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King County (of which Seattle is a subset) sells naming rights to giant park to install Wi-Fi: The county spent $165,000 to unwire Marymoor Park, a sprawling 640 acres on the banks of Lake Sammamsih. It's a great multi-use park, and Microsoft will pay $100,000 for a year's worth of naming rights to stick MSN on the portal. (Oddly, it's the closest large park to where a lot of Softies live, so they'll be advertising to their employees, among many others.) You can take their money, but a county executive spokesman apparently swallowed their marketing pill, too: "It's a perfect fit, because MSN creates virtual communities, and parks are all about community."
Portland, Oregon, votes to franchise citywide wireless network: Along the lines of Minneapolis, commissioners voted four to zero to find a contractor to build the network privately and assume the risk. In exchange, the city would be a major customer. The bidding should start in August, and a network could be online in parts by mid-2006.
West Hollywood puts free Wi-Fi across a section of the heart of the city: If it's successful in luring folks in, it will expand it. The article suggests that this expansion could "possibly mak[e] it the first Wi-Fi city in the nation," but there are already towns around the size of W. H. that have Wi-Fi throughout.
North of LA, Santa Clarita adds free Wi-Fi in its central park: The costs on this project are pretty reasonable: $7,000 setup and $200 to $300 per year for administration. If it benefits the community, the town will expand coverage. Central Park is used as a staging area for brush fire crews, so it's a perfect place to have Wi-Fi.
Coeur d'Alene tribe (Idaho) covers reservation: Sixteen Vivato panels are being used to cover the 538 square miles (about 23 miles on a side if a square) on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.
Here's a cart pulling a donkey story from Houston: A fascinating idea here that Houston will probably build a Wi-Fi network to handle credit-card payments from new parking meters. Building that network will save them money over other alternatives. They might then open that network to the public. Where there are parking meters, there are people.
An LA Times reporter checks out SBC's Calif. campground Wi-Fi; finds and confirms short range: SBC and the California Department of Parks and Recreation trumpeted the partnership in which SBC installed Wi-Fi throughout the state's campgrounds. It's been installed so far in 11 campgrounds.
The reporter talked to rangers and park workers, but hear few success stories. He visited San Elijo and found that of 171 campgrounds, only 10 could get a signal. SBC confirmed to him that the range is only "200 feet," which means they're using a single access point.
Ninety businesses attended a prospective vendor meeting for building Minneapolis's fiber/Wi-Fi municipal network in early June: Vendors like the vagueness of the plan, which sketches out needs without rigidly defining them. That worries me a bit because it means that the vendor has to write an RFP about the RFP, but it also means the city will get a lot of range of options to choose from. Qwest and Time-Warner are interested in submitting a plan, as are much smaller firms.
The plan is still described as "retail"--the infrastructure builder will resell directly to the city, consumers, and businesses. This seems like a mistake. No one provider can receive the maximum return on a closed network. The network should be wholesale allowing the operator to load it fully and allowing ISPs and other firms to resell and bear the cost of customer support at the application layer.
Larry Seltzer suggests that only magic will bring the money for Philly's project, but that security will sink it: Seltzer raises the very reasonable point that the funding source for Philly's network has to materialize. The plan requires a combination of grants and non-governmental loans to fund the non-profit's somewhat optimistic five-year operating plan. Many companies are bidding, but their bids don't ensure funding, and the city has said repeatedly that they'll give the non-profit their telecom business but no money.
But Seltzer says that's just part of the problem. The real issue he raises is the total lack of security in the network as planned. There's no requirement for encryption of the links, and Seltzer leaps to suggest that unprotected nodes will wind up being launchpads for attacks and spam. They may be unsecured, but they will still require authentication for residential service.
This has been one of my key worries about municipal-scale networks. We know that adding encryption to links reduces throughput by some factor and increases complexity. But without required encryption, you have--under Philly and other cities' plans--tens of thousands of home users with their data totally exposed to anyone near a local node. That problem has already been dealt with: most mesh and metro system can employ encryption. But it has to be enabled; it has to be a choice; and it has to be done.
Orlando shut down its expensively operated free Wi-Fi service, and Esme Vos asked why: A number of commenters had responses. I noted that for the area in question, $1,800 per month seems incredibly high. One commenter who lives there says that they couldn't get on the network across a dozen attempts. Others point out the compromises in location and signal. Another suggests that Orlando is about to launch a larger-scale network.
Dell, Intel, Texas Instruments, and others want more broadband to sell more gear to consumers: They've increasingly gotten involved in the ongoing debate over whether incumbent monopolies and duopolies deserve right of first refusal for broadband deployment in their service areas over municipalities because of incumbents' investments, municipalities' tax-free and bond-raising abilities, and the role of government in competing with private enterprise.
