from it.

          Normally I jump right on the conspiracy bandwagon, but not in this case. People are making a LOT of money selling 802.11 gear. Those people will protect that right - and just like the RIAA and CD players, once a "good enough" technology hits critical mass, it takes on a life of it's own. Tell Joe Sixpack that he can't watch football's greatest compound fractures on DVD anymore and he needs a new player, he'll be e^unhappy. Same thing applies to 802.11 - it's not the best technology, but it's hit, or very near to hitting critical mass.

          802.11 is a potentially disruptive technology that has a lot of people in the wireless telecom industry very worried. I'm not sure they can do very much about it though - 2.4Ghz is the wild west of radio, world wide. It isn't good for much besides 802.11 like schemes because of interference and noise, or so goes the theory. It's a completely different issue than with the cellular monitoring - that got through because politicians were sick of getting caught talking to their interns over cell. hehe.

          My $0.02 (cdn).
      • The band isn't regulated, so you can do what you want.

        First of all, it's not unregulated; like any form of wireless, there are already lots of regulations that affect its use. For example, you can't build a 5 MW transmitter in the 2.4GHz band.

        Second, my point is that it should be regulated more because if it isn't, there will be no band left for the purposes that this band was intended for.

        That is, if the 2.4GHz and 5GHz start getting used for providing wireless services, you can kiss your corporate and home wireless networking infrastructure "good-bye": companies like IBM and AT&T have deep enough pockets to deploy enough access points to make any other use of 802.11 infeasible.

        We need bands for home networking, wireless LANs, local wireless phones, and other in-house services. 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands are it, and other uses of those bands will interfere with their intended use. If it becomes a free-for-all, the intended use will lose out. And that's particularly unfair because those bands really only became economically interesting to wireless service providers after demand by consumers and businesses for equipment has driven the prices down so much.

        If 802.11 is a viable way of providing commercial wireless services, the right solution would be for the FCC to allocate neighboring bands to such services and have providers pay for the use of those bands. That way, they can use essentially the same equipment, and they won't be interfering with the intended uses.

    • you worry, as do I:

      I think whenever spectrum like that used for 802.11b/a is assigned, the FCC should prohibit people from selling services based on it--users that sell services should buy their own spectrum. Otherwise, such companies will just take over what was supposed to be a public resource.

      Why not just liberate the rest of the specturm? It's all fine and dandy that someone wants to build an infrastructure and charge for it, so long as the rest of us are free to offer service as well. Why would someone pay for rainbow when they could get free service? The most disturbing thing about all this is that the prime movers are large monopoly interests that have abused their position before. Let these turkeys have 2.4 GHz and give the rest of us 5 and above.

      You know, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is only half the story. The other end of the thing collects quarters from gutters, under people's couches and places like that. With economic conditions the way they are, the rainbow has taken to mugging people. I was struck by one the other day and I'm afraid it will happen again.

      • Why not just liberate the rest of the specturm?

        Why don't we just give up on urban plannning and let everybody build where they want? Why don't we just get rid of the police or military and let everybody defend themselves? Maybe you'd like to live that way, but most societies figured out that government is better than anarchy.

        Why would someone pay for rainbow when they could get free service?

        If people start using 802.11b for providing commercial services in a big way, there won't be any free service anymore because the bandwidth will be used up. That's exactly the problem.

  • Scary Implementation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Spencerian ( 465343 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:47AM (#4826456) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing more scary to me than dealing with companies that aren't renowned for their technology flexibility (despite the point that AT&T owns the UNIX brand).

    I'm worried that this idea may generate standards that support the larger (though not necessarily better) Microsoft technologies than others. Not everyone wants to run Windows to interface to a wireless network. If you're running a UNIX, your operating system will likely have stronger security that the proposed technologies that some networks expect your OS to support, such as encryption keys.

    Don't get me wrong. I support the idea. However, it's the implementation that scares me.
    • FYI:
      AT&T sold UNIX to Novell...

      UNIX was split into three parts upon leaving Novell. The UNIX trademark was transferred to an industry consortium, the X/Open group, (now just The Open Group) for certifying UNIX implementations as standard. The source base was sold to Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) who sold SVR4 on Intel hardware alongside their traditional Xenix-like SCO-UNIX offering. Hewlett-Packard got the operating system laboratory, which became mired in internal politics when asked to design the eventual replacement for HP's UNIX, HP-UX. Eventually the remaining employees were absorbed into the broader HP Corporation.

