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The Internet The Almighty Buck

Joltage Powers Down 104

jbyter writes "Wi-Fi service provider Joltage sent a e-mail to subscribers that read "It is with regret that I am writing to inform you that Joltage will be discontinuing its Wi-Fi subscriber and provider services effective at the end of this month." This could have been very cool, but due to economy and lack of subscriber participation they are no longer able to finance their operations." Too bad -- this sounded like a good idea. The Joltage homepage isn't much help -- it's in place, but content-free. Any other Joltage customers who can comment on this?
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Joltage Powers Down

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  • not meant to be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jwdeff ( 629221 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:53PM (#5315597) Homepage
    For this to be popular, they would need some serious market saturation. I'm not going to try to find a joltage provider in my area, just for the 1/1000 chance to get cheaper bandwidth.

    And the people selling their excess bandwidth would probably be breaking their agreement with their internet service provider.

    It was just not meant to be.
    • Re:not meant to be (Score:3, Informative)

      by Patrick13 ( 223909 )
      The Joltage homepage isn't much help -- it's in place, but content-free. Any other Joltage customers who can comment on this?

      Well, the google cache [216.239.51.100] still has the old home page, and from their all the navigation still appears to function, including the registration page etc.

      It makes me chuckle when a site only kills the homepage. How hard is it to move the whole site to a new directory, assuming you want to discourage visitors from seeing old content?
    • In order to get at the top and note important things.

      AT&T intel and such are doing Cometa Networks, planning for 20,000 hotspots by the end of 2002.

      Cometa Networks [cometanetworks.com]

      Argh. Saturate this.

      The joltage system was a little fucked, they didn't have routers which could log access, you had to have two routers, aka DSL or Cable Modem, then router (i like blocking access on 1434 and such), then puter, then access point... this requires puter on all the time. Most dont leave their puter on this much. Boingo doesn't require a puter on but costs like 700 bucks!!!

      boingo [boingo.com]
  • by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:54PM (#5315599) Homepage Journal
    No doubt a large part of the problem is that it is illegal to redistribute your broadband to people that haven't paid for it, as it should be -- the terms by which cable/DSL are sold are necessary to keep the costs down and the service available to subscribers. The ISPs aren't budgeting for our slack times to be used by 'passers-by'.
    • by jericho4.0 ( 565125 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:01PM (#5315641)
      I understand that ISP's need to have such TOS to be able to provide service in the first place, but the concept still seems wrong to me.

      When I buy bandwidth, I expect to be able to do anything I please with that bandwidth. As it is, common TOS are holding back internet development. I see a day coming when every appliance has an IP (_not_ NATed), and every person is a content provider. That's what the 'net promises and they better deliver.

      • by jwdeff ( 629221 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:14PM (#5315693) Homepage
        It's all about costs. A T1 line costs a helluva lot of money for 1.5 mbps bandwidth. My cable modem downloads at 1.5 mbps. Why is the T1 so much more expensive? How it is used and licensed.

        In an ideal world, we would all get as much bandwidth as the physical lines could carry, but we'd only pay for what we'd use. That way, even casual internet users could download things faster, but not pay as much as hardcore pirates and business users, who use more bandwidth.

        It would provide a better experience for everyone, and better reflect costs.

        To expand on this idea, perhaps have evening and weekend bandwidth cheaper, so we can all fight the RIAA the only way we can :-)

        (notes: I'm aware that a cable modem has less upload speed than a T1 line, i'm just illustrating a point. Also I'm aware that most /. readers wouldn't like this plan, since they probably use more bandwidth than average and would therefore pay more.)
        • In most areas, T1 service is a tarriffed service, meaning that there are fairly explicit descriptions of what a customer can expect - response time, universal availability, etc...

          I do love 802.11 for the ability to take my laptop around my house.. but honestly I have been rather underwhelmed by the performance. I've used both 802.11a and b, a couple of different brands of each. Realistically, I have found my distance limitation to be perhaps 25-60 feet, in both residential and commercial settings.

          My bed is 29 feet from my access point, and has a line-of-sight to it. Still, I get only 40% signal. Throughput with 802.11b is maybe 2mb/s... with 802.11a, it's an eye-popping 40mb/s! but alas, if I move to my wife's side of the bed, the bandwidth dropps off significantly. How am I supposed to evaluate these results when I am duct taped to a BED???

          sigh.. What we do in the name of progress!

