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San Francisco Free Wi-Fi Plan Fails

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the no-money-in-it dept.

Wireless Networking 117

Reader r writes with news from San Francisco that Earthlink has backed out of contract negotiations to blanket the city with free Wi-Fi, citing money problems. Seems like only yesterday that Chicago's Wi-Fi deal fell apart for much the same reason. Quoting: "The contract, which was three years in the making, had run into snags with the Board of Supervisors, but ultimately it was undone when Atlanta-based EarthLink announced Tuesday that it no longer believed providing citywide Wi-Fi was economically viable for the company... EarthLink spokesman Jerry Grasso said that EarthLink was willing to work with San Francisco but had decided that it 'was not willing to work in the business model where EarthLink fronts all the money to build, own and operate the network.'"

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3 years? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413423)

Maybe they thought 'if it takes 3 years to just write the contract, we'll never even get the wireless installed before we're all dead.' That would sure change my outlook on whether or not it would be possible to make money from it.

Of course, if they could break even on this one, the next one they could make a little money (having had experience) and then have a massive rollout where they mass-produce everything and make a killing.

Re:3 years? (3, Informative)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413545)

Looks like they were planning on making the money back by charging them $20 for a faster connection, and other cities they've done this in haven't seen enough people signing up for faster internet. It sounds like they've been burned in other cities and had the ability to pull out of this one, so they did.

Re:3 years? (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414537)

I would not put the blame 100% on Earthlink, from what I see on the news, SF's Board of Supervisors could screw up anything.

Re:3 years? (2, Informative)

DECS (891519) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416867)

The blame is entirely upon the Board of Supervisors. SF Mayor Newsom pushed the plan for years as both a way to bring WiFi to the City, and an option for free Internet access to poor residents. The BoS responded by holding things up repeatedly to tack on political BS to take credit for the mayor's plan.

Most recently, the board decided to cut Earthlink's contract in half and demand twice the bandwidth, as if they could "fix" things by jacking up numbers. These assholes do this to every project in the City, hoping to load everything up with bulletpoints that they can parade as accomplishments. What it almost always means in reality, however, is that projects never get completed or are delayed for so long that the economic benefit of their add ons is a large negative.

This also happens in housing projects, where developers come in with a plan to build new housing, and the BoS insist that increasingly high percentages of units are reserved for welfare housing called "affordable housing"--not for the poor, but a for handful of well connected people who want to live on someone else's dime. So 10-20% of a project is subsidized, jacking up housing costs and ensuring that the only people who can afford to live in the new housing are the ultra-rich. Meanwhile, all the housing construction is held up in welfare negotiations until projects are tabled or until they are held up for so long that the minor addition of more welfare units constitute an insignificant trickle of new "affordable housing." This is backed up both by those who think market pricing can be overridden by political pricing, and by those who want to keep the supply low so that the demand and prices will remain sky high.

The plot to kill SF's WiFi was the same coalition of populists who thought a community group could put together a faster system, and those who didn't want competition to their pay WiFi or internet services.

http://roughlydrafted.com/ [roughlydrafted.com]


the NeoConservative Free Market fails again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20418543)

Once again, we see that REAL municipal planning is the only reliable way to go. Outsourcing doesn't even work for the private sector, and these morons want the government to outsource everything?

It just proves what I've said for over a decade: the "conservative movement" is nothing more than a thinly veiled program for committing large scale fraud against the US tax payer.

Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20413439)

Wasn't Google going to do something like this?

P.S. first post

Re:Google? (1)

LochNess (239443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413541)

Yes, Google has blanketed Mountain View, CA with a WiFi system. http://wifi.google.com/ [google.com]

Re:Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20414181)

Ask almost anyone who lives around there though (including me), and you'll find that its basically all but actually useful. In fact, I don't think I've ever met anyone who has been able to actually connect to it.

Re:Google? (1)

Shadowplay00 (1042912) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415719)

I've used it...outdoors, downtown. Not much luck indoors away from Castro Street though.

Re:Google? (1)

doxology (636469) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417905)

It works at In-n-Out.

Re:Google? (2, Informative)

atamyrat (980611) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414037)

Wasn't Google going to do something like this?

Now Meraki [meraki.com] is doing it, a company backed in by Google.
Read more about it, A Free Mesh Network for San Francisco [technologyreview.com]

Re:Google? (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414305)

The google plan for SF and the earthlink plan were one and the same. The two companies were working together on this project.

https://home.feather.net/sanfrancisco [feather.net]

Wifi monopolies (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413471)

Really, why are authorities even promising monopoly wifi to companies anyway?


Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413605)

"Really, why are authorities even promising monopoly wifi to companies anyway?

Yeah I never liked the idea of government run internet access. First it is anti-competitive, and second I do not like the government censor^H^H^H^H^H^H providing my access to information.

Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

Sczi (1030288) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413765)

Why is everyone so gung ho for *free* wifi anyway? Free as in freedom, yes. Free as in beer, no. Plus, my gut tells me that too much govt will become a no on both counts.

Re:Wifi monopolies (2, Insightful)

vthokie69 (549779) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413863)

I'm not quite sure where people get this notion that local government run internet access is anti-competitive. If the people of a locality do not like their choices or those choices are too expensive or limited, it's certainly within their rights to build out their own wi-fi network. If anything, it would put competitive pressure on traditional internet service providers. What's anti-competitive are various state laws that prohibit local governments from rolling out community wi-fi. As far as censorship goes, if you're worried about that then there's nothing stopping you from subscribing to a traditional isp. That's the power of having choice.

Re:Wifi monopolies (5, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414665)

And it's within their right not to fund the local government internet access through taxes. It's illegal though. So you can
- pay the local governement for internet access and use it, or
- pay the local government for internet access and not use it
Whao, that *is* choice!

Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

vthokie69 (549779) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416305)

Community internet access is not any different than other government-run services such as parks and recreation or county libraries. Tax payers generally don't have the choice of whether or not to pay taxes for those services either. That's just a fact of life. You did, however, leave out a few more choices in the matter. There's the choice of attending public county board meetings to have your voice heard. You can write your board members to complain. You can run for county board or city council yourself to work to stop the funding for those services you don't want to pay taxes for. Those are options that you have at your disposal. Besides, it's not likely that community broadband services are going to cost the average tax payer significantly more on their annual local tax bill. You probably already spend more each morning at Starbucks for your daily caffeine fix.

The cable and telephone companies would like everyone to believe that community broadband would put them out of business reducing choice for everyone. However, I suspect that it won't have that impact much like how public libraries don't put book stores out of business. Most people who subscribe to their services, such as myself, will continue to do so because the traditional ISPs will be able to provide the added value of high performance connectivity that community broadband won't be able to provide. The real impact of community broadband will be increasing the general availability of broadband by giving dial-up users and non-users a lower cost entry level alternative for broadband internet access.

Re:Wifi monopolies (3, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416467)

Sorry but that's not a "fact of life" that's a fact shove down your throat by power hungry men backed by the full and heavily armed power of the IRS. I'm all for free widespread internet access in cities, but only if it's provided on a voluntary basis ( http://www.fon.com/en/ [fon.com] is a great example ).

Govt provided internet would (among many other bad things) reduce choices. Think of schooling for example, when everyone has to pay for public school regardless of usage, the private schools can only cater to very specific niches (mostly religious and wealthy).

Re:Wifi monopolies (2, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416837)

Govt provided internet would (among many other bad things) reduce choices. Think of schooling for example, when everyone has to pay for public school regardless of usage, the private schools can only cater to very specific niches (mostly religious and wealthy).

And without public schools, only the rich could afford to go to school at all.

Re:Wifi monopolies (2, Informative)

I'll Provide The War (1045190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417377)

"And without public schools, only the rich could afford to go to school at all."

No, funds could be tied to individual students as opposed to monolithic government institutions and private entities could compete to attract these students. That model seems to outperform the US model according to OECD metrics.

It seems ironic that countries such as Belgium and France rely on free enterprise and competition to improve the quality of education while the US is locked into a poorly run socialist system that outspends these countries 2:1 per pupil with such abysmal results.


Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

DavidM01 (1123199) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418317)

This is a complete LIE and fabrication. Spoken like a true sheep worshiping at the altar of government. None of the 'doom and gloom' stories about turning government run things over to private industry have ever come true. Just like the long distance scare when it was deregulated. I don't know where you get your BS but I pay about 3 cents a minute. Which in adjusted dollars from the seventies is about 1.2 cents a minute. Private enterprise excels at nearly all things much better than the government. Go Google Galveston County retirement and come back and tell us how much better the gubment works over private ownership.

Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

vthokie69 (549779) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417433)

That may be the reason for the fact, but it doesn't change it. It's not like there's much of an alternative though. The only sure things in life are death and taxes. It doesn't matter where you live, you're going to subjected to taxes of some sort.

You may be right about public schooling but then again that's a completely different beast, is off-topic and doesn't relate to community broadband at all. Given that, your post was hardly insightful as it didn't provide any insight whatsoever into how government provided community Wi-Fi reduces overall choice. Please give some explanation of that and the other possible negative consequences of it.

Also, you mentioned Fon as a possible solution. While I think Fon is a great idea in theory, it assumes you have broadband access to start with. It also likely violates the terms of service of most broadband providers and opens you up to all sorts of liability issues.

That being said, while I like the idea of community broadband, I am actually opposed to the county wide mesh Wi-Fi that Earthlink is going to roll out here here I live since it is likely to interfere greatly with the performance of my home wireless network.

Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417679)

You may be right about public schooling but then again that's a completely different beast, is off-topic and doesn't relate to community broadband at all. Given that, your post was hardly insightful as it didn't provide any insight whatsoever into how government provided community Wi-Fi reduces overall choice. Please give some explanation of that and the other possible negative consequences of it.

My mention of public schooling was just an analogy to explain why a government run ISP would restrict ISP choices. A real choice means you can use your money somewhere else, not that you can buy some additional service. If you pay for gvt provided wifi throught taxes, it means you have less money to spend on a private ISP if you don't like the gvt service.

Imagine you have private ISP X, you pay $20 a month. You realize private ISP X reaaaally sucks and decide to go to private ISP Y, you pay $22 a month. Now imagine ISP X worked like gvt... it means you would need to pay 42$ in total to get the better service ! At that price you might just decide to stick with the governemnt ISP.

Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

Sydney Weidman (187981) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418405)

Govt provided internet would (among many other bad things) reduce choices.

It reduces choices, that's true. But choice is not always beneficial. The weird thing about networks of any kind is that they *are* monopolies naturally. You're either on a network or you're not. Yes, there are interconnections, but those interconnection points are either opportunities for wasteful bickering that hurts customers on both sides of the bridge, or for collusion that's as bad as a monopoly. Think about roads or sewers. How efficient would it be to have 7 redundant systems of highways? We'd all end up paying for those wasted resources one way or another. People who blindly argue for competition as a utopian and perfect solution to every problem are really misguided, I think.