The Wall Street Journal walks through the issue, starting with a small town in Texas that's building broadband because SBC can't or won't. The Texas legislature was considering a telecom "reform" bill--a bill which removed many public service and oversight controls on telcos--that would also have banned municipalities from participating in broadband. The original bill was so broad it would have banned virtually all private-public partnerships that the FCC and the Bush Administration have stressed for extending broadband into the furthest reaches of the country.
The backlash is now coming since Texas's bill hit defeat for a variety of reasons, partly including Dell's founder picking up the phone and calling legislators. You see, computer makers would enjoy selling more equipment and one way to do that is broadband. (Homes with broadband connections tend to buy newer equipment and more computers, among other reasons.)
Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has introduced a bill at the national level to pre-empt local legislation (there's that anti-federalism again) governing municipal operation of broadband. Sessions is the representative from SBC: a former employee with huge stock and stock options held directly (not in trust) with a spouse who currently works there. His chief of staff told the Wall Street Journal that "the congressman's ties to SBC do not present a conflict of interest." Except in that he has millions of dollars at stake over SBC's continued performance in the market.
A group at the University of Virginia wants some answers from hotspot users: They're compiling a study in which they're recruiting folks who regularly use hotspots to fill out a very brief questionnaire.
Boingo customers can now roam onto 3,400 SBC FreedomLink locations that SBC has directly contracted: To avoid confusion, SBC should probably better label its different offerings. SBC operates 3,400 FreedomLink locations at The UPS Store, Barnes & Noble, Caribou Coffee, and other locations. This is its home network. It also resells access to Wayport and a few other networks as part of its roaming network. And it buys access to McDonald's restaurants via Wayport, but includes that access in its standard network.
So SBC FreedomLink subscribers who sign up for the basic deal gets SBC-run locations and McDonald's. Add in roaming, and they get the roaming partners, which includes airports, hotels, and other locations.
Boingo Wireless announced it would resell SBC-run locations, and those locations are now live in their network. Whew.
Nashville, Tenn., has 600 computers in its Metro library system and waiting lines: Adding Wi-Fi is a natural for their patrons who can bring their own laptops. The system will cost just under $70,000 across the system through 50-50 federal and local money.
The AP reports on an library study showing 99.6 percent of libraries connected to the Internet: Almost of those offer Internet access to their patrons. This number from the American Library Association is up from 20.9 percent in 1994, when the commercial Internet was brand-spanking new. (I founded a Web site development firm in 1994, and had a T-1 to the Net that August--when it was pretty rare.) Eighteen percent of libraries offer Wi-Fi, but a whopping 21 percent plan to offer it in the next year. Only 42 percent of libraries have high-speed connections, and often broadband is coupled with Wi-Fi: sharing a single dial-up modem over Wi-Fi isn't much of an incentive over home dial-up to library patrons. Public libraries' biggest problem is having enough computers to go around.
Two senators counter Rep. Sessions's pro-incumbent bill with a pro-community networking bill: Pete Sessions, former SBC employee whose wife works at the company and who maintains direct ownership of large Bell stock and option holdings, introduced a brief and terribly broad bill that eliminates essentially all forms of municipal ownership and outsourcing of broadband. The bill he wrote is broad enough to shut down future airport Wi-Fi and other projects beloved by private forms. Republicans and Democrats alike enjoy accusing judges of bias when they have a direct interest in the outcome of a case; shouldn't conflict of interest apply for legislators without blind trusts, too?
Senators McCain and Lautenberg's alternative is the Community Broadband Act which will be incorporated into a telecom reform bill, and is backed by the National League of Cities and other groups.
While I have written consistently that municipal broadband isn't a universal panacea as it is offered portrayed, I also believe strongly that local self-determination on critical development issues is as American (and conservative) as apple pie. Telcos try to paint local municipalities as competing in the same industry they regulate. But municipalities have little to no power over telcos, only state agencies and only in limited ways when telcos act as public utilities--which doesn't include broadband in many states.
Orlando, Flor., drops downtown free hotspots: The city ran the free hotzone for 17 months but found just 27 people a day used them. The service cost $1,800 per month, which seems like a typo--something of the scale described should cost just a few hundred a month to operate.
Skyhook Wireless launches Wi-Fi-based positioning system: The company has a new name, but CEO Ted Morgan said in an interview last week that Skyhook's intent in the same: using the location of Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint urban and suburban locations just as a GPS (global positioning satellite) receiver would. (You may remember Skyhook as Quarterscope back when they won a cellular industry award in spring 2004.)
Skyhook has assembled a database of information about 1.5 million access points across 25 major cities in the U.S. by driving every street in every city. Their software records multiple data points per sample for directionality. Fire up their software on a laptop, and it compares the Wi-Fi information it sees with what's in the Skyhook database, popping out a latitude and longitude within 20 to 40 meters.
