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Wireless Networking Government

San Jose Plan Reintroduces Large-Scale Municipal Wi-Fi Coverage 61

alphadogg writes "San Jose is casting a vote of confidence in municipal Wi-Fi from the heart of Silicon Valley, planning a new, free network just a few years after such networks were declared all but dead. The California city of about 1 million intends to offer high-speed Wi-Fi throughout its downtown, covering an area of 1.5 square miles in the middle of this year. But unlike earlier municipal Wi-Fi initiatives, such as a Google-sponsored network that would have covered San Francisco, the San Jose system will be able to pay for itself entirely by helping the government do its job. In the middle of the past decade, ambitious projects in several cities, including parts of San Jose, promised to blanket outdoor areas with Wi-Fi and provide built-in sources of revenue. Home broadband subscriptions, browser-based advertising or small-business use would help to pay for equipment and operations. But those complicated business models depended on assumptions that often proved unfounded."
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San Jose Plan Reintroduces Large-Scale Municipal Wi-Fi Coverage

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  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:02AM (#39338879) Homepage Journal

    "Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!"

    "But that trick never works!"

    "This Time, for sure!!! PRESTO!"

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:03AM (#39338891)

    It's been that the big ISP's and cellular companies have fought these municipal initiatives tooth and nail, including suing and getting their legislative slaves to pass laws outlawing them. A quick search [] tells the real story.

    • by BMOC ( 2478408 )
      That's interesting. I didn't know this. I suppose I should have expected this outcome, but I had no idea it was actually occurring. This is not to different from a railroad shipping company lobbying against a local offramp to an interstate highway to protect their local business. It's one company protecting a business model by essentially paying for laws against a new media.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cpu6502 ( 1960974 )

      Those companies should no longer be given monopoly status over local markets. Let them compete for customers amongst one another. (Or else if they are granted monopoly status, they should be strictly regulated like the electricity, water, and natural gas monopolies.)

      The article says the Wifi net will cost $22,000 per year to maintain. That sounds too cheap?

      the city has been striving for years to get workers to leave their offices and make the district more lively and lucrative for small businesses.

      If this plan works, all it does is transfer the workers' spending money from the cafeterias/vending companies inside the offices to the street rest

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If this plan works, all it does is transfer the workers' spending money from the cafeterias/vending companies inside the offices to the street restaurants. It doesn't create any new wealth or boost to the economy.

        By that logic, nothing creates new wealth, it only shifts from one use to another... which is exactly what the GP is claiming: the office workers will start spending money on local businesses, parking, etc. instead of paying to commute and for disgusting cafeteria food. I would imgine the biggest savings (i.e. "wealth creation") would be in not having to rent as much office space for the same workforce.

    • Pretty much. I'm shocked to see a new municipal wifi plan being rolled out after what happened to the earlier attempts. Maybe San Jose snuck a clause into their latest franchise contracts that allow them to provide this service without objections.

    • by willpb ( 1168125 )
      Where I live we were fortunate enough to get UTOPIA up and running. It has forced the major cable internet providers to lower rates since they can't compete with the speed of fiber.
      • by kwerle ( 39371 )

        Where I live we were fortunate enough to get UTOPIA up and running. It has forced the major cable internet providers to lower rates since they can't compete with the speed of fiber.

        A what? Links, please.

      • Yes, but on the down side you have to live in Utah...
    • by suutar ( 1860506 )
      Hmmm. If this gets shot down, I think a ballot initiative may be in order.
    • While it's true that telcos have fought muni wifi, in San Jose's case, it was specifically the hotels that bitched-- they make mucho bucks from SJ Conv Center and other hotel stays. Free WiFi cuts their margins down significantly. The California Broadband Initiative and the local muni wifi advocates will be happy to point fingers at the roadblockers.

      You can add them to the telcos. This is a very local objection, rather than a legislative bribery case; the legislature has its own problems on a California and

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:05AM (#39338915)

    Just bought my first Wifi modem last week to connect to my hotel's internet. It only streams at 30-40 kilobyte/second (slower than DSL at home) and keeps dropping the connection with a message that says "acquiring network ID". Windows XP reports the signal is "very good" to "excellent".

    At this point I'm wondering if I wasted my my money. The Wifi is only good for uTorrent downloads (it doesn't mind the intermittent connection), and my dialup connection is actually more reliable for web browsing, facebook, etc.

    Oh and yes I've tried moving the modem around which improved the signal, but not the frequent lost connections. Surely this isn't normal for Wifi?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's because your hotel doesn't have the network required to support the number of users they have. Its a common problem with most hotels.

      • A couple months ago, I stayed in a hotel with satellite internet. I assume it was some sort of deal the chain had with DirecWay that required using the service at every location because nobody in their right mind would be using satellite internet as the primary entartube in an urban setting. It was ridiculously slow and my 4G hotspot tore it to shreds. Heck, 3G would have been faster with lower latency.

        • Satellite net is usually the same speed as budget Cable internet but with higher latency. In all my previous hotels which provided free internet, they had wired ethernet to all the rooms. It was nice and fast (100 to 200 kilobyte/s).