          • How am I supposed to evaluate these results when I am duct taped to a BED???

            News flash: 802.11 found to be poor choice for victims of home invasions

            -a
          • my puter was in the dining room (suspicious parents) and thats about 40 ft (including about 3 or 4 walls) and i got 100 signals. it did go down when mom ran the microwave which was right through the wall from me. Then i switched from channel 6 to 3 and the signal got loads better. Odd, hurumph?

            <a href="http://www.planet-80211.com">Planet 802.11</a>
        • The price of a T1 connection is NOT ENTIRELY related to bandwidth usage! People don't seem to know what comes with a T1, so I'll repeat:
          1) 24/7 service ON SITE - costs a WHOLE LOT to provide. Ever tried to have that for a residential service?

          2) EXTRA SHORT waiting time when calling support: man I liked it when the tech (a real one, not an unqualified human-bot reading a script) answered before the third ring!
          3) 24/7 monitoring of your connection BY THE PROVIDER. You are sleeping, the line goes down, they are the ones who see it and take actions before you can know it.
          4) Free router, dedicated line installation, etc, etc
          Bandwidth is not that expensive, especially nights and weekends(when most of the residential users are online).

          IANATE (I Am Not A Telco Employee), but I have used their commercial services, so I know what a business line really is.

          • I've only dealt with MCI and UU net for T1s (before they were merged), and this was 2 years ago, so others' experience may vary. Although my experience as a client extends only to reseller lines, we had T1 business customers, and I kept tabs on other companies selling T1s to business customers.
            1) 24/7 service ON SITE - costs a WHOLE LOT to provide. Ever tried to have that for a residential service?
            HELLZ NO. Anything beyond basic phone service is a separate agreement, and added cost. This is true for most business lines too, though again providers will throw it in as a "value added service".
            2) EXTRA SHORT waiting time when calling support: man I liked it when the tech (a real one, not an unqualified human-bot reading a script) answered before the third ring!
            I'd have to wait 10 minutes calling UU Net, and the people at MCI didn't know T1s as well as they should have. Both had mostly foreign people whom I could barely understand.
            3) 24/7 monitoring of your connection BY THE PROVIDER. You are sleeping, the line goes down, they are the ones who see it and take actions before you can know it.
            When I started working at this company, one of the 2 T1 lines had been down for SEVERAL WEEKS. People assumed it was a problem with MRTG, but it was in fact down. The provider did nothing. You can buy monitoring for most business lines at an added cost, or again it will be included as a "value-added service".
            4) Free router, dedicated line installation, etc, etc
            HELLLZ no on the free router. Perhaps some providers will do it, but even factoring out the router cost T1s are more expensive than cable modems by orders of magnitude. Line install can be a separate line item or be absorbed into the monthly bill.

            Even with all of the forementioned services factored out of the cost of a T1, it is still more expensive by orders of magnitude. If you would like more evidence of the cost of bandwidth, find the price of UU.net's burstable lines compared to their tiered lines. Also find the cost of business DSL offering T1 speeds.

      • than a Cuisinart.

        And the day my coffee grinder has an IP address is the day I start grinding my coffee with a mortor and pestle.

        I require my fridge to keep my food cold. That's it's job. To hold it's interior at a certain temperature. It's *my* job to select that temperature, as well as what goes in my fridge, and when.

        The internet is a wonderful tool for dispersing information ( but not the only one, and only sometimes the best one).

        It's a lousy tool for making toast, and the logic needed to do so is easily included in the toaster, where it belongs. And I sure as hell don't want to give my toaster the ability to ask me if I wouldn't really like to have some genuine Welch's Brand Grape Jelly with my toast.

        Spam is bad enough as it is.

        As for *everyone* being a content provider, if that includes the moron down the street, and his entire moron family. . . why? What's the point, either to me or *him*?

        KFG
        • Yeah! And the day my car tells me where to drive is the day I start walking!

          Oh... actually that day is here... and it's useful.
        • Yeah.. there are those who never thought we'd need a computer on every desk.

          You only give one reason for networking a fridge.. temperature regulation. But I can think of several others, and I'm sure others can think of dozens more. Imagine a fridge that automatically catalogued it's contents. You're at the grocery store, and you can't remember whether you have enough sour cream or whatever.. boom, your Bluetooth enabled PDA sends a request to your fridge back home, and you find out you do need more. What if your fridge could even provide stats on your food consumption, maybe even an ability to order new food when you need it.