The APs they rely on aren't per se public: they're the Wi-Fi gateways operated in homes and businesses that spew their unique identifiers and signal characteristics far beyond a home or an office building. Skyhook tethers itself to the high number of fixed-location gateways to deliver urban GPS-like reliability with lesser certainty as one reaches into less-dense suburbs.
Morgan said that in most cities, there are "8 to 15 APs at any given point to use." The baseline scan they performed is dynamically updated based on client software, too. If a number of APs can be detected at a certain location, new APs or ones that don't conform to the data can be added and updated. This happens constantly. "The user environment itself is maintaining and updating" the location database, Morgan said. This means that shifts over time won't affect overall accuracy and new information will supplement existing baselines. The company also has contracts with delivery firms they haven't revealed to perform ongoing scans.
Skyhook's first announced partner is CyberAngel Security Solutions, which operates a laptop recovery system. The CyberAngel software already uses Internet protocol address tracing and other tools once a laptop is powered up. Add in GPS-like location awareness, and CyberAngel may be able to call the police with a street address to find a missing device.
Morgan stressed that Skyhook sees itself, as it has throughout its two-year development process, as a complement to GPS, providing the same kind of information in areas where GPS works less reliably or where the cost of a GPS receiver is prohibitive for the purpose.
The company has a trial in Boston of a fleet of 50 vehicles in which both GPS and Skyhook software is in use to better provide continuous location and direction information. It's also easy to see this as an add-on to car navigation systems in which Wi-Fi can be used to transfer new information to cars along with its use as a sensor, or a car could even be equipped with a 3G cell uplink that's part of the overall system.
The Skyhook software requires Internet access to reach the backend database, but Skyhook will also have versions that compress a kind of signature of its AP information into about 7 megabytes for more lightweight devices. 7 MB used to seem enormous, but cell phones are shipping with gigabyte hard drives and Webcams, so it's not as big a bar to entry as it used to be.
Morgan also sees a use for his system with voice over IP systems that now face E911 requirements. He says that Skyhook offers the only reasonable way for a mobile soft or hard VoIP phone to provide continuous location information.
Morgan hopes that location-awareness becomes a routine tool that gets integrated into software and Internet applications. Because so much of the Internet has become increasingly focused on local content and targeted advertising, it's of better utility to a user and better value for an advertiser to know exactly where someone is--but, of course, only if they want to reveal that.
Rochester, N.Y., considers downtown Wi-Fi: A business development group is studying whether offering Wi-Fi (free, fee, sponsored, or other models) would be beneficial to the city's downtown. (When I worked for Kodak, not out of Rochester, the rumor was that George Eastman had chosen the town because it was so often gray, thus making it easier to produce film. Just another jealous tale told by Buffalo residents, I'm sure.)
Piedmont Triad in the Winston-Salem, N.C., area unwires: Opti-Fi turns on Wi-Fi service at the local airport on Tuesday. The cost is $2.99 for 15 minutes and 25 cents thereafter or $7.95 per day. Opti-Fi is partnered with other companies for resale, however, including their recent T-Mobile HotSpot deal. Downtown Winston-Salem has had free Wi-Fi since March 2003.
Cincinnati, Ohio, tries sponsorship model: A small firm in Cincinnati is gathering sponsors to fund free Wi-Fi in a number of places around town. Roadrunner is handling installation. The article describes the founder calling it a public/private partnership, but it's all private businesses involved so far, although they will apparently be gaining access to public buildings and spaces to deploy the hotspots.
Henderson, Kentucky, just in time for blues festival: Downtown Henderson has free Wi-Fi at the riverfront and two parks. This allows visitors to W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival to have Wi-Fi with their ribs.
Tokyo, Japan, will have 2,200 power-line mounted access points: The Livedoor Company is setting up the network around Tokyo charging less than $5 per month (¥525) for unlimited access. Fuji Television will use the service to send video back from Tokyo locations to its studios. It commences in late July within what's described as the entire JR Yamanote Loop Line commuter train's service area by October. Lievdoor wants 1 million customers. They'll invest ¥700 million (US$6.5 million), but plan ¥10 to ¥15 billion (US$90 to $140 million) for a national service. [link via Keio Oyama]
Marshalltown, Iowa, puts out 20 blocks of Wi-Fi--first free hotzone in the state? Esme Vos writes about Marshalltown, Iowa, which is claiming bragging rights for the first free Wi-Fi hotzone offered by an Iowa city. It's a 50-50 public/private partnership behind the group that's installed the service. Businesses and government are collectively trying to make the town for attractive to development.