So if we have 7 vendors duplicating efforts to provide wifi infrastructure, we'll wind up paying through the nose. Once we agree that a monopoly is a necessity in network infrastructure, we have only to decide who will own the monopoly. I say in terms of public benefit, it's probably a toss up whether a closely regulated private firm runs the monopoly, or whether the government runs it. I don't trust an unregulated private firm at all, and I'm not sure I trust a regulated private firm any more than I trust the government. But since, in principle and ideally, a government is devoted to the public good and not to private gain, the possibility exists of setting its policy on the basis of argument rather than on the basis of market activity. And that principle -- the use of rational argument to develop policy -- is the hallmark of liberal democracy.

Of course, actual liberal democracies are becoming rather unpopular these days, as they are clumsy and inefficient.

Re:Wifi monopolies (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413875)

Free government-run internet is still a lot better than free government-controlled, corporate-run internet. With the latter, which this would have been, the corporation gets to limit traffic as they see fit, then charge money to anybody who wants a data rate better than edge, gets to keep any other corporations out of the city, etc., plus the government can probably insist on censorship. You get the all disadvantages of corporate backing PLUS all the disadvantages of government backing.

What we need is municipal Wi-Fi provided by the government, with the equipment owned by the government, but with a strong, liberal government to keep the censorship at bay. Not seeing it happening anytime soon, though.

In the meantime, let's hope that the corporate-backed "municipal" Wi-Fi folks choose a company more competent than EarthLink. I used to be on a Covad/Earthlink connection, and the Covad side worked fine, but the Earthlink PPPoE servers went up and down several times a day, leaving me with no network connectivity, often for hours at a time. I dumped them and went to straight Covad service, and I've had almost zero downtime in the years since. Earthlink wouldn't know how to run municipal Wi-Fi if Google's founder came and bit them in the @$$, so speaking as a resident of the Bay Area, I'm rather glad to hear that this fell through. Indeed, I can't think of a SINGLE ISP that would be WORSE than Earthlink. I'd rather have the "new" AT&T providing it, even, and that's saying something....

Re:Wifi monopolies (2, Insightful)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415109)

What we need is municipal Wi-Fi provided by the government, with the equipment owned by the government, but with a strong, liberal government to keep the censorship at bay.

That sounds a lot like a benevolent dictatorship. Nice to have, but politically impossible.

Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

dsginter (104154) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413753)

Really, why are authorities even promising monopoly wifi to companies anyway?

By the same accord, why extend telephone/DSL and cable TV/internet monopolies?

Re:Wifi monopolies (2, Interesting)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414169)

For cable TV, it's a corrupt deal. The cable company pays for exclusivity by collecting a lot of taxes from their subscribers. They funnel this money into the city's coffers to be spent on goodies (essentially vote-buying for the city council).

City councils should cut those taxes and allow cable companies to compete, offering subscribers better TV service at lower prices. But people see the new municipal goodies and credit their city councilman then they blame the cable company for the size of the bill.

Re:Wifi monopolies (1)

badSkater (444559) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414041)

It seems many governments and politicians see Internet access as a right, and the only way to ensure everyone can exercise that right is to provide free access. I have wondered if the next step is to then hand out free machines (laptops, desktops, or some other kind of Internet-using-appliance). Again, to ensure everyone can exercise their right to Internet access.

Being in the technology field, I *do* see great benefit to widespread access, so I can partially, at least, understand the politicians' desires. Still, if government wants to be involved in free Internet, one way or the other it needs to make it worthwhile for whoever is going to build and maintain the network. Two quotes by Mr. Newsom are telling:

From the article:

"I'm disappointed because we had a chance to get it done, and it didn't happen," Newsom said. "The board delayed it, and now EarthLink could not be more pleased."

"EarthLink would have been legally obligated to fulfill its promises to San Francisco, and we would have had a functioning Wi-Fi system by now," Newsom said.

Seems Mr. Newsom is interested only in what he wants, regardless of the consequences for Earthlink. In fairness, I know little of this deal beyond the article, but I cannot fault Earthlink for getting out of this deal.

I used to hate the term "win-win," but some of that kind of thinking might have helped this project.

I never understood the business model (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415343)

Okay, when I first heard about these city-wide wifi coverage plans, I was under the impression that the city themselves were going to build it. Now. it's become apparent that the cities themselves weren't building them, but were making token payments to Earthlink and others to do it for them.

Well, what the Hell did they expect? You're telling a company "We're going to give you a trivial amount of money (about 10% of the actual costs). And for that, you have to blanket the entire city--even the shitty neighborhoods were no one is going to pay for your service and the high-end areas that are well-covered already. And we're not even giving you a monopoly--you still have to compete with the city's multitude of existing providers." How on earth did they EVER expect that to fly?

Re:Wifi monopolies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20415075)

They get the money too. Also they have the "authority" to do that.
I was testing a partial section of wifi in SF several months ago as an test subject and I would like to see it as partial solution for wifi in a city. I wouldn't replace the personal, corporate or wired internet that exist but this municipal wifi would be great for tourist and other visitor to the city to get an temporary internet connection. However wireless security and "evil twin" are a concern for this type of wireless connection.

Yesterday... (4, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413473)

Seems like only yesterday that Chicago's Wi-Fi deal fell apart for much the same reason.

Because it was?

Ok, so it was reported yesterday, but it happened close enough to be reasonable called "yesterday". :-P

Re:Yesterday... (3, Informative)

kabz (770151) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413711)

The deal in Houston to blanket the area with wi-fi [chron.com] has also gone up on the blocks, though Mayor Bill White has wrung a $5mil payment from Earthlink. I'm guessing this one isn't going to go ahead either.

Comcast and ATT must be laughing now.

Re:Yesterday... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20413773)

Because it was?
And it seems like only yesterday that I posted a comment about this very same thing [slashdot.org] ... and it seems like only last week that I submitted this story [slashdot.org] . In fact, it seems like only sometimes the editors acknowledge my existence. Daddypants@Slashdot.org is all but a black hole of editing corrections via e-mail sending ...