          Yeah, you may not want it.. that's fine.

          As for everyone being a content provider.. well, if it's uninteresting content, you just don't read it.. that's what google is for. But the way many ISPs are setup now, you can't serve content even if you wanted to, which is the fundamental issue here. You may not want to serve content, but you should have the right to.

          Josh
      • Right, and "all you can eat" restaurants are promoting world hunger because they don't let you bring 12 friends along to eat from your plate of food that you paid for and you should be able to do anything you want with.

        The ISPs go under the assumption that not all of their subscribers are not going to be maxed out 24x7. If that changes then your "unlimited" access will get a bit more pricey.
      • This is a dot.com era attitude. The development of the internet is NOT being held back. If you want to be a content provider then sign up for a higher bandwidth business connection and quit yer bitchin.
        • To you and others criticizing my post;
          "I understand that ISP's need to have such TOS to be able to provide service in the first place."
          Was meant to signify that I have some concept of reality.
          But the attitude that even desiring such a thing is stupid is equivalent to a '640k is enough for anybody' attitude. I'm the consumer, that's what I want, and that's what I will (eventually) get. Get it?
          • Consumers usually think they are right. Companies usually show them that they aren't.

          • Speakeasy lets you do whatever you want with your bandwidth.

            Well, that's not entirely true. You are not allowed to share it with anyone outside of your building. But you can use all your bandwidth, all the time, and they are A-OK with that.

            I think the no-sharing clause is to prevent 1 person from ordering DSL, and a 3-house radius getting service from it. Not to limit the amount of bandwidth that they consume.

            • From the SpeakEasy TOS:

              "Moderations of Use:

              Bandwidth: As an ISP, Speakeasy's bottom line is determined partially by the amount of bandwidth customers utilize. Speakeasy can normally balance that cost and utilization while continuing to provide great service to all customers. Customers will not be charged for the bandwidth consumed, nor do we have specific limits or caps on that bandwidth. If you utilize any of your Speakeasy services in a manner which consumes excessive bandwidth or affects Speakeasy's core equipment, overall network performance, or other users' services, Speakeasy may require that you cease or alter these activities." Link to TOS page [speakeasy.net]

              I wouldn't personally interpret that to say they are delighted to for you use "all of your bandwidth all of the time", and I still maintain that folks misinterpret 24/7 connectivity to mean that 24/7 full throttle both ways is quite OK with ISP's.

        • When you buy a serive(like water, electricity, ect) you are not allowed to run a extention cord to your neighborhood. If you do A) you pay for it B) you are commiting a crime

          As a wISP I set limits in my SA. I am NOT selling you a dedicated internet connection. I sell 256kbit with 3GB/mo of data. 384 @ 4gb, ect.

          Any ISP that does not put limits on there use should and will be taken advantage of. Many learned that the hardway(@Home for instance)

          If you buy a 24/7 line thats one thing. If you buy a 27/7 @ some speed thats another. If you buy a dedicated connection that is yet antoher. ISP's have to start making it clear to people what it is that they are selling and what you are buying.

          Crackers
      • I see a day coming when every appliance has an IP (_not_ NATed), and every person is a content provider. That's what the 'net promises and they better deliver.

        I see a day coming when someone DDoSes your cable modem, your hot water heater, AND your Ron Jeremy(R) dildo.

        If God had wanted us all to have IPs, He wouldn't have given them a 32-bit address space. Instead, we invent NATting, and call ourselves clever. Alas, it is all vanity. Bend your will to His, grasshopper, and great will be your enlightenment.

    • My ISP, Rogers allows for home networking in its high speed internet deal. How different would distribution to a neighbour via Wi-Fi be different from Home networking ? In both cases, arent we sharing the same set of resources which have been allocated for us in the package?
      What happens from my router onwards should be my problem - not the ISPs.

    • I'm sick of hearing this, I have an ISP that is quite happy to have me sharing bandwidth. And I know of at least two other ISP's in the area that explicitly allow it under their TOS.

      It's only the big companies used to having government sanctioned monopolies that think they can sign up everyone for $50 for home internet access plus $60 for mobile internet access, plus $40 for mobile phone access, plus $30 for home phone access, plus $60 for cable service, plus some other amount for using using any of these services, plus advertising, plus a media tax on your backup media.
    • "..problem is that it is illegal to redistribute your broadband to people that haven't paid for it, as it should be .."

      so your saying if your buy a gallon of water from your water company, and only use a pint, it should be illegal to give the remaining water away?
      The fact that I buy my water in advance shouldn't enter into it.