      • Thanks for the two corrections. It does make matters scarier since we're really looking at the potential for some half-assed business oriented technologies that are a pain to implement at home or require a lame OS to handle.
    • AT&T does not own the UNIX "brand". The UNIX trademark has belonged to the Open Group for more than a decade.
  • by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:48AM (#4826458) Homepage Journal
    I just got mail from a friend in Taiwan who says:
    "you know, everyone has a cell phone here, it is so nice to use those GSM phone compare to US, you can always switch to a different phone company by plug in a different smart card on the phone"

    Maybe the US doesn't need a single giant wireless monopoly?

    • by ShavenYak ( 252902 ) <`ten.retrahc' `ta' `3htimsb'> on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:05AM (#4826570) Homepage
      You maight want to tell your friend that there are GSM phones in the US as well. T-Mobile (formerly Voicestream (formerly Powertel)) and Cingular are both GSM, and I think there are some smaller carriers as well.
      • Voicestream (at least in the northeast) was formerly Omnipoint.
  • We all participate in making the world into whatever we want it to be. I, for one, will continue to participate in and support the free, community options.

    There is no reason there can't be nationwide wireless availability without the oversight of corporate greed.

    And besides, as far as visionary thinking goes these days, isn't "nationwide" a little small? I should think world-wide cooperation is a more worthy challenge...
  • coming "soon" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lt Razak ( 631189 )
    "The company plans offices in San Francisco and New York. The initial board will consist of Brilliant, Schell, and Robin Murray, general partner at 3i. Intel will have a non-voting board observer status."

    For some reason, I feel like it'll NEVER get outside those 2 metros.

    Nothing good ever does. It's always...starting in Dallas, starting in L.A. 1TB cd's coming out "sometime next year".

    I'd rather wait for teleportation devices to be invented before I see something like this roll out. What's next, 3G ruins it all?

  • Doesn't this seem like a bid by AT&T to get some real money and muscle behind its waning wireless dept. And what really, besides money (granted, a lot of it), do IBM and Intel bring to the table? They are not making the better phone or building the better infrastructure - unless they start completely over. Isn't this just an attempt to build a better mousetrap, before the first one is quite finished. That is, though 3G has been slow to come to fruition, the technology is there, and it has been a money issue really. Consumers don't really want to adopt an expensive 2.5g solution when they are being bombarded with 3G this and 3G that, next week, next month, next quarter, etc. But this will all get straightened out soon enough, far sooner than this supposed one-logon, one-service, seamless nonsense will happen. I understand AT&T and co. wanting to get a piece of the 3G action that might not otherwise be coming their way, but this is a futile effort.
    • You asked:

      And what really, besides money (granted, a lot of it), do IBM and Intel bring to the table?

      The article says:

      AT&T will provide network infrastructure and management, while IBM will provide wireless site installations and back-office systems. Cometa is also working closely with Intel, and Cometa President and CEO Dr. Lawrence B. Brilliant said the company will deploy Intel's forthcoming wireless-specific processor, code-named Banias, after Intel launches the chip in the first half of 2003.

    • They're different companies. AT&T sells voice and data services to businesses and consumers, including Internet dial and backbone. AT&T Wireless is a cell phone company that AT&T used to own, which still gets to license the Death Star logo. According to the press releases, in this project, it appears that AT&T is providing the internet infrastructure to the people who are managing the hotspots.
  • by commbat ( 50622 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:48AM (#4826467) Homepage
    My house! I'll only charge them $500.00 a month plus unlimited access.

  • Waaah (Score:4, Funny)

    by Junky191 ( 549088 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:48AM (#4826472)
    Blah blah corporate rule take over the world why isn't everything free blah blah evil empire conspiracy.

    • Thank you, someone had to say that. If they get this up and running I'll probably be one of their first accounts.
    • Boo-hoo! The once set asside for experimentation and microwave oven frequency is going to be Borged and clogged by abusers of other frequencies so that no one can offer free services over it. Boo-hoo! Your wireless network will be jammed by some dumb ass who's suckered into paying by the minute for the service just like ATT wanted. Boo-hoo! I paid for it to happen by subscribing to cell phone service. Boo-hoo! You are a slave, have a nice day and send your infrastructure tax to ATT today.

