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Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007
Minneapolis Unwired: Can we check the facts please, Mr. Titch?
Steven Titch, Heartland Institute, republished his Cincinnati Enquirer eidtorial. It's still missing some crucial details and there is a glaring factual error.

Link: Cities Rewrite Their Wireless Stories - by Steven Titch - The Heartland Institute

My original post is here.

The Error. MetroFi is not building the Minneapolis Wi-Fi network. US Internet Wireless is the city's partner.

The Missing Details. "...just 1,000 users were on the municipal system the day the bridge collapsed. This was on a warm summer Friday in a city of 383,000 and thousands more commuters and visitors." The network is still under construction and has only opened in a few neighborhoods so usage rates are just not relevant without further information. There were not 383,000 potential subscribers at the time of the bridge collapse.

Only portions of three neighborhoods were (un)wired on Aug. 1, the day the bridge fell. Total population (2000 census) of those neighborhoods is 22,869 but not all of them had access yet and even those that did had only been offered the service in July. In addition, the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood has a poverty level 25% higher than Minneapolis at large so it's an ulikely source of customers right now. (The Wi-Fi network will provide some free access at parks and community centers in the area however.)

So what's the potential subscriber base? Given the service was less than a month old, you could argue that 1,000 users on a warm summer Friday is pretty good.

What's ironic is that the Minneapolis Broadband Initiative Business Case (p. 3 of Executive Summary) quotes the guy:
Indeed, let there be Wi-Fi! But let’s not pretend that idea of municipal ownership is seizing the nation. There’s every indication that municipal broadband projects-- where cities attempt to own and operate their own competitive networks--are in retreat, and that private enterprise will build it and own broadband. And that’s the right way to go.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Link Love from MuniWireless
Carol Ellison at MuniWireless picked up my piece on Steven Titch's op-ed at Cincinnati's Enquirer.

Commentary: Getting the job done in Minneapolis

She fleshes it out nicely, adding some background on Titch and the Heartland Institute "which employs him as an "analyst" are familiar nay-sayers on muni telecommunication projects that compete with the incumbent carriers they quietly represent."

She also discusses Cincinnati's current wireless situation which is currently on hold but definitely not down the drain Titch said in his piece that City Manager Milton Dohoney decided to "put the plug."

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Monday, September 17, 2007
Minneapolis Unwired: Are we retconning?
Retconning or "retroactive continuity" is about rewriting history to account for "purposeful changes or inadvertent errors in a serial narrative" and to cover inconsistencies in the plot of a story. Comic book authors (and some film directors) are prone to use it.

I just learned this from Steven Titch's article at Cincinnati's Enquirer where he accuses cities of retconning to justify escalating costs of installing municipal wireless. He says the new retconned version is "all about improving emergency response and public safety."

He uses Minneapolis as an example. Not unusual since there has been a kazillion articles on emergency response and our wireless system just after the 35W bridge disaster.

I'm afraid Titch is retconning the story of wireless in Minneapolis. The deal here was not based on cheap or free Internet for residents as he states. It was always about public safety, emergency response, and city services and communications. Wireless subscriptions for residents was always a secondary factor. That may be why it appears to many of us that a useful Wi-Fi network might just work here.

He goes on to pick at our subscriber numbers but doesn't share all the facts:
After last week's bridge disaster in Minneapolis, the city's information technology department wasted no time in trumpeting the role the city's muni wireless system had in handling emergency communications. Lost in all of this was the telling fact, reported almost offhandedly by ComputerWorld, that just 1,000 users were on the municipal system the day the bridge collapsed. This was on a warm summer Friday in a city of 383,000 and thousands more commuters and visitors.
Lost in this quote is the "telling fact" that only a portion of the network is finished. Full deployment is scheduled for December. At the time of the bridge disaster, only two or three neighborhoods had wireless available for purchase. ("Last week's bridge disaster"? Can I nitpick? The article was dated Sept. 15; the bridge disaster was Aug. 1.) He could have checked the build-out schedule at the vendor's site.

But who is the vendor? Titch says MetroFi. Oops. It's US Internet, a local internet service provider.

I have been critical of the Minneapolis Wi-Fi build-out and I discussed the user numbers after the bridge fell and there was all the hype about emergency response. I was in favor of public ownership rather than private. And I know that the whole municipal wireless movement has been under fire lately with Earthlink and others pulling back.

But at the moment, it's looking like our we're getting the job done in Minneapolis and that the city council made a wise choice in signing on upfront as the anchor tenant of the system. Mr. Titch, there has been no retconning here.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007
Adding to categorization confusion
I'm using ScribeFire again which lets me add Technorati tags to my posts plus add the post to my pfhyperblog account. So I haven't been using blogger labeling on these latest posts.

Older posts used tagging on my posts but the widget broke when Blogger upgraded.

Sorry for the confusion. The Google search engine on the right is a good way to search my blog or check out the area and follow the tags.

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Minneapolis Unwired: No 6Mbps service available?
My Google Alerts tossed this one at me today: Bjorn writes at his (and Jeannette's) blog that USI Wireless has dropped the 6Mbps offering until they have built out the network.

No mention of this at the USIW site. I checked the pricing page and the FAQ.