      MY TOS says my bandwidth is 'up-to' 384Ksec, then I should be able to do what I want 'up-to' 384ksec, whether its a stream of porn at 384 or 3 people using 128.
  • by s1r_m1xalot ( 218277 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:54PM (#5315602)
    The Joltage homepage isn't much help -- it's in place....

    We'll see about that, Timothy. We'll just see.... ;-) .

  • Its so sad... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scalis ( 594038 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:54PM (#5315603) Homepage
    Its sad to see when people with good ideas being a bit ahead of their time run out of resources to develop their idea into something really big.
    I take off my hat for them for being one of the pioneers of something that clearly is a part of the future... GG

  • Perhaps the lack of comments by current customers indicates one of their major business problems...

    On the other hand, maybe all their customers just haven't gotten new service yet.
  • destined to fail? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by newsdee ( 629448 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @04:59PM (#5315625) Homepage Journal
    I would expect a company with excess bandwidth to downgrade their lines and save money, not to give it to somebody else for a lower sum.

    I don't think even incompetent managers get T3 lines to look "cool" when several T1 will do. ;-)

    • On the other hand (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:08PM (#5315668)
      Please note that your local bakery takes up shelf space to sell their excess production at a lower price, rather than looking for a smaller rental space. In fact, they over produce a bit on purpose just so they can do this.

      Not to mention that selling more for less consists of the entire mass market philosophy.

      The point being that it's overall profits that count, not unit price.

      KFG
      • Please note that your local bakery takes up shelf space to sell their excess production at a lower price, rather than looking for a smaller rental space. In fact, they over produce a bit on purpose just so they can do this.

        This is a good analogy, but I think you are confusing the product and "shelf space". A company (that is not an ISP of course) will rather keep unused "shelf space" to fill with their own production, rather than giving it out to other people.

        In other words (and IMHO) you buy extra "shelf space" only if you see a possibility that you will need it and have it available when it happens. Reselling it would not be the best solution, especially when their ISP (whose business IS selling/mass-marketing bandwidth) may be very unhappy as a result.

        • shelf space *is* product. Any excess is quite saleable. In fact the profitability of supermarkets often depends on just how much space they sell to outside suppliers.

          The analogy stands.

          KFG
    • Re:destined to fail? (Score:4, Informative)

      by No-op ( 19111 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:08PM (#5315671)
      it doesn't quite work like that- the bandwidth you might have over your own AS, or your own controlled network, might cost you "nothing", or be a planned expected amount. you figure for this, and it's not a huge deal.

      the traffic you have to pay for- the amount of data you're plowing through peering points, or all those freeloading P2P users grabbing anime from japanese users... that costs, and can cost big. most ISPs like to try to keep down that out-of-net data, and so many use things like caching servers, etc. (I'm not an ISP, never have worked for one, and have no interest in doing so, so feel free to slam me here on nitpicky details.)

      different types of bandwidth cost different amounts; if you were my neighbour and were downloading from my fileshare over our quasi-local network, nobody is hurt. if you're in sweden, then my ISP (and your ISP) are paying for that data movement.

      thusly, if you have a DS3 that's not flat-rate, as it probably isn't, you aren't going to pay as much if it's not fully used. I guess it depends on your ISPs infrastructure design.

      for that matter, a fractional DS3 is usually break-even at some point to several DS1's, and SHARPS service makes up for that extra cost- having redundant SONET loops is a big plus when johnny contractor is playing with the backhoe.
      • thusly, if you have a DS3 that's not flat-rate, as it probably isn't, you aren't going to pay as much if it's not fully used. I guess it depends on your ISPs infrastructure design.

        If I understand your post well, this means that you pay a given fee for your network line, but then if you pass a certain treshold of usage (GB/month?) you have to pay more...

        ...wouldn't that make matters worse? Who would sell their bandwidth when they have to pay for transfer? It would be like submitting your site to /. when your server is on payphone dial-up ;-)

        • On a large scale, you have peering agreements that makes net data transfer between specific networks inexpensive. On a small scale, that accounting gets difficult, as well as issues on who is a "content provider" and who is a "content consumer."

          Basically, peering agreements acknowledge the fact that services available on one network have value to another network, and vice-versa. When peering arrangements are in place, service providers are effectively only paying for capacity, and not the bandwidth itself.