      Yes, it sucks that only optical and ham radio will be left for free networks but that's the way current US law is rigged. Unless the entire specturm is freed, you are about to see an atrificial tradgedy of the commons. As changing those laws would "disrupt the economy" of a few large companies and create a real free elctronic press that can't be co-opted and influenced by the federal govenrment, expect no changes.


    • "Blah blah corporate rule take over the world why isn't everything free blah blah evil empire conspiracy."

      Yeah. It sucks when a company ambitiously sets out to provide a service that people really want, and then has the nerve to charge money for it. Heh. Damn them!!
    • Because they're taking over spectrum that is designated for consumer use and pushing consumer-run free networks out of the loop.

      And they're not paying a dime for it. They're stealing YOUR spectrum and MY spectrum, and then SELLING it back to us. Think about that for one minute... and if you're *still* not outraged, clearly you haven't thought it through very well.

  • Seems to me that AT&T has less than steller user opinion ratings (i viewed for a general view, or you can just input at&t user reviews into any search engine). I doubt seriously that the service will be implemented smoothly at all, and I expect the same types of problems that I encountered when DSL and Cable broadband hit the streets. So great...another huge corporate conglomerate trying to blanket the nation with service. Yippee skippy. I'm moving to Mars.
    • So great...another huge corporate conglomerate trying to blanket the nation with service
      What, you think a mom-and-pop is going to provide nationwide wireless service?

      This stuff costs money. Lots. Where is it going to come from?

      If you think you can do it better, please do, otherwise, think before you spout.
  • 2.??GHz - Nuke 'em! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by giel ( 554962 )

    Personally I don't like the idea of big companies providing nationwide WiFi access. In the Netherlands there are a number of local initiatives working on WiFi access in a number of cities, and I'd hate to see the hard work of these people being spoiled by big telco's or ISP's...
    The question more or less is can one prevent them from doing so?

    My guess is yes...
    The frequencies on which Wi-Fi networking is based are free to the public, right? So anyone can use them, right? It appears to me that the frequencies used for WiFi are near those of microwaves (2.??GHz), so my guess is perhaps one could 'nuke' such a network with a slightly modified microwave...

    • Constructive. no really.

      seriously, while I see your point about it being a shame to squash 'the little guy' - the big-bad corporate behemoths are the only ones with the muscle to pull off a network on the scale the article talks about.

      Besides which I don't quite see how this network would "spoil" those small co-operative nets you're talking about, they're free right? this isn't, so people who want free access and are prepared to live with the limitations of a local scale use the litlle guys' free nets, people who want national (or better yet, international!) roaming, cough up the subscription and use the big-bad corporations' commercial net.

      see, no need to incinerate yourself modifying your combination grill, so put the spanner down before you take someone's eye out ;)

    • by phil reed ( 626 )
      My home 802.11b network is affected by my new 2.4 GHz cordless phone - if I use the phone next to my laptop (with an Orinoco card), the laptop doesn't communicate until the phone is turned off.

      That's the problem with an unlicensed band - you can't complain when you get interference from other users.

      I just thought of another problem. The 2.4GHz band used by 802.11b overlaps a ham radio band, and the ham radio users are licensed for their band. The hams might get pissy. A legal ham radio transmitter could pretty well wipe out a significant area's wireless comms.
      • by redfenix ( 456698 )
        The 2.4 GHz area is at least 1/2 allocated to Amateur Radio [] (for now at least, remember 220 and 11m?)

        All modes and licensees (except Novices) are authorized on the following bands [FCC Rules, Part 97.301(a)]:

        2300-2310 MHz
        2390-2450 MHz

      • The hams might get pissy.

        And this is a change, how?

      • Actualy the HAM's are liscenced for a whole lot more power in that band. They could easly key over a channel of 802.11b and AT&T would have to suck it as they must accept all interference. Now most HAM's wouldent intentialy do this (unlike the CB crew) but some will and the legal department of AT&T I'm sure will start sending out nasty grams and trying to get the FCC to knock on peoples doors looking for there HAM liscence.
        • "Now most HAM's wouldent intentialy do this (unlike the CB crew) but some will and the legal department of AT&T I'm sure will start sending out nasty grams and trying to get the FCC to knock on peoples doors looking for there HAM liscence."

