Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "Wireless"Displaying 231 - 240 of 257
Communities with both smart-grid investments as well as community networks are again in the news, this time featuring Chattanooga, Leesburg, and Ponca City. Thanks to my colleague at EnergySelfReliantStates.org, who posted this item. ESRS publishes original content about decentralized renewable energy - mostly of a quantitative nature using charts. Perhaps one of the reasons the broadband networks run by public power utilities are so much more reliable than those run by telco and cablecos is the many decades that public power companies have focused intently on reliability.
Reliability is a good economic development tool, he said. One business looking at Chattanooga asked about the cost of a redundant feed. After EPB explained its smart grid plans, the company chose Chattanooga and decided it didn’t need a redundant feed, he said. In talking to businesses, "I can tell you ... that they get it and they get the importance of this level of automation."The article offered more details about Ponca City's wireless network that we had previously not discussed. In addition to offering free Wi-Fi to residents, the Ponca City offers fiber-optic-based broadband to local businesses... and two are quite connected.
Perhaps the most eye-opening benefit is that Ponca City offers all of its 26,000 citizens free WiFi service. The city uses its fiber network to sell broadband services to businesses (one has requested 300 mbps service) and those sales pay for the free WiFi, Baird said. The network is basically support-free, said Baird, adding that he gets one or two calls per week. And the free WiFi is "a huge economic development draw," he said.
A community-owned network, infused with broadband stimulus dollars, is bringing broadband to people stuck on long-distance dial-up for Internet access. Cedar Falls Utilities, which recently announced an upgrade to FTTH from HFC, announced more good news last week: they have received an RUS stimulus grant (PDF, scroll down) to expand their broadband services to nearby unserved areas. CFU is a public power and telecom utility in Iowa with an electrical footprint that roams outside Cedar Falls muni boundary. For years, CFU has wanted to offer broadband to its whole electrical territory but could not justify the capital expense outside the city because the rural areas would not produce enough revenues to run the network in the black. With this 50% grant ($873,000) from the Rural Utilities Services, CFU is expanding and will offer broadband to their whole electrical territory. Serving broadband to these areas will be a sustainable enterprise -- the building of broadband is what costs so much money (one of the very good reasons networks should be accountable to the communities -- the "market" will not make the appropriate investment by itself). Some folks will get fiber services and others will get WiMAX, a welcome change from dial-up (for some, long distance dial-up is the only option to connect to the Internet!). I asked CFU if people in the area had access to broadband and was told that some had access to satellite services… to which I responded, "So no one has access to broadband?" Satellite is a last ditch option, not a viable competitor to services that deliver actual broadband. Some also have access to some very slow cellular speeds - again, not really broadband but it is better than dial-up. We salute Cedar Falls for requesting a 50% grant from the Feds rather than the full 80% they could have gone with. Self-reliance means taking responsibility for the community, not maximizing the "free money" available from the Feds. Though we at MuniNetworks.org believe in a future with everyone connected with both mobile and reliable wired access, we do not expect it to happen tomorrow. We hope that over time, CFU is able to expand the reach of their fiber to everyone.
A Qwest sales person admits on tape that Qwest is trying to eliminate competition by purging the network of independent ISPs. Listen to the conversation here.
Undoubtedly, Qwest will (if it has not already) disavow this quote and suggest the CSR just didn't know what she was talking about. But they are clearly trying to remove competition - something we have witnessed in the Twin Cities of Minnesota as the good ISPs (for instance, IP House) are slowly strangled because they are not permitted resell the faster circuits. Additionally, I believe allegations that Qwest deliberately allows more congestion on lines they resell than lines where they are the sole retailer. Our office uses IP House and we have never had anything but good experiences with them. But we need a faster services, so we can choose between slightly faster options with Qwest or much faster options with Comcast. We have no choice but to take service from a crappy massive company if we want to maintain productivity. Some would claim that we have additional choices because USIW runs a Wi-Fi network in Minneapolis (subsidized by the City) but the network's speeds cannot compare to Comcast and it is far less reliable than the wired network alternatives (though Qwest's reliability in some areas may actually be worse). I found this story via the Free UTOPIA blog but it links to the original source on Xmission - a UTOPIA service provider and DSL resellter.
Customer: "Qwest is trying to eliminate competition?"
Customer Service Rep: "In a way."
While researching the Wired West Network in rural Massachusetts, I learned about another community broadband network. The little town of Warwick built a wireless network for itself; the story behind it gives a glimpse into the ways that the federal approach to broadband really fails small communities. Miryam Ehrlick Williamson described their motivations and experiences. In 2008, after considering their options, they voted to borrow $40,000 in a town meeting (Warrick has 750 people) to build a simple wireless system that would be far superior to the existing options of dial-up and satellite (neither of which are a service that could properly be termed broadband). State and federal programs ostensibly meant to help towns in this position do little good:
We know about a USDA program meant to bring broadband to rural America. Our information is that most of the money has gone to suburban communities in Texas, and we don’t have a professional grant administrator to chase down any money that might be left. We’re aware that the Massachusetts governor just signed a $40 million act establishing the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, to figure out how to bring broadband to unserved and underserved towns. We’re also aware that the money will go to vendors to develop regional systems and we don’t have the patience to wait the two or three years it will take for anyone to get around to thinking about maybe serving us.Ultimately, the City was able to lend itself the money:
As it has turned out, we didn’t need to borrow — town financial officers found the funds without going to the bank for them. We got the necessary permits from the owners of two towers here, bought the equipment, got a couple of people trained to install the equipment, and turned on our first customers in March, 2009.Between a local mountain and available cell tower, the topology apparently fits a fixed-wireless approach (at least for a significant part of the population).