          This is why multi-media conglomerates owning the last mile is dangerous. It is quite easy for them to justify having poor service to content outside of their network...
    • I don't think even incompetent managers get T3 lines to look "cool" when several T1 will do. ;-) Yeah, but real managers would just get a partial T3 to enjoy the simpler routing, lower-latency bandwidth, and reduced collisions (this is because each packet going down the pipe uses less time... thereby reducing the chance of a collision).
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:00PM (#5315630) Homepage Journal
    What seems like a neat idea doesn't actually turn out to be economically viable. Is this dot-com bust #42587?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:03PM (#5315652)
    I think that's the problem... there weren't any other customers.
  • no adverts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigBir3d ( 454486 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:11PM (#5315680) Journal
    aside from /. i have not heard a thing about this company. i guess we know why it failed.
  • Joltage website (Score:2, Informative)

    by slifox ( 605302 )
    Here are some of the (now obsolete, I guess) info pages they had:

    http://joltage.com/jsp/home/joltage_network.jsp [joltage.com]
    http://joltage.com/jsp/home/provider_program.jsp [joltage.com]
    http://joltage.com/jsp/home/consumer_benefits.jsp [joltage.com]
  • by ugen ( 93902 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:17PM (#5315703)
    (If you can call that work - they didn't pay at the time:)
    It was painfully obvious that the idea would never fly, though i have to admit that it was a cute technical hack. The "grassroots" systems do not seem to be working in US of A. Years of "customer service" indoctrinated population here to rely on someone else to provide the service. So don't expect anything that requires people to provide initiative (or anything else aside from the cold hard cash) to take off this side of the Atlantic.

    On the other hand it seems that in Moscow the only way to get broadband internet is by means of your local microprovider - either tenant organized or, at least, tenant supported. Being unaccostomed to others taking care of one's problems moves people toward self-sufficiency.

    In case of services, such as networks and many others this is a great weapon against monopolies taking over.
    • Yeah, well who is saying that growing up in a world of customer service is bad....I think this was a cop out comment because Joltage provided little to NONE! Their message board system only worked half the time and the answers were vague to stupid. When YOUR software wouldn't install I was instructed to reinstall my server.....that is a typical Microsoft answer. It was lame too. The other problem was this garbage was written in Java. Hopefully someone will come along and properly implement a windows service that does what Joltage promised....but actually works!
  • by VudooCrush ( 220143 ) <drainoNO@SPAMecho.kirenet.com> on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:20PM (#5315712)
    I thought it was an excellent idea, and they had some great software too. Only took a few minutes of messing around to get it going. They also didn't *make* you charge anyone. You could be a free service provider and still use their software. They also had top-notch immediate support through a web-based chat system. Although there were not many provider's around ( only 3 in Arizona that I could see by their maps ) it was a neat idea. Maybe they could release the source ( if they haven't already? ) and this could be a great tool for free WISP's.
  • Who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by raider_red ( 156642 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @05:48PM (#5315814) Journal
    Okay, maybe I'm out of the loop on this completely, but how many people reading this story have actually heard of Joltage? I haven't before today.

  • I'm surprised that the home page hasn't been slashdotted. Sure, there's nothing on it of substance, but that hasn't stopped us before...
  • [OT] (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    MSN Inspectors [msn.com]

    Checkout the title bar of this MSN search error page!
  • It just doesn't make sense. Most areas are too sparsely populated for limited range broadcast 802.11b hardware to get to enough people. Sure, sometimes neighbors or groups will spontaneously set something up like this, as a bandwidth collective. But building something as grass roots as that into a sustainable, growable business? No way. 802.11b (and a/g now) is great for what it's meant for. And if you live somewhere like NYC or Boston, when your asshole DSL/cable modem provider spews chunks on your connection and it goes haywire, it's nice to be able to hang your wireless access point out the window, run an SSID scanner, and find a good, open 802.11b network running on Joe Schmoe's Linksys box the next building over and tap into his bandwidth for a while (yes, I did this with a friend in his building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when his RCA cable modem service borked up). Or if your nextdoor neighbor is kind enough to have an open 802.11b network, just bring your laptop into the living room and surf away (this was what I did my first two weeks in my new apartment in Boston before AT&T Broadband got me set up).


    But commercializing collective bandwidth sharing using fundamentally short-range, modest latency "hotspots"? Especially when it violates TOSes of most residential broadband providers? I just think people got caught up with the wireless hype and didn't think too much about the economics of it.