Reports are coming in from all over about Intel's breakthrough Wi-Fi chip design: But when you read a technical report, linked here, it's a not-yet-commercial design that simply demonstrates Intel's ability to incorporate 802.11a, b, g, and n within the same sort of flexible chip manufacturing process--CMOS--used for the largest wafer formats and highest yields. It's not that it's not interesting, but it's not yet a big deal given that 802.11n won't be finalized until what's looking like early 2007, and other chipsets already offer a/b/g in CMOS at low power.
My good colleague and prolific municipal wireless advocate Esme Vos plans conference: The Muniwireless event will be Sept. 26-27 in San Francisco will focus on the nitty-gritty of planning such networks, including how to determine its cost effectiveness and winning over the public.
EarthLink knows its dial-up market is eroding and DSL is competitive as all heck: Building municipal networks for Philadelphia and others may be part of the evolution of the company. The Wall Street Journal reports that EarthLink has bid on Philadelphia's network as one of 12 firms; Verizon and Comcast decided not to.
Esme Vos at Muniwireless.com has the additional intelligence that EarthLink has been negotiating with New York City to drop their pole fee in order to bid on that potential city-wide network.
The WSJ article has a Comcast spokesperson ridiculing the idea of a lack of competition because prices are falling. But that's not the only reasonable way to measure it. Outside of some major cities, there are monopoly or duopoly DSL and cable offerings. Even in those areas, competitors must pay for access to DSL lines; cable companies have continued to fight any wholesale resale requirement to their competitors.
EarthLink will be put in the position in Philadelphia, at least, of offering wholesale access to the network on behalf of Philadelphia's non-profit that will operate the network. This will make EarthLink a more beneficent (but closely watched) partner to many companies that currently deny them wholesale access to their own networks.
Wayport partners with multinational pancake operation: International House of Pancakes (IHOP), home of the many flavors of syrup in a metal basket, will offer Wi-Fi in 70 restaurant nationwide in a pilot test. IHOP has 1,200 stores in North America.
Connexion has a pile of news this week: On the airline side, they signed Austrian Airlines (seven planes to be equipped out of 100 in the fleet); Etihad Airlines of the United Arab Emirates (25 planes) starting on its Gulf to Europe and North American routes; and, today, TeliaSonera extends its HomeRun service to Connexion flights. On the sea, Connexion signed up Teekay Shipping Corporation for 50 ships with 40 more potentially using the maritime version of Connexion at 256 Kbps up and 5 Mbps down (typical airplane rates are 1 Mbps up, 5 Mpbs down).
The TeliaSonera deal is particularly interesting for me ever since SAS committed to adding Connexion to its long-haul flights. Because TeliaSonera runs 3G, home service, and Wi-Fi hotspots, and operates Wi-Fi in all SAS lounges worldwide, it means you could be more or less continuously connected through a single TeliaSonera login from home through a trip to the airport to embarkation across the flight and even while you stayed in the lounge on landing. This is a fairly remarkable seamless trip--and one that won't be unique for long.
TeliaSonera's pricing is essentially retail at today's conversion rates.
Solid business piece in USA Today on the coalescing WLAN hardware market: Airespace to Cisco, Proxim (in bankruptcy with $100M+ in debt) to Moseley; McAfee buys Wireless Security Corporation. Of these, Airespace is clearly the most significant. (The mention in the article of Linksys is also significant, but it happened quite a while ago by business trend standards.)
Mergers and bankruptcies are signs, the writer maintains, of an industry that's maturing and growing revenue in which winners and losers are sorting out.
San Antonio, Texas, unwires the Alamo: The downtown and Alamo Plaza areas of San Antonion have cut the cord with for-fee Wi-Fi. SA Unwired.net will charge $3 per hour and $10 per day. This project sounds as if it's trying to include indoor locations, unlike a number of free downtown or commercial district projects.
Zyxel has released an AP with built-in 802.1X with PEAP: This all-in-one unit allows you to run a small office with WPA-Enterprise security using PEAP for up to 32 users. It's $179.
In a press release, Zyxel claimed it was the first to offer PEAP-in-a-box. That accolade should go, however, to computer-maker Gateway which offered such a device last July (my review). Its Gateway 7001 series (802.11g for $299, a+g for $399) features built-in PEAP and built-in VLAN segregation. It has two Ethernet ports which allow physical network segregation as well as virtual. Gateway never capitalized on this advantage, and the product now seems overpriced. [link via Tom's Networking]
I wrote a story about my brief experience playing around with the Wi-Fi enabled Nokia 770 tablet: I've been in Helsinki the past couple of days at Nokia's annual journalist schmooze-fest. Surprisingly though, there's been quite a bit of news coming out of the event. Also, they had a demo room that included some early versions of the Nokia 770 Internet tablet. I'm not totally sure (the PR person I asked couldn't say for sure) but I think this is the first time that Nokia has offered a peak at the actual device. When it was launched, I think all the coverage came from paper. Anyway, I tried to be level in this review but generally I was pretty disappointed. Everything about it was agonizingly slow. I have no idea if that is because these are early versions or if this is how the final products will be. I got basically typical answers from spokespeople about how it will improve but no evidence about why or specific changes that were being made to make the experience better.
