Councilman Frank Rizzo suggests Philadelphia re-activate Ricochet network: I'd like to ridicule Rizzo here as I have elsewhere for making statements that have little technical merit and use dubious background research that comes from paid-for policy institute reports. But I can't. This is a very interesting idea, reactivating the former Metricom's ubiquitous low-broadband-speed network as an experiment.
While a modern infrastructure is needed for Philadelphia's public-safety purposes and for their broadband proposal, reactivating Ricochet would allow the city to start immediately on bridging the digital divide at an extremely low cost. It's a way to test how the market and citizens respond to faster-than-dial-up. There's very little risk, and the company that owns Metricom's assets appears eager to be involved.
But one comment in the story can't stand. Steven Schwendemann, "a vice president for Ricochet Networks Inc., a subsidiary of YDI Wireless," said, "WiFi cannot go through walls." That's a very interesting statement, and I imagine he said in more depth that Wi-Fi can't easily penetrate indoors from distant access points without additional equipment than built-in Wi-Fi adapters. In many mesh Wi-Fi installations, high-gain interior access point/bridges are used to solve that problem.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, the city thinks about muni-Fi: the city's early estimates are under $20 million for a network somewhat similar to Philadelphia's upcoming proposal request. Unfortunately, the local alderman who wants to study the idea made this crazy statement:
"If you looked at 500,000 Chicago households that presently are accessing the Internet and multiply that by $20 (a month), that could be a huge amount of money," the alderman said.
Right, but you'll be offering speeds far below the wired broadband providers--and you probably should not be trumpeting the idea that your goal is to steal customers from existing providers, which is a pretty unlikely proposition.
But the good news is that the Heartland Institute is based in Chicago on LaSalle and would thus be forced to leave the socialist city (and its socialist public roads, public lights, public electricity, and public police) into some bastion of democracy elsewhere. Maybe Texas?