I suppose that tuning the radios for 6Mbps service is time consuming and they need all hands on deck to finish full Wi-Fi coverage for the city as they are behind their original schedule.

I wish they would let people know of these changes via their mailing list.

Can anyone confirm that 6Mbps service is off the table for now? USIW are you there?

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Minneapolis Unwired: North Community Meeting
The fifth Wireless Minneapolis informational session is tomorrow night at Shingle Creek Commons, 4600 Humboldt Ave. N. from 5:30 to 7. Get an up date on the project and find out when Wi-Fi might be in your neighborhood.

Full listing of meetings.

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Guardian on keeping the Net open
Anything that unites the Gun Owners of America, the inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and corporate arch-enemies Google and Microsoft must be worth a second look.

Read more here. In praise of... a freely available internet

via David Isenberg at the

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Friday, September 07, 2007
How many webs?
Department of Justice says it's OK to charge for "priority" content just like the US Postal Service charges for Express Mail. They really don't get this Web thing, do they.

This is a blow against net neutrality. How big of a blow, I'm not sure as these are comments to the FCC's Inquiry Into Broadband Industry Practices (pdf).

Read Harold Feld's take on it and follow the discussion at Techmeme.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007
Upcoming stuff
Longfellow Community Council is sponsoring a free showing of An Inconvenient Truth on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. at Riverview Theater, 3800 32nd Ave. S. (Free to Seward and Longfellow residents at least.)

Seward Neighborhood will hold its King's Fair in Matthew's Park on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Matthews Park (24th St. and 28th Ave.). It runs from noon to 5 p.m. Food, fun, and games, and five bands: Andrew "Cadillac" Kolstad, Whistlepigs String Band, Machinery Hill, Rass Kwame and Anase, and Jive Deluxe. Information at 612-338-6205 x102.

10,000 Things Theater is starting up its 2007-08 season on October 18 with Richard III. Trust me when I say that this is some of the best theater in the Twin Cities and all the local theater critics agree. Most performances are for audiences with little access to theater. They perform at prisons, homeless shelters, nursing homes, etc. They do a few public performances to raise some money. You can see Richard III At Open Book and the MN Opera Center. Tickets are about $20.

Open Book, 8pm: November 2-4, November 9-11, November 16
MN Opera Center, 8pm: November 17-18

But if you really want to experience what they are about, check the Web site closer to October and there should be a listing of public (and free) performances at shelters of various types around the Twin Cities. It's worth it.

In February they will perform Eurydice and in April, Once on this Island. Check the site for details and watch for my reviews.

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Minneapolis Unwired: ZDNet article covers USIW response to bridge collapse
Marguerite Reardon at ZDNet has an Aug. 8 piece on the US Internet Wireless (USIW) response to the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis (just surfaced in my Google Alerts). It's the standard blow-by-blow about USIW's quick and strategic response to the crisis plus how public safety is a major reason for muni Wi-Fi.

Citywide Wi-Fi network put to test in Minneapolis

Part of the USIW response was the opening of the subscription-based Wi-Fi network to allow use by anyone. This was announced via local broadcast media. With the cellular network flooded, USIW hoped people with Wi-Fi enabled smart phones could use Wi-Fi for placing calls. Most articles then give usage statistics provided by Joe Caldwell, CEO of USIW: network use jumped from 1,000 registered users to 6,000 users. The inference is that lots of phone calls were placed over Wi-Fi (Voice over IP or VOIP).

Reardon is the only writer who took the figures to task:
Exactly how many of those 6,000 users were actually using the Wi-Fi network in lieu of the cell phone network isn't known. It's unlikely that many people were able to use the network for voice communications, given that most cell phones don't have Wi-Fi capability and those that do may not be able use voice over IP clients.

Additionally, a large number of VOIP calls would have degraded services on the Wi-Fi network as surely as it did on the cellular network. I assume USIW could share usage data with us showing how many VOIP calls were placed and what other types of activities were going on.

Also interesting to note is that text and instant messages were still moving over the cell network. (Jon Gordon mentioned this to me via Twitter.) I see this as an education issue with cell phone users needing to know how to send text messages and that this is an alternative when you are unable to place a voice call. Most of my (older) friends—even those who have had cell phones a long time—don't know how to text message or IM on their cell.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007
Extra! Extra! Read it on Twitter
Nineteen Critical Mass bikers were arrested in Minneapolis last night during their monthly ride. I'm not going to talk about harassment and/or justice in this post except to say that it looks like the Minneapolis police used excessive force during the arrests. There are videos and photos for viewing. (Follow the links.)

I'm going to talk about how I found out within a few hours and without the help of any official media source. A link drifted in on Twitter, a twit from Mr. Ed Kohler: "What the heck happened at Critical Mass in Minneapolis tonight?" with a link to a report at City Pages Blotter. Then another twit, WCCO's Jason DeRusha stating CCO would have a report with video soon. This was around 10 p.m.

I ran a Google news search and found the Indymedia report.

Nothing at StarTribune. (They have a story now.)

There's something happening here and we know what it is.

It's about the shifting media space and the shouts I'm hearing out here on the 'Net. It's about casual news sources beating out traditional sources.

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