Delays in St. Louis (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414197)

Why? Well, they were planning on using the street light poles to mount APs, and to provide power to the APs.

Minor problem: The poles are only powered during the night.

Link [dslreports.com]

meraki (1)

CraniumDesigns (1113153) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413523)

maybe they should just look into meraki [meraki.com] .

Rio Rancho, NM (1)

trailerparkcassanova (469342) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413553)

Their city-wide WiFi plan fell apart when they paid a bunch of money and got nothing.

Re:Rio Rancho, NM (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415295)

I remember this because I worked for the company that was originally supposed to provide the wireless (Usurf America). As it turns out, that company is a bunch of crooks.

I used to work at an ISP called Cyberhighway before it got bought out by Usurf. They sold the owners of the ISP on the deal by saying they were a well-funded public company (their shares were at around 11 bucks then, now they are at 2.5 cents) and they were going to take the ISP national. It turned out that what Usurf really wanted was Cyberhighway's wireless technology, as Cyberhighway at the time sold wireless internet using antennae up on mountains (I forget what the actual technology was, this was back in 1999).

Anyway, as soon as Usurf came in they (falsely) accused the old management of violating their nondisclosure agreements and fired them all. I quit soon after that, but from what I'm told they then literally stopped paying the bills at the ISP, and eventually the ISP was forced into bankruptcy by its creditors. Meanwhile, Usurf was trying to push municipal wireless to anyone who would listen.

For months, Usurf would issue press releases about the great deals they were signing with a bunch of cities, none of which ever really materialized. Now, they've relocated to Denver, renamed the company, and started selling phone and internet access to apartment complexes. I am continually amazed at how they've managed to remain a going concern, given that from what I can tell, they've pretty much been losing money nonstop for years and have managed to do very little actual revenue-generating business.

I'm not sure if any of the other companies Rio Rancho tried to get wireless from were this shady, but it's indicative of their city council's inability to conduct basic due diligence.

Re:Rio Rancho, NM (1)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416679)

I watched the Usurf debacle unfold from the sidelines. You are correct - the city had no idea and a fool and his money are soon parted.

Now there's Azulstar: http://www.observer-online.com/articles/2006/03/20 /news/story6.txt [observer-online.com]

Thought you'd find it interesting.

Philadelphia Contract? (3, Interesting)

kammat (114899) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413595)

I wonder if this will affect Philadelphia also. We've been receiving advertisements in the mail announcing Earthlink as Philly's citywide wi-fi provider, but with Chicago and San Fran now stopped, and San Fran not seen as profitable, I find it hard to imagine that the Philadelphia city area will be as viable.

Re:Philadelphia Contract? (1)

Renaissance 2K (773059) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414705)

The difference between the Philadelphia contract and these other contracts is that Philadelphia never promised free wifi. You have to pay for Philadelphia's citywide wifi; a cost of "as low as $6.95 per month", which in ISP language translates to "$6.95/month for the first six months and $19.95 thereafter". This is assuming you don't choose to rent their "wireless modem". Pardon me, but I thought we had graduated to integrated and compact adapters.

I signed up for Philadelphia wifi and haven't used it. Why not? Because Earthlink doesn't broadcast their network ID, so you have no way of truly confirming whether or not you get reception until you shell out the dough. Despite the fact that I have two unsecured networks in range with the Earthlink name attached to them, I can't for the life of me connect to their secure network, which is what the subscription covers.

This is despite the fact that I'm right in the center of one of their green coverage dots on their coverage map. I'm starting to wonder how accurate those maps really are, considering I asked to be e-mailed when coverage reached my area and never got such a response. I only found out because I visited their website to "check up" on how they were doing, and seemingly, they had gotten their act together, at least on paper.

Being promised something and not getting it isn't as bad as paying for something and not getting it. By their definition, I should have wireless access from my room, seeing as the public networks are viewable. I shouldn't have to pay my subscription fee just to learn I'm not eligible for some inoperable reason, unless that reason happens to be that I didn't pay for their stinkin' modem, which was "highly recommended" but not required.

Earthlink Wi-Fi in Anaheim (3, Interesting)

klenwell (960296) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414869)

Last year Earthlink rolled out wi-fi in the city of Anaheim with much (well, a bit of) local fanfare. I was leasing a small office for myself for part-time use in Anaheim and it sounded like a pretty good deal, esp. compared to what AT&T was offering for a small business package (which was basically the poorest home broadband package at 3x the price.)

I signed up on the year-contract to get the best rate. Service was very spotty. Aggravating at times, but generally ok for my purposes since I was using my access now and then to check email and to research any questions that came up in the course of my work. Most my work was being done offline.

What really turned me off the service is that Earthlink offered no email support -- you had to call their support line (off-shored) and wait on hold for an indeterminate amount of time to get simple questions answered. Also, I was never able to pick up a signal from my laptop's wireless card. I needed to be cabled into their ugly little wireless modem. Even from the Starbucks at the epicenter of the coverage area (across the street from City Hall), I couldn't get a signal on my wireless card directly.

I had a suspicion that the service was going to be a colossal failure. I canceled just last week as soon as my year was up. Hadn't even used it the last three months I paid for it. Interesting now to see these agreements crumbling left and right. I get the impression that it's much harder to deploy reliable city-wide wireless service than it looks on paper. (I saw crews installing the little wireless transponders on lampposts across the city -- how much has to be put in maintaining these things? Bird shit a factor?)