          When you become a HAM Radio Operator, the first second and third rule is "do not jam". They make sure to burn the idea into your brain that you are not to intentionally disrupt other people's transmissions.

          The reason that most HAMs wouldn't intentionally jam a signal like that is that the FCC will fine the living hell out of them. Not just that, but the HAM community seriously frowns on that type of behaviour.
  • Didn't slashdot JUST post a few articles whining about how the cable companies have a hold on the broadband market and there isn't enough competition? Come on.
  • EMF (Score:2, Funny)

    Does anyone else worry about all these signals in the airwaves? Cell phones, Wi-Fi, Sattelite communications.

    Soon I'll have to put aluminum foil all around my body, and not just my head.

    • Does anyone else worry about all these signals in the airwaves? Cell phones, Wi-Fi, Sattelite communications. Soon I'll have to put aluminum foil all around my body, and not just my head.

      Funny you mention that. Recently I found out about this device called a "radio". This "radio" thing can "tune in" these neat things called "stations" - and I can actually listen to music on these so called "stations".

      (Unfortunately most of them want to blast me with Britney Spears or other such nonsese and seem to be controlled by some secret organization code named "Clear Channel", but that's another story.)

      Not only are there these "stations" but they also seem to be divided into "bands", something called AM and FM. They are futher split into "frequencies". It seems the air is full of these "radio waves" which I can use my "radio" to pickup pretty well anywhere. I'm told these waves belong to a big soup of 'em called a "spectrum". I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds like there is a whole lot of different types of these things and they are all over the place! Imagine that! I've even heard about an even newer technology called "Broadcast Television"...

      Joking aside, it's also interesting to note that anyone using an electric hair dryer is exposed to far more ELF radiation in a few minutes then they are sitting in front of a monitor all day.

      Ionizing radiation is what you need to be afraid of... unless you are really close the the transmission source.

  • I can buy it from them in 2005 at pennies on the dollar!

  • by PureFiction ( 10256 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:05AM (#4826569)
    Who else do you know with a mobile wifi hotspot van []?
  • by zentec ( 204030 ) <zentec AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:06AM (#4826573)

    The larger issue as I see it is that here's yet another large corporation guzzling up RF spectrum and leaving nothing for anyone else.

    AT&T has a penchant for loading spectrum auctions with seemingly small outfits that they support, and when one of them wins spectrum it (surprise!) ends up in the hands of AT&T.

    If the FCC were truly concerned about competition in the broadband market, they'd carve off two or three UHF television channels and start printing licenses for their use by small companies wanting to be WISPs. These channels would be expressly off-limits to incumbent telcos and wireless outfits.

    Picking something between 500 mHz and 1 gHz will allow the users to have a reasonable chance of overcoming losses due to foliage and weather. Existing FHSS (frequency hopping spread spectrum) technology can be used, and speeds well over 500 kbs are easily attainable, yet the range is upwards of 5 miles.

    Of course, that'll never happen as small businesses are completely unable to swing the required $70,000 campaign donation to those legislators sitting on the FCC's appropriations committee.

    Disgraceful, really.
    • There are roughly three companies out there with AT&T Death Star logos attached to them. AT&T Wireless is a cell phone company, which was originally McCaw before AT&T bought it for a while. AT&T Broadband was the cable TV business, which AT&T just spun off and sold to Comcast. AT&T (just "AT&T", aka "AT&T Inc", aka "T") is the part of the old Bell System that's really still AT&T, and sells voice and data services to businesses and consumers, including lots of Internet dialup and a big Internet backbone. As near as I can tell from all the press releases, this part of AT&T is providing infrastructure to Cometa.

      AT&T Wireless gets involved in spectrum auctions, but 802.11 isn't something that's auctioned off - it's non-licensed spectrum that anybody can use. (Most of the auctions have been for cellphone frequency bands.) AT&T does use some radio spectrum as well - mostly point-to-point digital radio used for infrastructure in low-density nasty-terrain places like South Utah where it doesn't pay to run fiber, and 38GHz microwave access circuits (typically T3 or OC3), which can be cheaper than local fiber loops, and are good diversity options for backing up fiber.

