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Recent Entries

EarthLink Powers Down Anaheim
Wee-Fi: Research on Digital Divide; NYC May Opt for Fiber for Housing Projects
Long Island Proposal Snags Again, on Poles
Santa Clara Takes over Its MetroFi Network
Phila. Network Use Skyrockets while Free
AT&T Says Fie on Free Fi for iPhone (Again)
Wee-Fi: Exhaustive Looks at In-Flight-Fi, Every-Fi
Wee-Fi: Kentucky Town-Fi; Exorbitant Hotel-Fi
Lompoc's Comeback
Wee-Fi: Sprint Treo 800w, New Wireless in Portland (Ore.), Hartford (Conn.) Fail

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July 2008 Archives

July 30, 2008

EarthLink Powers Down Anaheim

By Glenn Fleishman

The last lingering city in the once-ambitious EarthLink municipal efforts shuts down: Forgot about Anaheim, Calif.'s EarthLink Wi-Fi network? Me, too. It was once the showcase, with a several sq mi buildout, the largest in the EarthLink system, and a place where VoIP over Wi-Fi was in heavy testing. The network's equipment will be pulled from poles no later than Sept. 30, the Orange County Register reports.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:56 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

July 29, 2008

Wee-Fi: Research on Digital Divide; NYC May Opt for Fiber for Housing Projects

By Glenn Fleishman

Participate in a research survey on the role of wireless to shrink the digital divide: Gwen Shaffer, a Temple University (Phila.) doctoral student, is looking for responses from many kinds of stakeholders in building networks that have a purpose, at least in part, to extend Wi-Fi access. She notes that this could include community networks, non-profits, and for-profit firms like Fon. Personal information will not be collected, and she's looking to conduct in-depth interviews with some participants.

New York City considers plan to bring fiber to public housing residents: Wireless networks are definitely out in the recommendations of a private consultant to the city's Broadband Advisory Committee, ComputerWorld reports. They may opt to use $4m in a fund from Verizon and a potential $8m from the two incumbent cable operators.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

July 28, 2008

Long Island Proposal Snags Again, on Poles

By Glenn Fleishman

Long Island proposal still mired: The plan to put Wi-Fi up across two Long Island counties has seemed doomed to me from the start. The company that won the bid was untested, and its other in-deployment or in-proposal networks are off the table. Expertise aside, it needs tens of millions to build such a network, and financing for company-funded metro-scale projects is not available. The counties involved have pledged no purchases of services. And, perhaps the final stroke, the local utility says that E-Path doesn't meet the test of being a telecom and paying less than $10 per year for pole placement, but instead must pay the all-comer rate of $50 per year.

This is a critical distinction. Telecoms are covered under the Telecom Act of 1996 that requires non-discriminatory access to utility poles to avoid incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) and utilities from being gatekeepers that prevent competitive service from emerging. There are a series of tests in the law and local qualifications, too, that allow a firm to be a registered telecom. An FCC decision last year ruled that companies that mix telecom and unregulated information services on the same wires aren't disqualified from getting the Telecom Act deal, however.

But E-Path seems to meet none of the criteria except their desire to pay $10 instead of $50 per year per pole. Utility poles have held up many other municipal networks. We're not hearing more about them these days because such networks are now being built on a smaller scale for different purposes, where the number of nodes and their placement is rather different than networks built with the intent of providing indoor coverage.

Cablevision, by the way, qualifies as a telecom, this article states, which helps them in placing nodes for their planned $300m network across their coverage territory. They can also mount nodes in-line with their cable lines, using power from their cable plant on the lines already.

E-Path appears to have a variety of communication problems as well. The article notes, "Tortoretti said his Washington, D.C., attorneys disagree with LIPA's interpretation. But the attorney Tortoretti said represents E-Path, Charles Rohe, said he couldn't speak about the company or the dispute."

Later, E-Path's "chief executive said he hopes the county will help with his LIPA dispute." But an aide to the Suffolk County executive said, "That's not really our issue. That's out of our control."

