Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008
Minneapolis Unwired: Civic garden demo site open
Update: There's no form or email address at the end of the suggestions link. I'll see if I can get any more information or an email address for suggestions.

The Civic Garden portal demo is live on the web. It states that it's a work-in-progress. You can leave comments about it here:

The Garden will be open access to anyone with wireless connectivity. It will link to civic sites of various kinds including community organizations, city government, public safety, and neighborhood groups.

Minneapolis Civic Garden Portal Project

Monday, February 25, 2008
Blogging! Live! Tonight!
New Media, New Standards: Ethics in Online Journalism is the MPR UBS Forum tonight (Free!) and they have Dan Gillmor on the panel along with a host of local Jjourno types. You can't go though unless you already reserved a seat but you can live vicariously and read all about it as Greg and Erica live-blog and tweet. There's also an audio stream available at the MPR site.

Metroblogging Minneapolis: Live blogging MPR's MSM vs. New Media Ethics Forum. Check comments as some of the luminaries have weighed in.

Friday, February 22, 2008
Eric Meyer will be at MinneWebCon. Will you?
This is a pure marketing blurb about the University of Minnesota full-day, 3-track web conference on April 14.

MinneWebCon—April 14, 2008 : U of M

Disclosure: I work at the U and I helped in planning this event.

Minneapolis Unwired: Wireless network finish date March 11
The Star Tribune's Steve Alexander reports that March 11 is the finish date for the Wireless network. There are still significant dead areas in the City however. If I read this right, the City needs to negotiate with Xcel to hang radios in the "challenge" areas.

One of the delay problems mentioned is "foliage barriers." So what about all the radios that have been hung since the fall leaf drop? None have been tested with foliage. Could this cause significant problems with the network as the leaves come back to the trees.

Foliage was a significant problem in the Seward pilot areas where they actually had to rebuild the network after they had sold accounts to residents. The original pilot implementation was mainly put in place when there were no leaves on the trees. When spring came, connectivity dropped for a significant number of subscribers. We will have to wait and see. (Maybe one of the Journalists-with-a-capital-J out there could consider asking this when you have their ear.)

Read the article here: Minneapolis Wi-Fi finish set for March 11

Monday, February 18, 2008
Minneapolis Unwired: New article at TC Daily Planet on the wi-fi network buildout
Minneapolis wi-fi network nearing completion by Patrick Anderson. I am quoted and thank you Planet for the links to my wireless marketing piece.

A friend called over the weekend to tell me she subscribed to the wireless system. She has the Ruckus gateway in a window pointed at a radio 300 feet away. The signal is not satisfactory and drops more often than she thinks it should. USIW says that's the nature of wireless (although they are still working with her). My own guess is the radios in her area need tuning for better coverage or additional radios need to be mounted. Since USIW is rushing to complete the network, I am doubting if the fine-tuning work gets a high priority right now. Additionally, spring brings leaves and leaves bring increased interference to the system and a greater need for tuning.

Saturday, February 16, 2008
Minneapolis Unwired: City issues strategy sheet on administering community benefits
[Full Disclusure: I'm a member of the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee.]

Also at this weeks Committee of the Whole meeting, the City issued a strategy sheet entitled "Strategy to administer the Wireless Minneapolis community benefits in 2008." (PDF copy here.)

Copying and pasting from the City's PDF version is almost impossible so I will summarize and comment.

Besides the Digital Inclusion Fund which just gave out grant awards (and will have another $300,000 once the network is completed), there are several other community benefits in the City's contract with US Internet. The City is going to reconvene the Digital Inclusion Task Force, add the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee, and have them decide on some of the guidelines for these benefits. If you have an interest in helping with this process, I would suggest contacting your Councilmember and requesting that you could join the group. Drop me an email too and let me know that you are doing this and I'll send it up through my channels too.

Here are the other benefits:

  1. A civic garden (also know as "walled" garden) of sites to access free of charge whether a US Internet subscriber or not. This will be free wireless internet access to selected sites. The City of Minneapolis is one of the sites. The rest are to be determined. I think this mostly benefits visitors to Minneapolis with laptops, a.k.a. business people. So I would hope that the free listing would be targeted at them. The civic garden idea will integrate with the...
  2. Community portals that will appear when you log-in the network. These are free access if your computer has wireless capabilities. They will be location-based and the south portal will not be the same portal as the north portal. (I think there are six in all.) If we are targeting business folk with our free access, do they need to see these portals?
  3. 100 free wireless accounts awarded to nonprofits. How these will be delivered is still to be determined.
  4. $15,000 in annual Wireless Minneapolis monthly subscription vouchers for volunteers
    who are offering training in Community Technology Centers. No guidelines set for these yet.
  5. Up to 5% of the City’s geographic area, including some parks and plazas, designated as
    free WiFi zones. It would be nice if this were a priority and we had access for spring.
So the recommendation now is that the City engage the members of the Digital Inclusion Task Force and the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisors to do the following:
  1. Develop interim guidelines that direct how the 100 free non-profit accounts will be allocated in 2008; solicit requests for free accounts from non-profits that meet these guidelines; and make recommendations for recipients of 2008 accounts.
  2. Develop interim guidelines that direct how the $15,000 in volunteer service vouchers will be allocated in 2008; solicit requests for volunteer vouchers from non-profits that meet these guidelines; and make recommendations for recipients of 2008 accounts.
  3. Develop interim "acceptable use" guidelines for content on the community portals and in the Civic Garden and make recommendations for community portal and Civic Garden content for 2008.
  4. Develop recommendations for how the City of Minneapolis should address community involvement and oversight of the community benefits and the City’s community technology agenda.
That "acceptable use" on the portals (#3) seems a slippery slope. I would hope that publishing would be open to a large and diverse community—meaning just about anyone who wants to publish—and that guidelines would be very loose.

For #4 and community involvement, I've been lobbying to have a community engagement day based on the Open Space Technology concept.

Let's hear some comments. Minneapolis residents have a serious stake in how we use these Community benefits.

Minneapolis Unwired: State of the Wireless Network report from City CIO
At the Minneapolis City Council Committee of the Whole meeting this week, CIO Lynn Willenbring presented the report below. The map that is mentioned in the report is not attached. I will try to get a copy and post it. A PDF version of the report is available.

The Report

Background/Supporting Information

In 2006 the City of Minneapolis signed a 10-year contract with US Internet to build and manage a wireless network across the city. USI Wireless is currently in the process of constructing the wireless network.

When completed the wireless network will provide access to 95 percent of the city’s land area (the remaining 5 percent includes lakes, larger parks, and golf courses). To develop this wireless network radios are mounted on city assets, such as light poles, which allows the network coverage to reach approximately the third floor of buildings. With additional equipment, building owners can bring the wireless signal into the building and all the way to the top floor of a building.

Overview - Preview - Project Update Over

USI Wireless anticipates that the initial build-out of the network will be completed in March. Construction has been broken into six construction phases. A map (attached) produced by the company shows each of the six construction phases and also highlights areas that we are calling “challenge areas.” These are places throughout Minneapolis where there are a limited number of assets on which to hang the wireless radios. Many of these are areas that have special light poles or are adjacent to parks, where there are currently no light poles. The special light poles may be decorative or they may be scheduled for replacement along parkways. Minneapolis’ 7th City Council Ward has a significant number of challenge areas. These areas will be addressed before the network is considered complete, but installation of wireless radios is continuing throughout Minneapolis to gain as much coverage as possible.

Because network coverage will only reach approximately the third floor of buildings, USI Wireless will be working with interested condominium and apartment ownership groups to bring the wireless network into their buildings. Tall building management organizations are encouraged to contact USI Wireless to begin the process.

Resolving these challenges is a priority for both the City and USI Wireless. The City must be confident that when the network is complete it meets our service expectations and the contract requirements.

Since Minneapolis is one of the first cities in the country to pursue such a project, we are the first to face – and resolve – the myriad of unanticipated issues that come along with such an ambitious endeavor.


Monday, February 11, 2008
Networks & Neighborhoods in Cyberspace: A Minnesota Futures Symposium
Today were at Networks & Neighborhoods In Cyberspace

Follow our Twitter reports here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008
Nation Not Wired: Educause blueprint for open 100 Mbps to my house
While President Bush thinks 200K is fast enough, Educause published A Blueprint for Big Broadband that recommends minimum speeds of 100 Mbps to businesses and homes by 2012 (and scalable to 1 Gbps). Go Educause!

Read the article: Private Broadband Fails US, Needs Change | WebProNews

Thx to the Baller Herbst list.

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Nation Not Wired: Good news. There's enough broadband
In 2004, President Bush pledged
that all Americans should have affordable access to high-speed Internet
service by 2007. A report to be released Thursday by the administration
says it has succeeded — mostly.
Note that broadband is defined as a connection at 200K or better.

Study: US Broadband Goal Nearly Reached

Get the full report at the NTIA site.

Thx to the Baller Herbst list.