      I agree with you that there's a major need for spectrum that isn't controlled by creativity-limiting FCC monopoly control, but I think your ideas of limiting who can use it are a mistake. Making more spectrum available to the public is a big win.

  • why not? (Score:2, Insightful)

    If they do a good job and don't charge too much for it and don't throw in bandwidth caps.. I say good.

    Getting a free network up and running costs too much. I just hope they don't try and punish the hobbyists for their forward thinking (cough Apple, Microsoft, IBM).

  • This may actually help free net growth by keeping leechers from flooding the community systems while they are still not strong enough to hold the weight. I'll certainly still offer and use free wireless access but may use the nation wide network when am traveling and just wanting normal net access.
  • the red zones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:15AM (#4826631) Homepage Journal
    --once again the red zones are being ignored. Take away whether or not this conglomerate bid for nation wide wireless is a good idea in general, the bottom line is ONCE AGAIN technology is not being planned to be deployed over vast areas of 'the nation". Last I knew "the nation" was the sum total of everywhere, not "just" the core urban areas that already have bunches of broadband options compared to 90% of the rest of the nation.

    Enoughs enough, we managed to get electric wires to homes all over, then we got copper telephone wires, next step is fiber optics everywhere or cable. Wireless with competing products and frequencies and etc, swell, but for true nation wide broadband (commercial that is) we just need to put hardwires every place electric lines go.

    To answer in advance who should do it? That's easy, the government MANDATES that the old monopolies who made billions and billions and billions of dollars over the generations "do it", they take some of that profit and put it back.That's ATT, the baby bells and the off shoots now. The right of ways already exist, the telephone poles already exist. They either add on to what's there or replace the twisted pair, one or the other or both. I just don't want to hear they don't have the money. I remember one time I was installing modular office walls in an ATT building north metro atlanta, an entire building, a big one, that was being upgraded then sat EMPTY unused. I even asked, "why are we here, why is this company doing this, why did they build this building and do all this work to not use it?" Obvious millions of bucks being spent. I asked our ATT "tour guide" who was there to oversee us sub contractor workers. No rational answer, the ATT dude didn't know or wouldn't say. Nuts. Cable monopolies granted in city after city after city across the US, but they aren't required to deliver cable everywhere in those cities, just wherever they felt like it. Nuts. Same companies way back then claimed you woukld pay for cable and be commercial-free. Nuts.

    I agree with the other poster, people need ad-hoc personal wireless and mesh networks and by pass these monopolies, by pass the government, by pass echelon and carnivore and whatever other voodoo censorship command and control nonsense is coming down the pike, by pass the commercial offerings. You can smell what's coming, an internet totally pay-per view for every byte with complex "packages" and pricing scams like what has happened with cell phones and cable TV. Maybe that would work, I don't know, but something has to be done to get broadband all over, not just core concentrated dense metro areas.
    • If you always have internet access "within five minutes" then it is possible for various people to deploy free(beer); or commercial solutions which link to it and provide last mile service, including (but not limited to) laser and point to point 802.11.

      In fact you can often have a single high-gain antenna (see: pringles can) pointed at the non-focussed antenna on the other end and extend range by a couple miles. You can only get one or two megabits this way but how much bandwidth are you planning to buy from AT&T anyway?

  • 802 Plant (Score:2, Funny)

    by redfenix ( 456698 )
    '802 Plant reports'

    I'd like to have one of those, does it have a usb port?
  • by Jasin Natael ( 14968 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:33AM (#4826746)
    802.11 a/b band is allocated for *consumer* use. If this is how consumers want the frequency to be used, so be it. I, for one, can see a large demand for nationwide broadband, especially wireless. At the moment, broadband users can't even dial up to their ISP over the phone from the road, much less get broadband access to their account from a moving vehicle or a foreign city.

    It just boils down to the fact that consumers will have to vote with their dollars to say how they want this (their) bandwidth to be used.

    And, for all the /. hopefuls out there, maybe this will serve as a good case-in-point to prove to the FCC that companies don't have to *own* frequencies to be able to do business on them. If we can convince them of this, it could still be possible to fix some of the FCC's biggest mistakes :)
    • Ok, so you think that it's perfectly acceptable for them to STEAL spectrum that belongs to YOU and belongs to ME (remember, they're not paying a dime for it), and then SELL it back to us at a PREMIUM PRICE?