Correspondent Craig Plunkett, quoted near the end, points out that if the counties were to change their minds and want to buy services on the network, the proposal would have to be rebid (appears as the sound-alike "rebuild" by accident in the online article at this moment).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:07 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal | 1 Comment

July 24, 2008

Santa Clara Takes over Its MetroFi Network

By Glenn Fleishman

Santa Clara takes over MetroFi network for meter reading: The city might also expand free public access. Advertisements will be removed as well as logins. This action is a far cry from the last time a firm said they were withdrawing from a wireless business that had spread nodes all over Santa Clara (that would be Metricom's Ricochet network). With Ricochet, users needed proprietary modems; with Wi-Fi, the city can turn the network to serve several purposes without worrying about public access adapters.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:13 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

July 21, 2008

Phila. Network Use Skyrockets while Free

By Glenn Fleishman

No surprise that more people use a free network than one that charges: However, the strategy of Network Acquisition Corp. (someday to be renamed) is to create a best-efforts Wi-Fi network that will be subsidized through their other business and residential offerings. So the 17,000 daily users now versus 6,000 EarthLink subscribers as of last month seem like a good sign of interest.

The network hasn't been revamped yet to focus on more complete outdoor coverage, but that should start happening soon, the company told Metro Philadelphia.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks

July 18, 2008

AT&T Says Fie on Free Fi for iPhone (Again)

By Glenn Fleishman

old_dial_att.jpgThe latest chapter in the ongoing flirtation between AT&T's Wi-Fi hotspot network and the iPhone ends in rejection: The cellular giant is apparently a bit overexcited, and keeps releasing information about putative, future, free Wi-Fi access at 17,000 domestic Wi-Fi hotspots (McDonald's and Starbucks, mostly) for the iPhone. The page went up on their site promoting the program, a thousand articles bloomed on blogs, and then AT&T spokespeople said, sorry, false alarm. The page should be gone by now. AT&T said that it's "our intention to make [Wi-Fi] available to as many customers as possible, but we have no announcement at this time."

Some day, the company will officiate at the wedding of its Wi-Fi service and the iPhone, but the blessed day has been postponed again.

[Photo by Louise Docker. Used under Creative Commons license.]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:39 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Hot Spot

July 17, 2008

Wee-Fi: Exhaustive Looks at In-Flight-Fi, Every-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Airline in-flight broadband overview: Computerworld surveys what's about to happen with in-flight broadband in the U.S. and worldwide. It's an exhaustive look (especially the run-down at the end) about what we'll be able to get on each airline or from each service. American's launch of GoGo from Aircell should be days away.

Wi-Fi wherever blowout: Eric Griffith of PC Magazine--and, notably, previously at Wi-Fi Planet--writes many thousands of words here in this thorough look at every place you might get Wi-Fi, how much it could cost, and what the limitations are. Print as a PDF and carry with you.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:57 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

July 15, 2008

Wee-Fi: Kentucky Town-Fi; Exorbitant Hotel-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Kentucky town shaves 97 percent of Wi-Fi network cost: The town of Prestonsburg, Kent., thought a city-wide Wi-Fi network could help attract tourists and businesses, while expanding remote access for telemedicine and other purposes. But Government Technology reports that the first estimates for building a network were from $48,000 to $248,000. They opted to use Meraki's mesh gear and spent $8,500 instead, covering just a 2-mi stretch of their downtown. About 2/3rds was for the equipment, the rest for DSL connections and marketing. The service is free and has no ads at present.

Portfolio critiques crazy hotel Wi-Fi pricing: The travel guru that is Joe Brancatelli turns a steely eye to $15 per night charges at fancy hotels for Internet access, noting that cheaper hotels include such service at no cost. The higher-end hotels won't talk for attribution, but they say that a "fraction" of guests use Internet, so why bundle it into the room rate? Pshaw. At $15 per night, four to six users pay the entire cost, while the hotel or its operator accepts a fraction of that rate as settlement from Boingo and iPass and other aggregators. So it's nonsense. They charge because business travelers will expense it and be reimbursed.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:06 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi | 2 Comments

Lompoc's Comeback

By Glenn Fleishman

I've been citing Lompoc, Calif., as a poster child of what can go wrong in municipal Wi-Fi for a few years: But I apparently have to change my tune. Lompoc, near Santa Barbara, had unreasonable expectations, if you read their first and second RFPs. The first provider built a network that Lompoc found unacceptable and they bid it out for a second network to be built (some of these details are murky and some under dispute).

What's been clear is that after spending more than $3m, the city couldn't acquire more than a few hundred regular subscribers, about 10 percent of the point they'd need to pay expenses and pay down capital outlay. But it turns out that the backend was as important as their network deployment, IDG News Service reports.