A Recipe for Starting a Local Broadband Wireless Network via Federal Stimulus Funding Wally Bowen has created a "cookbook" with step-by-step instructions for creating a community wireless network. This is a solid introduction to wireless networks.
Federal broadband stimulus funding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local nonprofit organizations -- especially community media centers -- to become Internet service providers (ISP) and begin developing new revenue streams. It's also an historic opportunity for advocates of Internet Freedom. Creating community-based broadband networks would be a huge step toward creating the critical "third pipe" alternative to the cable/telco duopoly. The proliferation of these community-based networks would generate market pressure to force the major carriers to restore “net neutrality” protections for broadband users. In short, this broadband stimulus opportunity opens the door to the possibility of a new “Jeffersonian Internet” comprised of a “network-of-grassroots-networks” where civil liberties and quality journalism are valued over Wall Street business models. "Local Network Cookbook: A Recipe for Launching a Local Broadband Wireless Network" is aimed at helping nonprofit organizations -- especially those already using digital technologies -- move quickly to plan and submit a broadband stimulus funding proposal for one of the three application windows.
MuniWireless.com has updated their list of cities that have large scale Wi-Fi networks. The list combines communities that own the network with cities that have networks owned and controlled by private companies, but it is a useful starting point for anyone looking to find cities that have explored this wireless technology.
Australia is planning to build a nationwide open access network that will be owned by the public. Ars Technica recently covered their progress - Australia has released a consultant report on the proposed network. If the major incumbent, Telstra, works with the government on the network, the costs will be lower. But Australia will not let Telstra dictate the terms of their relationship:
But it's clear that the new network won't be held hostage to Telstra's demands. The consultants conclude that, in the absence of an agreement, [the fiber network] should proceed to build both its access network and its backhaul unilaterally." [src: Ars Technica]Between the original plan and a revised plan suggested by the referenced study (bullet points here), over 90% of Australians will have a real choice in providers over a FTTH connection whereas the rest will have a combination of wireless and satellite options. The prices are expected to be affordable, and will probably be well below what we pay here in America. The Implementation Study has some words about ownership of the National Broadband Network (NBN):
Government should retain full ownership of the NBN until the roll out is complete to ensure that its policy objectives are met – including its competition objectivesOn technology, they reiterate what we have been saying for years:
Fibre to the premise is widely accepted as the optimal future proof technology with wireless broadband a complementary rather than a substitute technology;Have no fear though, we will undoubtedly hear from many apologists for the private telecom companies that Australiai's NBN has "failed" because it is losing money. Estimates on the break even are many years out:
BN Co can build a strong and financially viable business case with the Study estimating it will be earnings positive by year six and able to pay significant distributions on its equity following completion of the rollout;Brace yourself for a slew of reports noting the operating losses in the early years as "proof" the government should never have built this broadband infrastructure.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is pleased to release this comprehensive report on the practices and philosophy of publicly owned networks. Breaking the Broadband Monopoly explains how public ownership of networks differs from private, evaluates existing publicly owned networks, details the obstacles to public ownership, offers lesson learned, and wrestles with the appeal and difficulty of the open access approach.
Download Breaking the Broadband Monopoly [pdf]
After focusing on the North Carolina battle at the Legislature (regarding whether cities should be allowed to choose to build their own broadband networks or if they should solely have to beg the private sector for investment), I wanted to check in on Salisbury, which is building a FTTH network. Salisbury has persevered through many obstacles, including finding financing for the project in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Depression. They will begin serving customers this August. After choosing the name "Fibrant" as the name of the network, they have established a slick web presence at fibrant.com. The site has a a blog, but is rarely updated currently. Earlier in the month, the local paper discussed the ways in which the fiber network will aid public safety. The short answer is video, video, video. Video can be used for security cameras (both in public places and in private homes) as well as to give officers better situational awareness when they arrive on a scene. But wireless video access is often the key - both so officers can stream video in the cruiser and because wireless video cameras are easier to place (no pesky wires to run) and move around. Though wireless video is helpful, it creates of a lot of data that is best moved across fast, reliable, wired networks. This is why fiber-optic networks and wireless are better understood as complements than substitutes. A robust fiber architecture greatly eases the problems incurred by creating a wireless network because the wireless nodes will be more efficient if all are tied into a fiber network. Rather than streaming data across the entire city to send a single feed to a cruiser, a local access point will stream it across a smaller footprint.
"They are potentially looking at helmet cams," Doug Paris said, assistant to the city manager. "Those who are sitting outside (the structure) will be able to see what's going on inside."It would make little sense for the fireman to have wires coming out of their helmets. But that wireless signal from the helmet probably won't propagate to the fire hall or police station. Instead, a wireless access point near the fire can grab the signal and make it available to anyone who needs access to it.