And with the limited initial rollout area, I always wondered how economically viable it was going to be. It was supposed to be citywide by around this time, but even then I question how many people are going to sign up for this. Finally, I suspect it's much less viable for the high-demand media-rich content people are now coming to expect online.

It's too bad because the failure of wi-fi just reinforces the cable/telecom strangehold over broadband service. Is wi-fi actually succeeding anywhere?

Re:Philadelphia Contract? (1)

RazzleDazzle (442937) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415269)

Good thing Earthlink was not picked to handle the wifi for Minneapolis. Minneapolis seems to be fairly functional, though still not finished there are a bunch using it that are generally satisfied from what I understand.

I've seen communisim first hand. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20413627)

I've been to two Socialist countries, two Communist countries and three Free Republic/Deomcratic countries.

I kiss the soil of the U.S. every time I return.

I've see Communism first hand. Being told "sorry, you don't have water on Tuesdays and Thursdays" is unplesant. Yes, I understand there is a failiure in the infrastructure but it isn't corrected without incentive. People, sadly, acclimate to piss-poor surroundings. One or two generations of that and getting out is difficult.

What does this have to do with Wireless? A lot.

I thought about designing my own 'free' wireless network. The manpower and cost to keep it up and running is obscene. Even with free hardware and ISP service, the cost of making sure it's running 100% is a full time job, if not two.

Without a financial incentive, there is little to be gained. The leaches of society would tear down the system.

While Capitalism has it's flaws, humanity isn't willing to share and play nice. Yet.

Re:I've seen communisim first hand. (3, Insightful)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417437)

You are quite right - public ownership of essential utilities leads to nothing but problems. In California, for example, the privatization of electric utilities resulted in nothing but rainbows and ponies. And it is a good idea for San Fransisco to sell the Golden Gate Bridge to Goldman Sachs, because private companies can do no wrong.

Here's a thought: perhaps the USSR's problems were not entirely caused by who owned what.

Free?! (3, Insightful)

TonyXL (33244) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413641)

It's only free until you get your pay stub.

It is free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20413777)

It's the Government's money. It's not like it's mine.

Re:It is free. (2, Interesting)

jockm (233372) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413961)

Well that and the government gets something out of the deal. They aren't just rolling over to some corporate entity. In exchange for offering up city infastructure, they get guaranteed access to the wireless network. That is worth something.

Re:Free?! (1)

vthokie69 (549779) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413971)

With the way our governments borrow and spend money these days, it's free until our children or grandchildren get their pay stubs.

Re:Free?! (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414245)

Parent: Free?! It's only free until you get your pay stub.

FTFS: EarthLink spokesman Jerry Grasso said that EarthLink was willing to work with San Francisco but had decided that it 'was not willing to work in the business model where EarthLink fronts all the money to build, own and operate the network.'

Earthlink's website [feather.net] : No financial commitment by the City, taxpayer burden, or risk for the design, deployment, operation, maintenance or support of the network

The free users (at 300kbit) were supposed to be paid for by users paying $20/month (for 1 megabit). No tax dollars involved.

Re:Free?! (1)

Socguy (933973) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414361)

Nothing is free in this world. If a solid majority of people feel that a service should be universal then it should be provided in a universal manner. People must then pay for it, either through a special levy or through their taxes or though an additional fee on their regular bill. If a service is to be provided in a universal manner and it's cost is now shared by all people, it is incumbent on government to ensure that it's delivery is carried out in the most timely, reliable, and efficient manner possible; in order to maximize the benefit derived from the service and minimize the cost to each individual, and thereby minimizing the negative effect on the economy.

In my short experience, a properly run government enterprise is best able to accomplish this. I won't say that private enterprise cannot accomplish this, however, I have yet to experience it. Logically, it would seem that the above goals are largely antithetical to a properly run corporation, as they have legal duty to maximize profit for their shareholders.

Don't be silly (2, Funny)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413661)

Its just been re-organised, now its

San Fransisco- Wi-fi free

Re:Don't be silly (1)

klenwell (960296) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417371)

Maybe if they sold the naming rights to the city, they could get a big corporate sponsor to spring for all the costs:

San FranCisco Systems, CA?

google's fault (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413721)

The fact that Google is blanketing the area in free wifi probably has something to do with this decision.

Joint Venture (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417581)

This was a joint venture between Google and Earthlink.

Minneapolis is almost done (4, Informative)

gone.fishing (213219) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413725)

The city of Minneapolis, MN is going wireless and in some areas is already providing service. The estimated completion date is December 2007. The charge is pretty reasonable too, only $20 or $30 per month depending on access speed.

More info here: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/wirelessminneapoli s/ [minneapolis.mn.us]

Many squad cars and firetrucks are already using the wireless technology and a number of cameras are used for survelence in high-crime areas. Since I drive through one of these areas every day, I can tell you the cameras have already made a real difference!

There is hope that with this kind of access, that the city will become a more livable place and that some lower income people will be able to use these services to better themseleves. While I hope that this is true, I'll also take it with a grain of salt and say that I will believe it when I see it.

This service was used for several days after the bridge disaster with very good results. Talk about trial by fire!

Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (4, Informative)

jockm (233372) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413751)

Here in Portland, OR MetroFi and the city collaborated to provide a similar service. They haven't quite gotten all of the city done, but the core is covered (and is damned spiffy). Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi, some other service, or maybe google alone to pick up the ball

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20413815)

MetroFI suck-diddly-ucks Flanders.

They throttle it and kill is latency. Don't be surprised when the higher ups in BTS leave for jobs at metroFI

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (1)

jockm (233372) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413935)

And how was this different from the Google/Earthlink plan? In fact the throttling MetroFi does in Portland (1Mbps) is much better than what Google/Earthlink was proposing (256Kbps)

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (1)

tholomyes (610627) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415103)

Oh yeah, and it's free.