  • What idiots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NDPTAL85 ( 260093 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @06:09PM (#5315879)
    If you read this Wired story that was linked from the orignal Slashdot story you'll see why this failed:
    http://www.wired.com/news/wireless/0,1382 ,51353,00 .html

  • Ah, the we want free stuff culture catches up with yet another service.
  • wifi will be free (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I think that it is going to be hard for these pay services to grab hold because there are so many open access points.

    A local cafe/coffee shop just put in free wifi. It is awesome to be able to sit down there and get some work done. It is now my favorite spot for business meetings.

    Contrast this to paying $x/hr for a connection at Starbucks. I think that eventually many places like Starbucks will be offering access for free just to keep up.

    There also seems to be a lot of community interest in providing access points in many public places. There are two places in the downtown area of my city where the city provides free wifi access. It's good for business and good for the community.

    The cost of putting up an access point is pretty cheap. Coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses will start to put them up as a way to attract customers. A lot of communities will be putting access points in public locations. There won't be any reason to pay. Businesses with the pay access will lose business to those who offer free access.

  • by tweakt ( 325224 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @08:21PM (#5316363) Homepage

    I thought for a second they were lowering the caffeine content of jolt. Yikes. What a nightmare, first diet Red Bull, now this??
  • by HotSpotGuy ( 650958 ) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @09:56PM (#5316738)

    I, too, was a Joltage hotspot provider (and subscriber), and was pretty familiar with the company. As such, I think I can answer a few of the questions that have been posted about these guys:

    WHY DIDN'T ANYONE KNOW ABOUT THEM?
    Actually, they started off with quite a bit of industry buzz, having launched at Esther Dyson's PC Forum last year. In the beginning (check the articles [business2.com]) they were getting almost as much press as Boingo, which started about the same time. The difference, however, is that Boingo had Sky Dayton (of Earthlink fame) plus tens of millions of dollars to use for marketing. Joltage, in contrast, was a bunch of smart and experienced, but very underfunded, wireless geeks.

    DID THEIR STUFF WORK?
    Yeah, it actually worked really well. The free hotspot software could be downloaded from all the usual sites (or their website) and turned any PC with an access point into a part of the network. The back-end system was very slick from both the hotspot and user ends, and seemed to work without a hitch. When people used my hotspot, the next month I got a credit through PayPal.

    DID THEY HAVE A PROBLEM WITH LEGAL BANDWIDTH RESALE?
    Actually, no. They always insisted (and were pretty serious about) having any participating hotspot use legitimate, re-saleable bandwidth. From the very beginning they had a deal with Covad, and eventually they added support from Atlas, Eureka and other broadband providers who offered Joltage hotspot providers fully Joltage-usable DSL for under $50/month. I think they were talking to the other big guys about getting permission for residential users to use bandwidth for Joltage, but I guess those things take time...and they ran out.

    WAS THIS THING DOOMED TO FAILURE?
    Anyone's guess, but I don't think so...unless you're of the opinion that any pay-for-WiFi solution will fail. Cometa [cometanetworks.com] is launching with the goal of having a hotspot less than a ten minute drive from most people. In contrast, there are over 15,000 existing WLANS in Manhattan alone (as an example). Even a miniscule percentage of those (mostly commercial, and thus usually re-saleable) hotspots participating at no cost to themselves, would have resulted in by far the best WiFi footprint in town.

    HOW CAN ANYTHING RELYING ON MOMS AND POPS WORK?
    Good question, and that's where they probably fell down. While I think that eventually there will be enough critical mass for a truly organic network, in the near term there just wasn't enough of an overlap between the early adopters with access points, and people with enough entrepreneurial spirit to try to set up a commercial hotspot...even if it was really easy, which the Joltage solution was.

    SO, WAS IT ALL MOMS AND POPS?
    No, and that ultimately could have been Joltage's salvation...maybe. By the end they were concentrating on supporting WISPS who had a real business incentive to set up hotspots, and some of those were really professional. Check out Urban Hotspots [urbanhotspots.com], SpotWIFI [spotwifi.com], WiFi Spain [wifispain.com], and others.