      Wow, have you been suckered.

  • by mcdade ( 89483 )
    This seems more like the biggies don't want to be left out of the race as Dayton Skye (earthlink guy) is rolling out his Boingo network ( I think.. could be .com). He's doing some pay service for wireless networks. If an national ISP also had AP's in good public places (airports and such) I would think of switching to them just for that fact. How many times would it have been nice to get access to the net while sitting at an airport termainal.
  • This is exactly One of Those Things I'd Pay For (tm). While I see the greatness of a free network, I probably won't see one unless I travel a few hundred miles.

    Unfortunately, I'll probably get small fee'd to annoyance, but hey, I'll have net access at my run-down hotel in the country.

    That vision would allow every Internet user in the U.S. to access their existing accounts wirelessly, anywhere in the United States, without changing their accounts or service providers.

    Sure, it's early, it may be hot air, but I say "Go IBM! This is exactly what I want!" rather than wish death upon Big Business....
  • Oh come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by johnburton ( 21870 ) <> on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:41AM (#4826820) Homepage
    An article that someone is going to build what will probably be a really useful wireless network on a scale that will actually make it useful and all that half the posters on here can do is whine that it won't be free. Well of course it won't be. There is no such thing as free wireless internet access. Only access that somebody else is paying for. Either because they feel generous, or because they hope you'll spend your money on something else. Will all the posters whining about this please go and build this free network that they are talking about. I expect it to be a great sucess once it's build and working.
    • Re:Oh come on... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sstidman ( 323182 )
      I must have missed the posts where people were demanding free wireless Internet access. I think the dominent concern here, a concern shared by myself, is that if AT&T, Sprint, Nextel, T-Mobile, MCI/Worldcom, AOL, Verizon, Cox, Comcast, Earthlink, Erols, Speakeasy, XO Communications, MAE Dulles, Network Access Solutions, QWest, Covad, not to mention the large number of small Internet and DSL service providers and all the extremely small businesses (i.e. run/owned by the neighborhood geek) each have their 802.11a/b wireless access points close to my home, then the interference from the overwhelming number of WAPs will make it difficult or even impossible for me to setup my own WAP. My WAP connects to the DSL line that I pay for, so I am not asking for free Internet access. I just like the idea tht I can go anywhere in my home and connect wirelessly to the Internet. It would be shameful if the FCC permitted these companies to hog all the bandwidth and squeeze me out.
  • by lopati ( 74873 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:43AM (#4826833) Homepage
    IBM has said they want to turn computing into a utility (kind of like how the the weather simulations were conducted in "permutation city" :) so having a nation-wide wireless network (alongside its global services division) seems like just another step down the road... to world domination, j/k!

    ironically tho, the very idea of mimicking a utility would appear to make government (federal, state or municipal) more suited to its delivery -- like how the road and highway system is administered in the US or perhaps a pseudo-public venture like the US postal service, which still leaves room for private competition.

    the altruistically anarchic model for wireless network expansion is ideal and i hope it continues! but it's naive to think private entities would be content to provide equipment (as literally shareware) for an emerging wireless network and not seek to run (and monetize) them.

    local, state or federal government i think would be wise to take the initiative and make sure providing computing utility does not become an entirely private venture (they might even contract with cometa :) as well as take steps to protect personal and community networks already existing.
  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <> on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:43AM (#4826834)
    First, 802.11b has some problems with security. That's number one. Second, there are some real problems with what they are going to have to do to make it work. If they make no changes to hardware, they are just begging to be hacked. My guess is they won't run encryption and they will have some sort of webpage that automagically loads when you hit the AP asking for a web page (this is what Wayport does). Second, free AP's setup by home users and others are all over the place and already occupying a channel (probably channel 6 as that's a common default). There is not enough channels to make this work on 802.11b. It will almost have to be a bastardized version of it or maybe 802.11g (running in 5 GHz). In either of these, because of the frequencies used, the range will suck unless you exceed the power limit set by the standard. I just don't see this being used as cell phones are used today. It would be nice and I SURE AS HELL WOULD PAY for it because I love wireless. Being able to browse on my PDA on the bus or train would be wonderful. Is it feasible? Well, if you have as deep of pockets as AT&T the answer would be maybe but my answer would be no.
  • Sticky Situation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Waab ( 620192 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @11:49AM (#4826874) Homepage


    It seems to me that these companies might be wandinging into a bit of a legal gray area by trying to offer pay services based on spectrum that has been set aside for free public use. I can't imagine the FCC allowing Clear Channel [] to throw up a stick and start broadcasting a commercial signal below the 92 MHz mark on your FM dial.