          Maybe I'll try VirginMobile's $50/month plan. Or just stick with dialup ($7) for the facebook/email and let uTorrent handle the hotel's Wifi mess, since it doesn't mind the dropped connections.


    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      That is 100% normal for hotel Wifi.

      Even $250.00 a night Hotel wifi.

      • Which is why, no matter where I go, I use my smartphone and PDAnet. Much more reliable and in some cases faster. Now I don't do anything of a secure nature over that, but it suits me just fine for fartin' around on the Interwebs.
      • Ahhh two people with the same answer. Thanks. Sounds like a good reason to move to another nearby hotel that has almost no residents (and therefore less sharing of the Wifi). Also it's cheaper.

        Also explains why the dialup, with its dedicated phone line, never drops connection. No sharing with anybody else (though 5 KB/s is rather slow).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just bought my first Wifi modem last week to connect to my hotel's internet.

      When I hear "wifi modem", I think of something like this [], which no way in hell you'd need that to connect to the hotel's internet connection. Did you actually mean you picked up a router to plug into the wired port in your room so that your various devices can connect to it? Or... just how old is your laptop that it doesn't have a wifi transmitter/receiver built in?

    • by gmhowell ( 26755 )

      Also try looking for a Starbucks or McDonald's to test against their wi-fi network, which should eliminate your equipment as a source of the problems. The quality of hotel wifi is all over the map.

  • by arth1 ( 260657 )

    The problem is that they want to offer free-as-in-beer, not free-as-in-speech. After all, if it was libre, someone could use it for nefarious purposes! Think of the children!

    As they propose it, it's just cost shifting, and attracting the attention of big service providers who get to sue for anti-competitive behavior.

    • Re:DNW (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:18AM (#39339089)

      >>>Think of the children!


      When the children grow-up, as they will fairly quickly, I'm sure they'd rather live in a society where they are free to speak, create, and express themselves without restriction, rather than live in a world where their ideas are censored by internet police (Obama's ACTA, Bush's DHS, and so on).

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        When the children grow-up, as they will fairly quickly, I'm sure they'd rather live in a society where they are free to speak, create, and express themselves without restriction, rather than live in a world where their ideas are censored by internet police (Obama's ACTA, Bush's DHS, and so on).

        You know that, and I know that, but it won't win the local politicos any votes.

        • Seems to be working for anti-censorship, anti-ACTA Ron Paul. (He carries 70-80% of the 18-30 year old vote in every election.) Those people will demand freedom of the net as they grow older and become middle age citizens, and they'll be electing politicians who share the same view.

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            The problem is that Dr. No is also against laws that protect freedom or gives individuals rights that corporations don't have.
            At the same time he doesn't have a problem with states restricting a woman's freedom to not have an unwanted child or a homosexual's freedom to marry.
            Also, you have to wonder about the sanity of someone who manages to say that atheism is like using drugs.

            tl;dr: old man Paul doesn't endorse "libre" except when it suits his beliefs.

            • Also, you have to wonder about the sanity of someone who manages to say that atheism is like using drugs.

              I googled and found the video [] (see from 4:30 on), and that's not what he said at all. What he said is that, just like him supporting freedom of religion does not mean that he's endorsing atheism, him supporting decriminalization of drugs doesn't mean that he's endorsing drug use. That is called an "analogy". Nowhere he actually says that atheism is like using drugs.

            • >>>The problem is that Dr. No is also against laws that protect freedom or gives individuals rights that corporations don't have.

              No he isn't. If you're referring to the Civil Rights Act of the 1870s and 1960s, he said he would have voted for them even though he disagreed with one section (forcing store owners to serve white racists & other groups they don't like), because overall it was a positive good. Same way he voted to extend the Bush Tax Cuts even though he disagreed with raising tax ra

  • Paying for itself means that it will generate revenue proportional to the cost of implementing and maintaining it. For any government program to do this is unusual (and this is not always a criticism -- the government is in the business of governing, and it's unreasonable to assume that every or even many sectors of governing will generate revenue).

    But "helping us do our jobs" by having WiFi available everywhere is completely orthagonal to this. Will they be replacing government office networks with free, p

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      Do you want YOUR SSN and government records floating around the local DMV on a public wireless network?

      Because you think Wifi makes it impossible to use encryption?

      • Of course not -- but would you honestly advise a government agency trusted with secure data to perform their work that requires that data while connected to a public wifi hotspot, regardless of the encryption used?

  • by RobCull ( 1658279 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:32AM (#39339281)

    Here in Philadelphia, free wifi is available almost everywhere in the city. The SSID is something like "Free Wireless Philadelphia" and it has at least fair signal quality almost everywhere I've been (aside from inside some buildings, etc).

    However, you can NEVER connect to it. The connection ALWAYS fails. I have never met a single person who was able to connect to it.

    After doing some testing, I realized that the problem is their receivers. The transmitters are rather powerful and can be picked up by a laptop/tablet almost anywhere. However, good luck getting your laptop/tablet to transmit strong enough for their systems to even hear you.