    WERE THEY DOTCOM DREAMERS?
    Maybe, but at least they had viable track records, a lot of skills, and dedication. Andrew Weinreich, the founder, was the guy behind SixDegrees, and several of the tech staff came out of Scient and other good shops. The board/angels were big names in the industry, but I guess just didn't have the cash to keep it going. One thing's for sure, they ran a lean shop. The CEO didn't take a salary and the whole staff worked almost for free, in the hopes that they would be paid back on a financing. But for a low-budget shop, they treated everyone well. They even went out classily, paying up the last charges they owed me as a provider, and actually refunding me the unused part of my monthly subscriber fee! Good guys.

    SO WHAT HAPPENED?
    I think this was a combination of (a) a market where no one at all is generating revenues, let alone making money, yet and therefore needs (b) venture capital, which I gather isn't too available these days. Combine this with Joltage's early focus on a grass-roots model of what you might call 'enlightened economic self-interest' in a market which just wasn't ready for it yet, and you end up with a noble but ultimately unsuccessful business. Ah well. I wish all those guys luck; while they were around they ran a really decent company.

  • Dear So & So:

    It is with regret that I am writing to inform you that Joltage will be discontinuing its Wi-Fi subscriber and provider services effective at the end of this month. We will therefore no longer be able to support your operations as a venue for individuals to gain wireless access to the Internet.

    Within the next several days we will be remitting to you any earned but unpaid revenue from previously billed subscriber sessions. From this point forward, however, we will no longer be billing subscribers for any future hotspot usage, and as such, we will no longer be accruing any revenues on your behalf. Your hotspot will now automatically enable free access by any former Joltage subscriber as well as new visitors. Please note that this is only a transitional phase, and that as of March 1, 2003, unless you take action, your hotspot will no longer permit Internet access sessions for wireless users.

    If at this point you would like to open up your network to provide uncontrolled free to access to any visitors, simply uninstall the Joltage provider software on your host computer, by going to "Add/Remove Programs" in the Control Panel, and selecting Joltage for removal. Then reinstall your access point according to the manufacturer's directions.

    Otherwise, to enable you to continue revenue-generating operations with the least possible disruption, I am enclosing a list of alternative back-end software and service providers, in the hope that at least some of their offerings will fit your needs.

    Joltage was founded with the vision of offering individuals the opportunity to gain fast and inexpensive wireless Internet access almost anywhere, while providing a significant incentive to operators such as yourself to make wireless hotspots widely available. We still believe in that vision -- perhaps now, more than ever.

    Unfortunately, it appears that it will take substantially longer than expected for the significant numbers of users we anticipated on such a network to materialize. And because of the difficult economy, we are no longer able to finance our operations as we had once hoped we would be able to.

    All of us at Joltage appreciate your willingness to dream with us and hope that you are able to continue providing this valuable service to your customers.

    With best wishes,

    Andrew Weinreich
    Founder & Chairman
    Joltage
  • Paid-for WiFi hotspots are much too early in the market adoption curve to pay for themselves. We're missing two of the critical inputs: [1] masses of users willing to locate and pay for hotspots, and [2] a broadly accepted clearinghouse for WiFi subscribers so that each doesn't have to have a dozen memberships/accounts.

    I was at iPass [ipass.com] early on, when the world was filled with thousands of small ISPs covering their own small corners of the globe. Currently, iPass aggregates and manages more than 20,000 dial-up POPs and 1000+ WiFi hotspots from hundreds of providers. What we saw early in the cycle was that almost all ISPs were marginal or unprofitable They drew from very small local markets (under 1000 users). Primarily, they existed because the owner wanted to be an ISP, not in order to make real money. Most disappeared, were rolled up, or become higher-level VARs/integrators/ASPs.

    I believe local hotspot providers look similar: coffee shops and retail locations that can't earn significant profit from WiFi, but are experimenting with it. Don't expect a huge network to appear organically from atoms of goodwill.
    Eventually the big slow carriers rolled out nation-sized services. I don't expect that any of these are hugely profitable, but instead are viewed as a necessary part of a full product offering.

    IMO, the Joltages and Boingos of the world will be Chapter 11 footnotes. With so few paid WiFi roamers or subscribers (note the distinction here versus "free"), early providers and aggregators will watch their capital leak away, and either exit or subsidize with other service revenue.

    This year's big push toward cheap WiFi hardware will help, and some services may be viable next year. See my January screed on this WiFi, 3G and Ten Million Landlords [mironov.com]. I sized the continental US in units of 802.11b coverage at 56,000 access points wide and 28,000 access points tall. (BTW , the newsletter [mailto] is free.)

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