There was plenty of discussion among my fellow journalists here about the slowness. It's hard to get past that aspect because it made the whole experience so not pleasant. In addition to slow response time, downloading Web pages was also quite slow. The 770 comes with built-in Wi-Fi so should have been fast but it was a lot like using 3G on a cell phone or PDA. That of course could have been due to an overloaded network at the conference center. Or it could be related to overall slow processing speeds on the device.
I think the best prospects for the Nokia 770 come from the broadband operators and future versions of the device. They could sell or package it to end users. Next year's software is expected to enable voice over IP and instant messaging, two applications that could make the 770 more attractive to users.
Elektron Enterprise Edition is a $749 WPA-Enterprise server with directory support: The folks at Corriente Networks first released their Elektron Server for small- and medium-sized businesses in January, receiving accolades for offering full WPA-Enterprise support for $250 for both Mac OS and Windows systems (the server runs on both; it uses standard clients).
The Elektron Enterprise Edition adds external directory support through LDAP, SQL databases, and even existing RADIUS servers that don't support 802.1X. This last option is a great way to preserve legacy implementations and yet layer secured wireless services on top. It inserts WPA-Enterprise as a thin wedge instead of a complete replacement. (Elektron passes the inner method to the RADIUS server and handles packaging the outer PEAP or EAP-TTLS method.)
This edition also support basic RADIUS protocols, so it can be used as a thin RADIUS server for other systems for authentication, centralizing it. It also has support for policies, such as allowing particular users to authenticate only at specific times.
A 30-day free trial is available via download.
Atlanta has been a laggard in major airport Wi-Fi coverage: They've been discussing airport access as part of a broader citywide Wi-Fi service since 2004. The airport was supposed to be unwired this spring, but let's not blame them for ambitious plans. The company that was to provide this service still says coming soon on their Atlanta FastPass page, the name for this project.
The airport will offer service on a wholesale basis to providers which will resell it or include it to their customers, an approach which seems to offer the least friction.
The service will cost $3 million to install. The article doesn't mention anything about the larger Atlanta project.
Linksys has an interesting deal to tie in Vonage subscribers with hardware sale: If you purchase a Linksys WRTP54G, their Vonage-enabled two-phone-line 802.11g router, you can receive a total of $130 in separate rebates with a trade-in.
Here's the run-down: buy the WRTP54G from a participating merchant with your intent to sign up for Vonage's voice over IP service. The merchant will offer $20 off as a mail-in or instant rebate. (Amazon.com is offering it as an instant rebate, bringing the initial cost down to $110 from $130.)
Next, fill out the $10 Linksys mail-in rebate for the unit itself. The merchant will include the form or allow you download it to print out. This $20 and $10 rebate don't require the Vonage purchase, but it would be odd to buy this model without planning on using Vonage.
Signing up for Vonage brings a $50 mail-in rebate after 90 days of service, while trading in any older wireless router (no particular types are defined) adds another $50. The Amazon.com downloadable form lets you apply for both rebates at the same time.
That's a lot of hoops to go through, and it's not quite free--you'll spend about $5.00 on postage and photocopying, and possibly an hour or two or your time filling out forms and mailing items.
The router must be purchased by July 23 to qualify. The $10 rebate must be postmarked by Sept. 21 to qualify, while the $50 or $100 form must be postmarked no later than 60 days after the date of purchase on your invoice.
Proxim will sell assets to Moseley Associates: I have long had a soft spot for Proxim, a firm that has developed and acquired some fundamental and interesting technology for consumers and enterprises over the year. They were an early advocate of 802.11a and 5 GHz, of point to multipoint broadband wireless, of HomeRF (yes, the business didn't fly, but it had great ideas behind it), and was an early entrant into enterprise-wide Wi-Fi AP management through a centralized Layer 3 software application. (They were against 802.11b for quite a while, fighting patent battles and other tactics until buying Agere's 802.11b product line.)
Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on any of these markets to remain on top or keep up with the many rapid transitions in the industry. Being out in front and being right doesn't always make you money. Proxim also fell afoul of certain patent issues that cost them pretty pennies.
Moseley is acquiring its assets for $21 million. Moseley has been moving aggressively into broadband wireless, and Proxim's portfolio gives them a competitive addition. They will operate Proxim's assets as a division, but are not technically purchasing Proxim which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the moment. This means Proxim shareholders won't get a penny, but that was already expected.