The latest city network administrator brought in Aptilo Networks for backend authentication and session processing, opened the network to 15-minute free trials, and started accepted ad hoc payment. The new network guru also let outsourced contracts expire and brought customer support and other services back in house to reduce expenses and improve the feedback loop. He discovered their existing authentication system was licensed for 500 users, so that might have explained their failure to grow, too.

The city now has 1,000 regular users at all levels, from pay-as-you-go to monthly household subscriptions. They've revised breakeven down to 2,000 subscribers, and say they are breakeven for expenses.

The other problem Lompoc had, by the way, is that the cable and telephone companies didn't sit still. I exaggerate, but when Lomopoc was planning its network, it had very poor coverage for its 42,000 residents for DSL and cable modem service. When the Wi-Fi network was announced, the incumbents started pulling copper, coax, and fiber, and dramatically improved network coverage. The $3m wasn't entirely ill spent so far: it was a kind of reverse incentive to the private companies to get their act together.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:57 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Metro-Scale Networks, Municipal

July 14, 2008

Wee-Fi: Sprint Treo 800w, New Wireless in Portland (Ore.), Hartford (Conn.) Fail

By Glenn Fleishman

Palm Treo 800w released: Sprint is offering the EVDO/Wi-Fi phone with Windows Mobile 6.1 and built-in GPS. The phone is $250 with a two-year contract. This is apparently the phone that Palm should have released a couple of years ago; now, it's unfavorably compared to the iPhone except for keyboard entry and the ability to subscribe ($10/mo) for free turn-by-turn live navigation. You'll note that applications are scarcely mentioned, which is one of the linchpins of the iPhone. This is a business phone with productivity tools--unlike the iPhone, you can use on-board apps to create and edit Word and Excel documents, not just view them. There's also no store mentioned for purchasing video and audio, or software for synchronizing them. The reviewer finds the video quality washed out as well, and the 320-by-320-pixel touchscreen is a bit small compared to other smartphones that focus on video. (Correction: This item said that navigation was an extra $10 per month, but a Sprint spokesperson informed me all plans, starting with the $70 per month starting price for 450 voice minutes and unlimited cell data, includes navigation services at no extra cost. Neat!)

Stephouse steps into Portland, Ore., void: Local firm Stephouse has built out 5 sq mi of business-grade wireless availability in downtown Portland and 2 sq mi in an underserved part of north Portland using Proxim gear for both Wi-Fi and WiMax service. Wi-Fi use is $20 per month or 1 free hour per day up to 10 free hours per month. The offering seems to focus on the business side, though, in competition with services like Towerstream. Prices aren't listed on the company's site.

Hartford drops Wi-Fi effort: Connecticut's troubled capital city has given up on city-wide Wi-Fi. No surprise. No firms ready to build for free, no money, no tangible goals. My wife grew up in the suburb to the west--West Hartford, prosaically enough--and speculates that the lack of county-oriented government in Connecticut has doomed Hartford to be a civic wasteland. It's recovering a bit as housing affordability goes up, and there's more going on in the city than there used to be. But there won't be Wi-Fi. Incidentally, the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, home of one of the world's first bloggers, is near financial ruin. It's a great piece of American history; I'm hoping it's saved again--it's had many lives since Twain built it and went bankrupt.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

July 12, 2008

Wireless Sensors Tell Drivers of Parking Spots in San Francisco

By Glenn Fleishman

A fascinating large-scale test in San Francisco intends to reduce wasted miles in finding parking spots: The City by the Bay is installing wireless sensors at 6,000 of its 24,000 parking spots which will be tied into live updates on street signage and maps accessible via mobile devices (and, ostensibly, laptops). Eventually, payment will be added, too.

The city would like to avoid congestion pricing and tolls to manage traffic better. The system would allow parking pricing and durations to change dynamically. San Francisco is investing nearly $100m in an overall congestion reducing program, SFpark. This article cites an expert who estimates 30 percent of core business district traffic is from folks searching for a parking spot.

An embedded device with a 5-to-10-year battery lifespan relies information about parking availability and traffic speed through a mesh network.

It's unfortunate that such applications weren't in place when San Francisco was thinking about Wi-Fi public access. The intelligent integration of necessary city services that require a wireless backhaul with a public access Wi-Fi network could be a viable model. But early RFPs were focused entirely on public access and SF's contract with EarthLink excluded any linkage between the public Wi-Fi network and any municipal business.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:42 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

July 11, 2008

Wee-Fi: Germans Can Leave Networks Open; Belkin Announces Wireless High-Def

By Glenn Fleishman

A German appeals court says an open Wi-Fi network isn't equivalent to the owner's responsibility for actions over that network: This decisions overturns a lower court's ruling in a peer-to-peer file sharing copyright infringement case that the owner of a Wi-Fi network was de facto culpable for any activity that could be tracked back to the network's IP address. The appeals court said without specific evidence that the person charged had committed the infringement there's no case--and no requirement to lock down the network to avoid such lawsuits. If the decision had been upheld, it would have likely led to more broadside charges worldwide, as well as a vast reduction in open networks.