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (1)

CallFinalClass (801589) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414115)

I hope the MetroFi and and the airport aren't one and the same, as I'd hold out the PDX stuff as an example of free wi-fi being absolutely horrible. Extremely low throughput, and DHCP leases in the 5-10 minute range. Absolutely useless for any sort of real use.

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (1)

jockm (233372) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414251)

Well every wifi system I have used is in the YMMV category. I have had problems with T-Mobile and other paid services in static locations. In my experience MetroFi has been rock solid. As for throtteling, yes they do on the free service. However I will point out they throttle to 1Mbps, whereas the Google/Earthlink deal in SF was to be at 256Kbps.

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416289)

They're not. My experience has been that the PDX airport wifi network works just fine, while MetroFi is horribly broken to the point of being unusable, but I haven't used MetroFi as much (because it hasn't been around as long, and I don't actually live in the city), so maybe they're working on that.

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (1)

bataras (169548) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415619)

MetroFi is pretty good here in PDX. ff adblock also removes the frame they use for ads. And the portland airport's free wifi puts to shame the OAK and SFO airports. I mean shit. You fly to/from the epicenter of the internet, flip open your laptop in one of those airports and get a fucking tmobile pay to play page. Just like starbucks. Laughable.

Re:Perhaps this opens the door for MetroFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20417023)

metoFi rocks

thinking (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413761)

This will only be a monopoly deal until competitors complain and then it will be like just another utility. Everyone will use the same equipment but be billed by different companies. I'm saying billed in reference to a "free service" because this is going to be free until the local governments and companies realize that they're losing money on this.

As it stands, here is the business plan:
  1. Spend millions on infrastructure.
  2. ????
  3. Cost recovery/Profit

Anyone would be a fool to invest in such a venture as it stands.

milwaukee wifi (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20413841)

Citywide WiFi in Milwaukee is pretty much in shambles as well. Midwest Fiber Networks and the city made a deal that MFN would pay all costs associated with building the infrastructure. The city has been more or less uncooperative in granting full access to conduits and whatnot to make this happen. MFN keeps delaying the project because of this, and Milwaukee keeps bitching about it, yet it's the city's fault this has happened. In the meanwhile, a shoddy "test" area has been completed, but each party is pointing fingers at eachother for the delays.

It got so bad that earlier this month, Midwest Fiber Networks wants to pull out of the deal and chalk up the $20 million they've spent on this experiment as a bad learning experience. Can't blame 'em.

Well, that's what govt. will get you! (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415003)

Ok, being a Libertarian-leaning individual myself, I'm obviously a little biased. But really, why did anyone think getting local government involved would produce better/more efficient results than we'd see without them?

Personally, I think there were more than a few people enamored with a utopian ideal of "free Internet for all!", without considering the reasons it hasn't really happened spontaneously first.

My thinking is, if the *demand* was truly there for wi-fi practically everywhere in a city, you'd already essentially be there, due to all the businesses throwing a $50 Linksys router up at their location and putting out a sign advertising it to their customers. That plus the sheer number of people with fast broadband connections in their home/apartment/condo who just feel like sharing with others, would provide pretty good coverage without ANY government intervention at all.

In reality, this is actually starting to happen, little by little, but it's not anywhere near "city-wide seamless coverage" because you don't yet see every Joe on the street carrying a wi-fi capable device around, hoping for a connection. The people running around with laptops tend to fit into little niches; your salespeople, your mobile I.T. workers, and your college students. The rest of the public doesn't really care if they've got wi-fi. Having a computer in their place of business they can use during the workday is more than enough for them.

Hell, where I live, all the McDonalds restaurants have wi-fi, and I've only seen someone use a computer in there a grand total of twice, ever! (Both times were at a McDonalds in a more affluent part of town, too.) It's almost a joke they have wi-fi at the ones near my workplace. People would be afraid of having their computer stolen at gun or knifepoint or something!

Re:Well, that's what govt. will get you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20415161)

> But really, why did anyone think getting local government involved would produce better/more efficient results than we'd see without them?

Because we've yet to see anyone worse than the telcos, who have a monopoly anyway?

Philadelphia (3, Informative)

ZipprHead (106133) | more than 6 years ago | (#20413897)

Philadelphia now has Earthlink Wireless throughout large portions of the city. All of the downtown is covered (about 20 square miles). The rest of the city coming soon. There has been some role out problems and speed issues but starting at 6$ a month for a citywide service, I expect to see a lot more notebooks in the park once they get the kinks worked out. I'll be signing up as soon as my existing contract is up.

Question (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414035)

Philadelphia now has Earthlink Wireless throughout large portions of the city.

I got curious. Is this Wireless internet behind a NAT? Does it support IPv6?

Film at 11 (0, Offtopic)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414081)

No money to be made in giving something away for free? File under no shit, Sherlock.

given that earthlink rides the other isp's... (1)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414111)

how much do you want to bet comcast and at&t mentioned they might not be so willing to continue to lease those lines to earthlink if this went through? Thanks for the free and open market FCC!

Who owns the network and how does the law see it? (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414221)

My biggest fear about having these monopolies is that the SCOTUS will rule that you have little to no expectation of privacy from government surveillance if you are using the local muni wifi. If the muni wifi drives out competition in most areas, that would mean that you would end up with a system where the government could run rough shod on civil liberties.

The SCOTUS and other courts frequently pull legal arguments out their ass. The best one that comes to mind was Scalia's lowering of requirements on police to read rights because of the "new professionalism among police." He based a ruling on how he feels about the current state of police professionalism. This sort of weak-minded bullshit is common in the legal profession at large. Support this at your own risk, I say.