The city of Lompoc, Calif., thinks Comcast is in cahoots with a taxpayers' group: Lompoc is putting in Wi-Fi first and fiber next for municipally offered broadband and cable. Comcast would suffer, and the city believes they were behind a letter from the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Associates (SBCTA) to Lompoc residents. Comcast joined SBCTA after the letter went out.
The letter cites two municipal projects as failures that other, more recent and complete information from the Free Press and other sources indicates is a mischaracterization. (The cities are Marietta, Georgia, and Lebanon, Ohio. Marietta has been cited many times because it was sold to a private company "at a loss." The "loss" was a misrepresentation of the cost and finances of the project, the mayor ran on a ticket of selling the network, and the private company that purchased retained existing staff and infrastructure with few changes.)
Comcast denies involvement, such as providing Comcast subscriber names and addresses to the SBCTA. Neither the SBCTA nor Comcast is eager to divulge information about specific involvement and financing.
Aruba beats out Cisco (Airespace), Trapeze: The Microsoft campus and worldwide offices will be upgraded from its current Cisco infrastructure to use 5,000 Aruba access points, part of a WLAN switched network. The Wall Street Journal reports the deal covers 281 buildings in 83 countries to support 25,000 simultaneous Wi-Fi sessions. One of Aruba's bits of magic is IPsec tunneled remote APs that can use a centralized switch located over a WAN.
This is an enormous win for Aruba, which has been accumulating customers, but it seemed that the safe money was on Cisco because of the Airespace acquisition.
The folks at Victrola Cafe & Art were already sick of talking about Wi-Fi--I dare not guess how they feel now: A colleague tipped me to Victrola turning off Wi-Fi on weekends, and I published a short interview with one of the owners on my site. That built through links from other sites, and I've wound up writing about it for the New York Times in a story that appears in Monday's Business section (June 13).
Meanwhile, National Public Radio's All Things Considered picked it up for today's broadcast (Sunday).
The owners and staff are incredibly nice people, and just seeing them interact with their regulars the other morning when I stopped by to interview them in person and when the photo was taken it was clear that they had a loyal group. One regular with a laptop was only half-jokingly concerned that if he made it into the photograph in print it would be captioned that he was a villain. (I assured him it would not.)
The media attention focused on Victrola is certainly partly my fault, but it's also testament to the power of a simple idea expressed in cultural terms. It's very likely that Victrola's move will spark a mini-trend in which cafes point to Victrola as their motivation for trying out limiting Wi-Fi service when it doesn't work for them.
The folks at Victrola had a slightly hilarious idea: a house roast they would call Wi-Fi. If someone called and asked if they had Wi-Fi, they could say yes. When customers tried to find out about Wi-Fi, they could serve them coffee. They were only half-kidding. I imagine a Wi-Fi blend would be a great mail-order gift item.
T-Mobile will announce Monday more roaming, high usage: The T-Mobile HotSpot division had planned to make their announcement Monday, but the embargo was broken early, and coverage is all over the mainstream media. The hotspot operator had 1 million user sessions last month, 3 million in the last 90 days, 8 million sessions last year, and 15 million since 2002.
The division says it has 450,000 active paying customers, which is a mix of subscribers and users with accounts who use pay-as-you-go services for hourly or daily access in the last 90 days. They provided no information about how frequently non-subscribers purchase access. The Wall Street Journal says the company told them that subscribers were a majority of those users.
T-Mobile said that average session time has increased from 23 minutes in 2003 to 45 minutes in 2004 and 64 minutes last month.
Their new roaming arrangements are all for-fee but at reduced rates from retail pay-as-you-go pricing. The company will increase the number of domestic airports in its network to a total of 72, and its roaming and local hotspot count will jump to over 25,000, leapfrogging (for the moment) Sprint PCS and iPass aggregated hotspot count of about 20,000 each internationally.
Of the 25,000 locations, only about 6,000 are included in unlimited subscription plans in domestically operated locations. The other 19,000 locations include about 6,000 international T-Mobile locations and 13,000 other network operations, many through the Wireless Broadband Alliance. Pricing for roaming was not disclosed.
The cable company will start deploying hotspots in the Seattle area: Because Seattle doesn't have enough hotspots already, I suppose, Millennium Digital Media will use NetNearU software systems to allow MDM customers to use the hotspots. Locations, pricing, and other details aren't yet available.
Baker City adds Wi-Fi zone to historic downtown: The tourist attracting downtown is now high-tech with the addition of free Wi-Fi paid for by Historic Baker City and operated by a local firm.
Alexandria, Virginia, adds access to its historic downtown, too: The lovely town near D.C. has a one-year pilot project across eight city blocks that launched today. It's free.
Telluride, Colorado, strums, picks to Wi-Fio: During the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, all attendees will be awash in free Wi-Fi. Ten thousand fans attend the four-day festival starting June 16.