Belkin gives us plenty of time to get ready for streaming high def: FlyWire uses an adapted form of Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band to stream HD without having the HD set in close proximity. They're not shipping until October, which could give you some time to get used to the price tag. A $1,000 model is designed to cover a home, and has various infrared and wireless options to control current A/V gear, some of which might be hidden in cabinets away from view. A cheaper $700 option covers just one room, Belkin says, and excludes the IR help. The transmitter has 3 HDMI jacks, including DVI support with audio inputs, along with two component and one composite video and audio input panels. The receiver has a single HDMI output. All HD resolutions are supported. These devices are aimed at people who buy large HDTVs and want to wall mount them.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:01 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

July 10, 2008

iPhone 2.0 Software Adds 802.1X for Enterprises

By Glenn Fleishman

Apple adds secure enterprise logins for iPhone: The iPhone 2.0 software, available through a download link for existing 2G iPhones today, adds promised support for the 802.1X port-based authentication required in any company that's even remotely serious about its network security. 802.1X isolates connecting to an access point from gaining access to the network to which the access point is connected. A special client, known as a supplicant, must provide the right credentials for a device to be approved for access. Cryptography binds the process. (Instructions for manually installing the software are over at Wired. The update will likely be pushed out via iTunes to current owners tomorrow, and is included on the iPhone 3G, which goes on sale starting today over the international dateline and tomorrow in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere.)

wpa_enterprise_iphone.jpg Apple splits its 802.1X support into two pieces. There's basic support built into the iPhone 2.0 software, found in the Settings application's Wi-Fi section. Click Other. Click the None label next to Security, and the WPA Enterprise and WPA2Enterprise options appear. Select either, and the main login screen lets you enter the network's name (SSID), a user name, and a password. This basic method is limited to WPA Enterprise and WPA2 Enterprise, the two most common (and most secure) forms of 802.1X.

Most enterprises will want much more control over this process, and Apple provides the iPhone Configuration Utility, currently available in its most complete form only as a Mac OS X application, and in more limited forms as Web 2.0 applications for Windows and Mac OS X.

The utility serves two purposes: creating configuration profiles, including for multiple Wi-Fi networks and VPN connections; and allowing iPhones in an enterprise to run internally developed iPhone software. The Wi-Fi profiles allow you to create WEP or WPA/WPA2 802.1X configurations, and include support for choosing allowed EAP messaging types, configuring authentication elements associated with a given EAP type, and adding server certificates and names for better authentication control.


Once created, these profiles can be distributed throughout a company via email or as a direct download to the iPhone via an intranet Web server. Apple chose not to encrypt them, which means that certain information that's not secured--such as the shared secret for certain VPN connections--could be disclosed to someone who had access to the profile or could download it off the local network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:51 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Phones, Security | 1 Comment

Wee-Fi: Zen X-Fi, Apple iPod/iPhone Remote, Bullet Train-Fi, St. Louis-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Creative unveils ZEN X-Fi: The handheld music player, one of the first to have what appears to have real flair without being an iPod ripoff, can stream music from a local collection over Wi-Fi. It also includes a Secure Digital slot, instant messaging (via Yahoo and MSN), an FM tuner, and a wide LCD scree. The unit is on sale in Singapore for about $170 for an 8GB model without Wi-Fi; a Wi-Fi-enabled model is $250 for $16 GB and $300 for 32 GB. They're due in the US "soon."

remote_iphone_app.jpgiPhone, iPod touch now Wi-Fi remote control (see screen capture at right): The iPhone 2.0 software was soft released today, with a download available from Apple that's not yet being pushed via iTunes software when users' systems check for updates. The free Remote software, downloadable from the new App Store on the iPhone or Applications area in the iTunes Store, controls copies of iTunes on the local network once you've used a simple pairing technique. The same is true for the Apple TV with a free 2.1 software update for the digital box that's available now. (Also, you can snap screen shots in iPhone 2.0: Hold down the Home button and then press the top button. The capture is stored in your photo roll.)