Constitution not offended by fit of stupidity ... (3, Informative)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417639)

My biggest fear about having these monopolies is that the SCOTUS will rule that you have little to no expectation of privacy from government surveillance if you are using the local muni wifi

No, you actually have more privacy if government operates it. Government is subject to various ammendments, but individuals or corporations are not. Also, there are various privacy acts that apply to government but not individuals or corporations.

The best one that comes to mind was Scalia's lowering of requirements on police to read rights because of the "new professionalism among police." He based a ruling on how he feels about the current state of police professionalism.

Scalia lowered nothing. He wrote the dissenting opinion. The court had upheld Miranda.

His argument was not based upon police professionalism: "The Court did not just apply the Constitution when it handed down Miranda, it expanded the Constitution, imposing an immense and antidemocratic prophylactic rule upon Congress and the states. It was an example of raw, judicial power that simply asserted a constitutional right ... Miranda should not be preserved simply because it occupies a special place in the public consciousness. There is little harm in admitting that we made a mistake in taking away from people their ability to decide for themselves. By overturning Miranda, we reaffirm for the people the wonderful reality that they govern themselves, as stated in the Tenth Amendment".

Note that by "governing themselves" he does not mean governing themselves well: "Preventing foolish people from incriminating themselves is the only purpose of Miranda, and that is a far cry from what the Fifth Amendment requires in terms of protecting someone from being compelled to incriminate themself. Nor is a lawyer required because the interrogators can do the same as any lawyer can -- tell the suspect they have a right to be silent. The Constitution is not offended by a criminal's commendable qualm of conscience or fortunate fit of stupidity."

adelaide australia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20414233)

no such problem for adelaide australia with internode and its citylan service - https://hotspot.internode.on.net/partners/citylan/ [on.net] basically covers the entire city center http://www.adelaidecitycouncil.com/scripts/nc.dll? ADCC:STANDARD::pc=PC_143 [adelaidecitycouncil.com] and they have free access at the airport http://www.aal.com.au/t1/wifi.aspx [aal.com.au] as well - all in all - adelaide is a great place to be if you want wifi - can sit in cafe's and hook in all over the city - and with the added bonus of air-stream http://www.air-stream.org.au/ [air-stream.org.au] you can get free internet basically city wide as unofficiall the air-stream network is hooked up to the citylan so you can get online without a problem

Technical Issues (2, Interesting)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414303)

Earthlink badly overreached themselves here with two major mistakes - first, deciding to use Tropos equipment to paint an entire city. Most of the money you burn in setting up a wifi installation is in the install and then trying to get everything to work when your planning tools are out of sync with reality (which is almost always). Tropos's mesh equipment is crap, so they've wasted months and burned untold money trying to nail jello to a wall.

Second, trying to blanket an entire city at once is doable, but it's far more practical to grow the network from little seed areas (while keeping future growth in mind) - blanket a six block area of downtown, for instance, and then expand from that. This lets you get everything right for a small area before you apply that to larger areas - it's the way almost all WISP (wireless ISPs) operate and it works fairly well.

I think Earthlink finally realized it wasn't gonna work, which of course makes all the assumptions under which they signed contracts not so great for them.

Re:Technical Issues (1)

M1m3R (1854) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414701)

I'll second the Tropos mesh statement. Here in Cumberland, MD we're rolling out Wavion WS410 APs...linked back to the core via Alvarion BreezeACCESS VL radios.

http://www.wavionnetworks.com/news/pr/cumberland.h tml [wavionnetworks.com]
http://www.alvarion.com/solutions/backhaul/product s/breezeaccessvl/ [alvarion.com]
http://www.conxx.net/ [conxx.net]

money makes the world go round (2, Interesting)

Potatomasher (798018) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414371)

Remind me again what the business plan is for free municipal wifi ?
Oh right, there is none.

Re:money makes the world go round (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20414829)

Incorrect. Free wireless is supported by advertising in the web browser.

Re:money makes the world go round (1)

21mhz (443080) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415411)

Didn't stop them here [ptp.hel.fi] .

Yesterday, I surfed the net from a tram. Every Wi-Fi equipped tram here has its own webpage with a dynamically updating list of upcoming stops with ETA, and a location map.

Everything useful in SF is doomed anyway (1)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414619)

I live there (here) and there are a lot of great things about the city, but one of them is not the city's ability to deal with infrastructure in any way that makes even the least bit of sense. Progress, such as it is, occurs as if the time dimension in space-time had no earthly relevance. Don't get me started on Muni. But anyway, if people had started putting up antennas, there'd be years of environmental studies about electromagnetic radiation poisoning (and people wondering, is WiFi organic?). That would get the ball rolling and activists would start roving the streets looking for home-base wireless nets and shutting them down because they "leak" dangerous electromagnetic energy. If you think I'm kidding, you should visit my home which is in a cellular dead spot, because for years a handful of crusty old neighbors have blocked plans to install a small camouflaged antenna on the roof of a church. Don't confuse "progressive" with "progress." :-)

Re:Everything useful in SF is doomed anyway (1)

kbob88 (951258) | more than 6 years ago | (#20417645)

Yes, you're absolutely right. When I lived in Noe Valley, some local crazies stopped all sorts of cell towers, no matter how small they were. It would be years before the city would be able to deal with all the environmental and safety reviews, plus all the ensuing legal challenges.

Plus add in the fact that this was Mayor Newsom's baby, and the dysfunctional Board of Supervisors is always looking for an excuse to stick it to him (because he's too 'conservative', which would be 'very liberal but not totally communist or anarchist' in the rest of the country).