Grass Valley, Calif., has five wireless cafes: The town of 12,000 apparently has five Internet-equipped cafes.
Biodata has developed a people counting system that backhauls over Wi-Fi: These devices are used in shops or museums, for example, to count how many people are in a room and even to monitor how long people stay in a room. They are traditionally backhauled over wires, but using Wi-Fi presumably makes it easier to deploy the system.
The folks at MetroFreeFi.com released their own most unwired cities list, focusing on free: They place San Francisco at the top of the list with Seattle at a distant No. 6. Seattle came in No. 1 on Intel's sponsored study of density of hotspots per 100,000 inhabitants.
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My long feature on using Wi-Fi at airports--which ones, how much, and how--is online at JiWire: JiWire asked me to talk to the major airport hotspot operators and collect both a comprehensive list and write up an extensive set of information about cost, availability, and tips. There are no big surprises in the article, but I hope it will be a useful guide for anyone planning business travel.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise, but most airports in North American now have significant if not airport-wide coverage. A few large U.S. airports still lag, such as Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, but Chicago and Atlanta will shortly have comprehensive service.
More importantly, most of the airports below, say, the 25 busiest have Wi-Fi across all gates and terminals.
Boingo Wireless now includes Logan International Airport in Boston in their roaming plan: Boingo offers a flat-rate monthly fee for unlimited hotspot use at most locations in their aggregated network; a few international hotspots have additional fees as does Connexion by Boeing. Boston has an independent operator that doesn't have a national roaming profile, and Boingo is the first no-roaming-fee partner I'm aware of that has struck a deal with Boston.
Could pulling Wi-Fi improve discourse and create intellectual pursuits? Tom Standage, author of A History of the World in Six Glasses and technology editor of The Economist, offers this commentary on why turning off Wi-Fi might be a good thing for the commerce of ideas. "Turning off the Wi-Fi keeps coffeeshops true to their roots," he says on today's Marketplace Morning Report.
Standage recounts how early coffeehouses created cultures of ideas, and inspired Newton to write Principia Mathematica. Also, more (or less?) importantly, the French Revolution was ignited in one. Standage points out that coffee and commerce are connected, but face-to-face conversation need more priority.
Intel released their annual Most Unwired City list today: The list is compiled by a reputable third party, Sperling's BestPlaces, which looked at the density of hotspots by population, or how many hotspots per 100,000 residents. I would be interested to see the dispersion of hotspots, too. If you have 500 hotspots in a city and 95 percent are in the downtown, I would think that's less wired than having 50 percent downtown and 5 percent in each of 10 major neighborhoods.
My home town of Seattle was ranked No. 1 in the list this year, which makes sense given the growth in hotspot service I've seen here. All new coffeeshops seem to add free Wi-Fi as an expected amenity, while Starbucks was first to build out Seattle via MobileStar and then T-Mobile; T-Mobile is headquartered on the other side of the little pond we call Lake Washington. Here's the coverage in The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Intel got a lot of press buzz for the buck: stories are pouring in from newspapers all across the country. A slow news week coupled with a hot topic equals column inches. Especially in early June as the summer doldrums already start setting in.
See coverage about Chicago; Allentown, Penn.; Bergen-Passaic, New Jersey; West Palm Beach-Boca Raton; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Cincinnati; Akron; and many others. Check your local newspaper: I bet there's a story there, too. Reuters and AP filed brief articles as well.
Verizon tested out an air-to-ground system to the FAA's satisfaction says the Wall Street Journal: But the frequencies in question aren't cleared for broadband use and are up for auction for that purpose. The auction might happen this fall. United has to clear each model of plane they fly to demonstrate that the Wi-Fi and air-to-ground systems don't cause aeronautical system interference, although it's pretty clear that Wi-Fi isn't an issue given how many laptops must already accidentally have Wi-Fi signals shooting around on planes.
Speeds in use aren't discussed, but the amount of bandwidth up for auction is a total of 8 MHz which might be divided into a 2 MHz and 6 MHz band or two 4 MHz bands. You can't take a 1:1 relationship from MHz to Mbps, but it typically hasn't been far different. Wi-Fi has a 20 MHz stretch that delivers net throughput of about 20 Mbps; 1xEvDO uses 1.25 MHz for a peak download speed of about 1 Mbps, with 200 to 300 Kbps more typical.
United hasn't released pricing yet, but plans to have service on all North American flights by late 2006. A Verizon competitor, AirCell, already operates an extensive network of ground stations for business flights and expects to have a similar system it can offer to airlines that it would charge $10 a flight for.
The New York Times has a story with a little less and more than the Journal's coverage.