Japanese bullet train gets Wi-Fi by next March: This was first announced in 2006; it's still on track, pun intended. The line runs from Tokyo to Osaka.

Network 1 expands its service St. Louis area: The company will offer service in 8 additional cities for a total of 15 in the St. Louis, Mo., area. The network provider is building out a neighborhood at a time using ostensibly commodity equipment. They charge $20 to $50 per month for service, and are focused on residential, rather than outdoor cloud access.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

July 9, 2008

Silicon Valley's Wi-Fi Situation

By Glenn Fleishman

The Palo Alto Weekly exhaustively examines its city's and Silicon Valley's state of public Wi-Fi: The paper looks at the failures of various networks around the valley, the current state of Wi-Fi plans, and how a non-profit, WiFi101, is building (with a grant) a new effort that could be a model for how to offer free service for those without Internet access.

The Weekly also mentions Palo Alto considering fiber to the home, which the city incorrectly calls "Fiber to the Premise" (not "premises") in their request for proposal. Palo Alto installed an early city-owned fiber ring in the mid-1990s. That 40-mi. ring cost just $1.9m (in 1996 dollars) to build. The new effort would be entirely funded by partners, who would receive certain assets and contracts to anchor the project.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:11 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Municipal

July 7, 2008

Wee-Fi: NPR on BART-Fi, San Antonio Airport Now Free

By Glenn Fleishman

Morning Edition reports on the progress and potential of Wi-Fi on BART: My friend and colleague Cyrus Farivar files this account in the San Francisco Bay Area about their rapid transit system's near-term deal to have Wi-Fi Rail put broadband across the system. It's very exciting. If successful from the technical, political, and financial viewpoints--if customers like it, especially--it could be a catalyst for transit systems worldwide to adopt on-board service, and provoke more commuting. All the tipping-point factors are there: several viable forms of backhaul, the high price of gas, the need for transit authorities to provide more compelling reasons to ride.

San Antonio's airport offers free Wi-Fi: The airport opted to go free. The airport serves about 8 million passengers per year (2007 statistics).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:47 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

July 3, 2008

Wee-Fi: Santa Cruz-Fi, Boingo for Mac

By Glenn Fleishman

Santa Cruz opts for micro-Fi: the City had hoped to get a full deployment, but has decided to start with a hotzone in their tourist areas, which is far easier to build and quantify the success of.

Boingo releases Mac client for its aggregated service: The free GoBoingo for Mac client works with Leopard, at last. Boingo resells U.S. and worldwide service at $22 and $40 per month, respectively, for unlimited use.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:12 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

July 2, 2008

Wee-Fi: iPhone 3G Plans, TAP-Fi, Free Boingo Day, St. Louis-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

iPhone 3G availability, pricing clarified for U.S.: AT&T released details on the full cost of iPhone 3G hardware and service, providing more detail than previously available. The phone is $199 (8 GB) or $299 (16 GB) to AT&T's existing 2G iPhone customers who want to upgrade, to customers with no current contract, or new customers. Existing customers with another phone contract in place pay $399 (8 GB) or $499 (16 GB). Monthly data pricing is a flat $30 for unlimited use--no 5 GB cap--and text messaging is extra, at either an absurd 20 cents each, or bundles starting at $5 per month for 200 messages. Old 2G iPhones can be resold or given away by those who upgrade, and still qualify for the cheaper 2G plans, that start at $20 per month for unlimited data and 200 SMSs. Or a 2G iPhone can be used as a Wi-Fi-only device.

TAP Portugal adds in-flight calling: OnAir's satellite-based call service is now in a trial on a single Airbus A319 in TAP's fleet. The six-month trial will determine how they move forward. TAP was originally slated to launch a trial nearly three years ago, but technical and regulatory issues have delayed in-flight mobile use in Europe. This isn't broadband, by the way: it's pricey per-minute calls, texts, and cell-based email.

Boingo offers free day pass for downloading connection software: The hotspot aggregator will give you 24 hours of use at a location in their network for downloading their lightweight connection software by 6-July-2008. The software identifies Boingo-partnered networks, and lets you sign in without any fuss.

AT&T launches downtown St. Louis network: The company found that it couldn't complete its city-wide proposal due to light pole issues. They've built out a square mile in the downtown, instead. The service is $8 per day and $16 per week, or free for up to 20 hours per month when ads are viewed. AT&T DSL, fiber, and remote business customers get free use of the network.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:52 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Wee-Fi

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