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Minneapolis Unwired: Digital inclusion grants
I shot off the last post late last night when I was too tired to deal with more than a quick announce-and-link. I'm a member of the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee and I have been wondering when our awards would be announced as we finalized in December. Without warning I stumbled on a GovTech announcement. I couldn't find any local mention. Today I discovered that the City of Minneapolis did post to the Web.

But first I want to congratulate the nonprofit groups who will receive awards. All the proposals were excellent and it was very difficult for me and my fellow digital inclusion advisors to decide who should get funded in this round. One thing that helped us is that another $300,000 will be in our fund once the network is completed and the City has signed off. And after that, if everything goes as planned, there will be more funds coming from US Internet to continue to sustain our fund.

Without further ado, here's the list of NPOs and brief descriptions of the projects. As always, your comments are important!
  • Minneapolis Public Library - $18,588 for the expansion of the basic technology training classes for Somali and Spanish language speakers and for people with disabilities.
  • Phyllis Wheatley Community Center - $8,775 for its Bridging the Digital Divide project designed to bring diverse neighborhood youth together using wireless technology; also for the purchase of equipment, program materials, and accountability and evaluation services.
  • Plymouth Christian Youth Center - $22,500 for increased technology access and literacy among youth and families in north Minneapolis by providing computer access and education for community youth enrolled in the school's alternative and after-school programs; also to offer access and education on Saturdays for families from the community.
  • Project for Pride in Living - $25,000 for its new Learning Center Access Lab, which offers and array of resources and programs that help bridge the digital divide for low-income residents by providing computer skills and access.
  • St. Paul Neighborhood Network - $20,000 for program operations and member support which targets technology access and literacy needs of recent immigrant, people with disabilities, and low-income residents of Minneapolis.
  • The Bridge for Runaway Youth - $25,775 for a program that ensures digital inclusion for homeless youth.
  • The Church of St. Philip (Patchwork Quilt) - $30,000 for its Patchwork Digital Divide initiative to continue providing computer hardware, software, and access to the Wireless Minneapolis network for low-income families with children and people with disabilities.
  • TVbyGirls - $22,262 for a series of visual and media literacy workshops designed to work with girls in specific cultural communities.
  • Twin Cities Media Alliance - $27,100 for recruitment and training of Minneapolis residents and neighborhood organizations to create local, relevant, and useful information for distribution through neighborhood portals, community partners and Twin Cities Daily Planet.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008
Minneapolis Unwired: First wave of digital inclusion grants announced
My Google news alerts just notified me that grant awards from the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund have been announced. This is from GovTech - I don't see any local mention.

I'm on the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee and helped in deciding how the money would be awarded. You can get the details at the above link. I'm going to let other local bloggers pick up the ball on this.

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Nation Unwired: Billion dollar spectrum auction
The 700 MHz auction began on Jan. 24. There are 214 qualified bidders including Verizon, Google, and AT&T. The government could make $30 billion. Bryan Gardiner at Wired says this could "be one of the most significant airwave auctions in U.S. history,
potentially affecting everything from the cost of your wireless service
to the competitive landscape among U.S. mobile providers for years to
come." (Brian's article is a good primer on what the auction is about.)

The FCC has designated the C Block to "open to any devices and services." This is the space that many think Google is interested in. Minimum bidding for the C Block is $4.6 billion. Many thought that might not be met but it has and a bidding war has gone up past $10 billion.

Sascha Meinrath has posted instructions on watching the C Block auction in real time-- just like E-Bay.

Part of the spectrum is reserved for building a public safety network with a public-private partnership. That has not fared so well. Read what Susan Crawford has to say.

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State of the Net Video/Audio
Video and/or audio of some of the sessions and keynotes at the January 30 State of the Net Conference in Washington D.C.
The Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee's State of the Net Conference is now the largest technology policy conference in DC, annually attracting well over 500 attendees. It is the only conference with a balanced blend of academics, consumer groups, industry and government (over 50% of 2007 attendees were government policy staff).

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Friday, February 01, 2008
Minneapolis Unwired: We are fastest (maybe)
My Google alerts for "Minneapolis wireless" flagged a report on current testing of Mineapolis Wi-Fi network by Novarum. Novarum goes around the country testing and measuring Wi-Fi implementations and they release a public report. They also do testing-for-hire and that's what's going on here in Minneapolis. Belair, the radio and antenna provider for the Minneapolis system hired them.

The report states that USI Wireless (vendor for the system) is delivering the highest speeds of any metro Wi-Fi network in the U.S.

MuniWireless contacted Novarum and found out that while they do think we have a high-quality and fast wireless network here in Minneapolis, they are still testing and won't discuss the results. Belair Network jumped the gun with this announcement.

MuniWireless article

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