George Ou asks: why no suits over inflated wireless network claims? Ou often asks the hard questions in this industry, and his latest ZDNet column wonders how a claim of 600% performance improvement that's really 60% in net throughput goes unchallenged when Apple has to pony up to solve old battery woes.
He's right that vendors try as hard as possible to inflate numbers. Broadcom pushed 54G as a label to imply 54 Mpbs without stating it. Atheros raised the ante with Turbo 108. Broadcom hit them with their "125" technology that doesn't state it runs at 125 Mbps. It's all about symbol rate, not the data you can push through.
The 600% claim improvement combines range with speed: you can get much higher speeds with early proprietary MIMO gear on both ends of a connection than at the same distance with 802.11g.
Publisher will build hotspots at bookstores in innovative approach: Sure, Barnes & Noble and Borders Books have had hotspots for some time now, with Borders claiming the older network. (Barnes & Noble signed its Cometa deal weeks before it shut down; now SBC operates B&N hotspots.)
But HarperCollins's plan will bring Wi-Fi with a HarperCollins splash page to what sounds at least like a wider variety of booksellers and at no cost. It's an interesting move because many bookstores aren't set up to handle people with laptops, and there's always been some concern that access to perfect information in the form of book price comparisons at Amazon.com (or even my own service, isbn.nu) would erode on-the-spot impulse buying.
The company said in a press release that they will launch a four-month pilot program, to be announced at this weekend Book Expo America. The publisher is providing free Wi-Fi access at the show.
My story on Victrola Cafe & Art in Seattle has shot round the world: I credit a colleague with tipping me to the coffeeshop pulling its Wi-Fi plug on weekends to take back their culture from laptop-toting, non-buying, seat-squandering, table-hogging users.
The Stranger, one of two local weekly papers, filed a great piece on the Seattle angle of this story, crediting this site with opening up the story. The Financial Times ran a piece on it, too, quite short and without mentioning this blog (boo hoo to me).
Tonx, Victrola's roaster, stated pretty clearly what Victrola is up against on the laissez-faire enforcement side in a comment he wrote on his own blog post about the Wi-Fi-free weekends:
"We don’t want our baristas to be either authority-figures/cops or “how may i take your order” pbtc (people-behind-the-counter). Our customers are our friends/peers/neighbors, and though people walk in with a lot of sociological baggage when a cash register enters the picture, the sustainability of Victrola as a business is as much dependant on it being a low-bullshit atmosphere as it is on whether or not you buy a macaroon with your espresso."
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer weighed in on Saturday with a very nice piece on the local angle, also looking at the social and cultural aspects of cafe "living." It notes that their branch near University Village (a wonderful outdoor mall near my home in Seattle) is doubling is size due to Wi-Fi using patrons. Zoka's Wi-Fi is free.
Telepolis also wrote about the Zombie effect in cafes (in German) at Victrola. The opening sentence reads, "In many American cafes that have Wi-Fi Internet access, more and more people sit silently for hours in front of their notebook computers to the displeasure of the proprietors and other patrons."
Anti-Federalism rears its ugly head with Rep. Sessions's bill: The bill would ban municipal networks where any competitive service existed in the municipal area of governance. A grandfather clause allows existing services to proceed.
The language of the "Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005" is so hilariously broad and ill-defined that it could kill all kinds of projects that the incumbent carriers this is meant to protect would support or are involved in deploying. It has such a broad grandfather clause that it could allow massive projects to continue if even a tiny portion of the service was in use.
I doubt it will go anywhere because in its current form, it's a shotgun full of buckshot, not a surgical weapon. A broad consortium of businesses and public policy groups will certainly try to get it killed. I doubt it will get many supporters because of its broad sweep.
For instance, this bill would kill all future airport Wi-Fi that's not already built out because government entities would be unable to "provide" services if Wi-Fi were operating anywhere else in the airport authority's municipality's domain. It's pretty easy to read that interpretation.
The company has introduced a b/g and a/b/g pair of 400 mW mini-PCI cards: These are the form factor used inside laptops; to get this kind of signal performance previously, you'd have to go to a PC Card with a protruding antenna. The devices have a retail price of $109. I'll be curious to see if they become a stock item. They use Atheros chips for range.
JiWire's discussion forums should be a lively place to ask questions: JiWire's new KnowldegeSpot forums, currently in beta, should be a great place to learn more about Wi-Fi. I've been frustrated in finding and building forums in the past because you have to have thousands of interested people who regularly read and post to build a rich knowledge base. JiWire has that kind of traffic--and I hope that Wi-Fi Networking News readers check out the forums as well. I'll be answering questions there as I have time.
Wireless Security Corporation bought by McAfee: The PC security giant has purchased the company that makes WSC Guard, an outsourced subscription service provider of 802.1X through their own client software. WSC had worked with McAfee to create a wireless security testing Web application that McAfee offered at no cost on their Web site.