    • by ae1294 ( 1547521 )


      iw reg set BO
      iwconfig wlan0 rts 256 frag off txpower 1000mW rate 5.5M auto

      in linux...

      • This is the first computing advice I've received on the internet which didn't include mixing ammonia and bleach or deleting system32.

        • You're supposed to do those FIRST...
        • by ae1294 ( 1547521 )

          LoL yeah.... It took me awhile to figure out and no one ever seems to mention it so I figured I'd say something. You can change the 5M to 1M for extremely bad connections. Your wireless card might not support 1000mW but most support higher than their default setting. Using a directional antenna helps too..

  • San Jose is a successful city, but the downtown area is unusually dead. For thirty years, the city has tried various initiatives to "get downtown going". They put in light rail. They built a convention center, a sports stadium, some parks, a plaza, and several museums. They encouraged the building of large office buildings.

    It hasn't worked. Several of the big office buildings are empty. There's little retail. The "nightclub district" is a row of boarded up storefronts. It's not run down, or even dirty.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      There was a time when downtown SJ was really bad, one time my aunt wanted to shop downtown. My uncle agreed but told the parking lot attendant, "we will only be here for 10 minutes." He was right, my aunt after 10 minutes said lets get out of here. Then there was the big rebuilding of SJ but a lot of businesses were displaced or simply went out of business. Talked to someone whose family had a bicycle shop that started in something like 1901, their dream was to keep it going at least till 2001 (family busin

    • But why downtown? In any city, downtown is the scummiest place to be. Almost any city that improves downtown does it with just a short street of upscale yuppie restaurants a couple blocks away from poverty and crime. The only cities that really have a good downtown are those which are locked into limited land areas that can not grow: Manhattan and San Francisco. Everywhere else people prefer to move away from urban center as they get more money.

  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @12:20PM (#39339773) Homepage

    Tempe, where the downtown area is dominated by the ASU campus, set up a free WiFi system a while back in the downtown slightly-off-campus area. As far as I know it is still operating but it was simply to attract people with computers to the bars and restaurants. It isn't that large an area and probably doesn't cost that much to operate. Hopefully the Tempe taxpayers - who are paying for it - find it not too objectionable.

    Chandler got hooked up with a company called KiteNet which put access points on lightpoles in a fairly large area of the center of the city - much larger than the downtown area. They were sellling it as an alternative to the cable companies, except with cable you could get 10-20Mbs and their wireless configuration was a mesh with only a few connections to the Internet. Hence, the speeds would be pretty low with a lot of latency as the signal bounced from access point to access point finding its way to a wired connection. You might have 10-20 access points to go through or possibly even more in some places. Today the access points are still on the lightpoles and still powered up as far as I know - but the connection to the Internet was terminated years ago. Nobody signed up to pay and therefore the company closed down.

    Nobody was going to pay for wireless access that is really slow but wireless with the sole advantage that they could connect to it on the streetcorner half a block from their house. No, they didn't have coverage in major parks or really anywhere that someone might sit around.

    Municipal WiFi can be a taxpayer-funded gift and stick around as long as the taxpayers want to keep on giving the gift away. The problem with this comes when the gift starts to intersect with commercial offerings - unless we want the government to act as an active competitor to business it is an area they should stay out of. And for the significant percentage of the population that really has no interest in WiFi anything, who is going to make the compelling case for them funding it for the folks that want it?

    More to the point, I think even a lot of businesses have figured out that you can't make WiFi pay. If it is free in a coffee shop then if the coffee is good people might use it - but the majority of customers aren't interested. If it isn't free in a coffee shop nobody is going to pay and hopefully they are there for the coffee anyway. Most of the "municipal" or bar-and-restaurant-area open area WiFi systems have figured this out by now. Even airports have started figuring out that if it isn't free there will not be enough users to pay for the equipment maintenance and connection fees - so they need to figure out some other way paying for it.

    WiFi doesn't pay for itself. Hotels are probably the last remaining bastion where paid WiFi access is common and mostly that is outside of the US. You can't make it pay for itself no matter what you do without a captive audience and there are few places where you have a captive audience that needs to have a WiFi connection.

  • We seem to have a highly vocal minority that believe the "radiation" from smart meters is destroying their lives. They've managed to convince PG&E to offer an opt-out plan to let them keep a non-transmitting meter. Surely a few of them live in the 1.5 square miles covered by this. Waiting for lawsuit to stop this in 3 ... 2 ... 1

  • SJ has been going through budget pains. Even cops and firemen been laidoff and/or benefits reduced. There is cost of installing and maintaining such systems which if funded now, can easily be defunded later. I'm not impressed when "they" promote free wifi, however, I found SJC airport has fast wifi (at least the times I've used it). Most airports it is not free and it is problematic. Google has the free wifi in Mountain View though not that great but it's there. Hotels are hit or miss but it seems wifi is

Pohl's law: Nothing is so good that somebody, somewhere, will not hate it.