So the Supes kept trying to change the contract and squeeze more $$ out of Earthlink as it was going down the tubes. No surprise the deal collapsed. I don't see anything like this being done in San Francisco for a long time.

Rob Malda's area too (1)

proxima (165692) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414643)

Washtenaw county is home to CmdrTaco (Rob Malda), which has a plan to bring wireless to the whole county [ewashtenaw.org] . It, too, seems to be having problems with financing [mlive.com] . The plan was to have a free service with paid members getting faster access. The second link claims that to be profitable, 5% of the county needs to sign up.

But a good portion of the population (i.e. most of Ann Arbor) can get fairly cheap DSL through AT&T/Speakeasy (okay, maybe Speakeasy isn't so cheap), or most of the county (I think) can get cable through Comcast.

Students on the U of M campus (a sizable portion of the city's population) can get wireless from many locations. It's not uncommon to have people run open WiFi spots in neighborhoods around campus as well. People push these wireless services as enabling low-income households and rural areas to get broadband speeds. Low-income households are likely to not find the faster service worth buying, and rural areas still have substantial infrastructure costs (the houses are spread out more, and wireless access points have fairly pitiful range). I'm just not sure current wireless technology is really a better solution for the "last mile".

On the other hand, it seems to make some sense for dense downtown regions. People like to congregate there, and businesses might be willing to chip in (instead of many businesses administering their own wireless access points). People who live downtown might be willing to pay $10 or $20/mo to get faster speeds where they live and in all the businesses they frequent.

But county-wide, like this Washtenaw program? I'm just not sure the demand is there and/or the technology is sufficient.

You insensi7ive clod! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20414653)

DOH! Springfield too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20414753)

AT&T cancels citywide Wi-Fi plan [sj-r.com]

AT&T has scuttled plans it had to deploy wireless Internet with some free access throughout Springfield, according to Mayor Tim Davlin's top aide.

"They just made a business decision not to pursue these types of ventures," executive assistant Jim Donelan said Tuesday.
Other companies are still welcome to make proposals for citywide wireless access, Donelan said, but there are no active negotiations.

A spokesman for AT&T was contacted but did not provided a statement from the company.
-mcgrew [kuro5hin.org]

(Yes, the Simpsons live here [kuro5hin.org] . In fact, Gail Simpson [springfield.il.us] is alderman of ward 2.)

Houston delayed by nine months (2, Interesting)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#20414991)

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5094200. html [chron.com]

One astute commentator [chron.com] wrote:

A better idea might be to sell repeaters (and bandwidth) to businesses at a discount rate, so that they can give their customers free public wi-fi. If the City of Houston chipped in for a few of its parks and libraries, we'd be basically complete, since there are almost no public spaces in America that aren't businesses or government institutions.

Starbucks should take over (1)

marco916 (1149907) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415189)

With all the Starbuko's in SF, they should think about blanketing the city with free Wi-Fi and the only catch is to put up with Starbucks popups. The Yuppie nation in SF would dig that and the $5 dolla make you holla coffee.

City of New Orleans (1)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415231)

Down in the CBD, which is only about 5 sq miles, you can get the country's first free municipal wifi network [washingtonpost.com] . It started up shortly after the hurricane. It's done wonders for stimulating opportunities for lower income residents. Well, at least the business folks making five times the average population can get free wifi.

Wireless, and rumors of wireless... (1)

Loosifur (954968) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415341)

They've been talking about something like this in Annapolis (capitol of MD, kinda halfway between DC and Baltimore) for awhile now, and as far as I can tell there is some network you can connect to based out of one, kind of out of the way part of town. Unfortunately, when you even CAN connect to it (difficult because of how far off it is and all the interference in between) you can't actually use the Internet. So "free" wifi is still limited to a couple cafes, living in an apartment building, or living near enough to one of the colleges.

Re:Wireless, and rumors of wireless... (1)

phaggood (690955) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415617)

Oakland County (Detroit suburb) seems to be having some success with their effort. http://www.oakgov.com/wireless/faq [oakgov.com]

Re:Wireless, and rumors of wireless... (1)

Loosifur (954968) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415831)

Interesting. I'm a little confused by the funding, though. What do they mean by "assets"? At first it looked like they were saying that the setup cost was publicly funded but that maintenance would be handled privately, but towards the end of the paragraph it almost seemed like the private companies would foot the whole thing. Any clarification on that? In principle it seems like a good idea. I note also that they were pretty upfront with the possibility of wireless transmissions being intercepted, which is good.

Wi-max? (3, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 6 years ago | (#20415879)

It sounds like Wi-Max will be available soon, and will be able to provide wide-area coverage without requiring nearly as many base stations. Perhaps this is one reason why companies are suddenly deciding that big Wi-fi projects are a bad idea... because after investing $$$$ on thousands of Wi-fi stations, the competition will next year be able to take their customers away by installing just a few dozen Wi-max stations?

Re:Wi-max? (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418563)

OTOH, WiMax base stations are 10x the price of WiFi ones and customers would need to buy expensive CPEs.

ta3Fo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20416035)

any parting shot, There are o nly

Springfield, IL, too (3, Interesting)

spune (715782) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416701)

Our plans for municipal wifi through AT&T just fell through, too. All of these muni-wifi plans biting the dust at just about the same time seems a little suspicious.

For more information (2, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 6 years ago | (#20416723)

The best place I've found to get details on news like this is the blog "Wi-Fi Networking News", by Glenn Fleishmann. http://wifinetnews.com./ [wifinetnews.com.]

Dear Government: (1)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418369)

Please stop trying to buy the internet. I don't want you to control my access or anyone elses because then you will be able to control *what* I have access to.

Government and the internet are like Pirates and Ninja.. they don't mix ok.
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