    Of course, if the portion of the spectrum used by 802.11 a/b isn't specifically stamped "Non-Commercial Use Only", then I don't see how AT&T et al. can be stopped.

    I guess the major question is: "Does the fact that the public has the right to use a given resource for free preclude individuals/corporations from packaging and selling that resource?" I would say as long as Ma Bell's nationwide WiFi network doesn't keep you from using a free WiFi network, then AT&T's in the clear.

    Now, will people want to pay for something they could get for free? Of course they would. How else has Micro$oft stayed in business for so long?

    • iirc, the only limitation on 2.4gHz/802.11b frequencies is that your transmitter can't be over a certain wattage and it has to accept interference.

      that would mean at&t can do whatever they like, so long as they don't mind that my wireless phone stomps all over their customers.
  • Who drew the customer service stick? All of these corps. have awefull service.

    Me: Um, im not getting a signal here, is there an outage?

    Att: No, it's your computer.

    Me: You don't understand, im on a mac, it doesn't break.

    Att: we don't support macs, linux boxes or even sun machines for that matter. Not that I know what any of those are, i just read what they tell me.

    Me: What? Your not trained to trouble-shoot a wireless network?

    Att: No they fired all of the actuall computer-people in early 2002, thanks God, they stunk... Anything else I can help you with?

    Me: Um... no, I gues not...

    Att: thanks, have a good day...
  • Small towns lose (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dethl ( 626353 )
    I live in a small town (25k people)...We have DSL, and wireless internet options, but the prices are outrageous, $100 to install a wireless antenna and $50/month. For the DSL, you have to pay $20/month to a local ISP for an ip address, and another $30/month to the DSL provider (the DSL modem is an additional $150!)...there needs to be competition for broadband as well as access to it.
    • My small town has a telco co-op. We're not part of the evil rural telcos which prevent the use of satellite services, however (thank goodness).

      Nonetheless, the one telco owns both the phone and cable company. As a result, we get DSL only with no hope of ever having a competing cable-internet provider. The area is mountainous andthe population small enough that WiFi is not particularly feasable.

      It's $19 for the ISP, and $25 for the dsl line, which I don't find outrageous. A $99 setup fee, fully refundable for 30 days, got me the DSL modem, 2 filters, and all the setup help I needed. I'm just lucky that my co-op is reasonable, but they could be real asses about it. I'm about 16,000' from the switch and peak above 550kb down.

      I suppose a wifi in my area might work, though the cell towers near me give marginal, analog-only cell coverage. Driving five minutes gets me to the end of my driveway...and the bottom of a valley...and I probably wouldn't want to do all of my online work from five minutes away from my home anyway.

    • Look, if you were using dial in most of the US, you'd be paying $20/month for the ISP, and nearly $20 for a second phone line, once you count all the state taxes, federal taxes, AlGoreUniversalServiceFund taxes, and such. $50 for a much faster connection isn't a bad deal. (I'm paying $59.) In bigger markets, there's lots of competition for the ISP part of the business.
  • My aunt and uncle live outside of Rapid City South Dakota and they have no ways of gettings internet access other then the ol 56k. They can not get sat service, DSL, Cable, or anything of the sorts. They are not insanely far out, just up the road a bit and you can see Rapid from their house. My grandmother lives in Arlington, KS. Its about 45 minutes from Wichita. She has no cell phone coverage out there. None. No TDMA no nothing. Neither of these two people will probably be able to receive this NATION WIDE coverage. Sine when did putting something in NYC and LA mean nationwide coverage? I hear shows say they broadcast coast-to-coast yet I know there are places they do not broadcast to. Heck, with some shows you couldnt even drive across the country and hear them every step of the way, yet they are coast to coast.

    Sigh - just a bleep on the advertisement radar
  • I've been predicting a Navi/SE Lain like universal network for some time. I wasn't really expecting though for another 5-7 years. Of course it may take that long to work out the bugs.

    Viva la Lain!

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal