Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.
Featured Tag: Wireless
Brooklyn Park getting WiMax?
Clearwire has a proposal in to provide a WiMax wireless network for Brooklyn Park. This will be the first WiMax network that I know of in this area. No investment by the Brooklyn Park; customers would pay for the service. Ostensibly they want to provide connectivity to people on lower incomes but prices they are mentioning do not seem very "low income" to me. (Maybe there is a tier they are not mentioning.)
US Internet president Joe Caldwell says that Clearwire's arrival "doesn't bother me a bit." That's interesting given that early on in the Minneapolis Wi-Fi deployment, US Internet was hopeful that other cities surrounding Minneapolis would want to contract with US Internet for wireless services. There was even talk of customers having the ability to use Wi-Fi across city borders if US Internet was the provider.
I would tend to be worried if I was US Internet. I don't think anything is stopping a company like Clearwire from providing services in Minneapolis if they could hang the transmitters. They could target areas of high usage like downtown and not be under any contract to cover the City. That could be a potent threat to US Internet's business model. (This is all conjecture on my part, of course. There could be something legal prohibiting another wireless provider.)
Read the story at tradingmarkets.com
Minneapolis Unwired: The network is just about as complete as it's going to be
Minneapolis is officially unwired says the Star Tribune:
The $20 million Minneapolis wireless Internet network has been completed after 2 1/2 difficult years of technical and political delays. The city's next step: getting the police and fire departments using it this year.The City's basic requirement was for coverage of 95% of it's 59.5 miles and performance meets the City's expectations, according to Minneapolis Chief Information Officer Lynn Willenbring. There are 16,500 private subscribers, according to Joe Caldwell, marketing vice president of US Internet, which owns and operates the network. The company hopes for 30,000 individual customers. Getting City departments to use the wireless network is another story. So far Sprint cellular services trump US Internet Wi-Fi services with the City using less than half of the $1.25 million a year worth of services it's paying for. Luckily unused money can roll over to future years of the 10-year contract. (What happens if there is still unused money after ten years?) Esme Vos wrote about the network today at MuniWireless, stressing the need to upgrade to 802.11n units sooner rather than later if it's not been done already. (I don't think it has.) US Internet has improved customer service in the last year and now sends out (and charges for) a technician on each install. General satisfaction of users on the system seems to be growing. I'm seeing far fewer complaints via my Google Alerts than in previous years.
Minneapolis Unwired: Test the Wi-Fi System for Free!
You don't have to ask me; you can check it out for yourself. As part of the community benefits in the Minneapolis-USI contract, USI has paid for a "Civic Garden." The Garden consists of community and City of Minneapolis sites. You can access the Wi-Fi network via the Civic Garden for free and browse. If access speeds are satisfactory, they should only get better once you have the USIW Ruckus modem which boosts the signal. Let's go through how you can access and test the system.
- Find the access point. On the Mac, you can pop down a menu that shows all the wireless access points in range (see picture). On the PC, you can open a window that shows you the same. (Sorry, I'm a Mac guy so I don't have a PC picture.) The SSID or identifying name will be "USI Wireless," "City of Minneapolis Public Wi-Fi," or "Welcome to Minneapolis." (That last one is rare but I've seen it.) Once you see it, connect to that network and open your browser.
Wi-Fi Menu on the Mac
- Your browser will open to the USIW terms of service. Read them and accept. (If you don't accept, that will be the end of your testing.)
- Once you have accepted the agreements, you are at the Civic Garden.
- You can browse a variety of community sites or use the "Get City of Minneapolis News" link to access the City's site.
USIW now sends a technician installer person out for every install whether you think they need to come to your house or not. They charge $25 for this. I've heard there is currently a wait period of a week or so.
I'm not a USIW subscriber (yet). I do get a good signal where I live without any special antennas or devices to boost reception.
The Wi-Fi spectrum is subject to all kinds of interference including microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other Wi-Fi access points. Trees with leaves will also cause interference so your reception will usually be better during our Minnesota winters. Sometimes your signal just goes away or gets so weak as to resemble the old days of the dial-up modems.
Good luck. I hope these instructions are clear and if they aren't, please let me know how I can improve them. Also I'd like to know your experiences if you test the system and whether or not you decide to subscribe to USIW.
Minneapolis Unwired: Dead zones & IOUs (plus a Wi-Fi in the parks update)
The gist is that it's not done which is also the ongoing mantra. "It's always something" as Gilda would say. Prospect Park is still a "challenge" area and there are others around the metro--a total of three square miles still unwired. The park issue I reported on before seems to be resolved and a contract is in place with a bit of money changing hands from US Internet to the Park Board. (Read details over at the eDemocracy Forum).
The City of Minneapolis is using only $50,000 worth of services but paying $1.25 million per year. The article says the money carries over (an IOU so to speak) so supposedly we will get full value eventually. Some reasons we aren't getting full value now are because the network needs to actually be complete before Police and Fire will mess with it and because some City departments are slow in adopting the service.
Alexander talks about using the network to track video from a police car going 80mph. I would love to know how that is possible. I don't think the current network, in areas where it is fully implemented, allows you to smoothly travel from node to node in a car without losing the connection some of the time. So do we have a "special" high-speed backend network for police and fire? I know there is a "public safety" channel or something but if it's still in the Wi-Fi range, it would be subject to all kinds of interference.
US Internet meanwhile says they now have 14,000 subscribers. Those numbers should eventually translate to cash infusions in the City's Digital Inclusion Fund with a minimum of 5% of net pretax income. The fund has $100,000 left of the initial $500,000 from US Internet. The fund and the money are part of the Community Benefits Agreement in the contract. I'm on the Digital Inclusion Fund Committee and so far we have not heard when we will receive more money and we have postponed this years grant-making cycle.
We are still the muni-wi-fi poster child of the world. It's working here because the City of Minneapolis signed on as anchor tenant and is paying a hefty fee to support a network. However, unless the City starts to get its money's worth of services soon, we may have rethink this poster child status.
Minneapolis Unwired: NY Times Wi-Fi article lists Minneapolis wireless
Cities themselves may be muni Wi-Fi's savior - New York Times
2005 City municipal Wi-Fi rocks.
2006 City municipal Wi-Fi still rocks. Disputes over public vs. private ownership.
2007 Private ownership winning but now city municipal Wi-Fi itself is a bad idea. it. Business model is flawed and Wi-Max will kill it anyway.
Later this same year... NY Times says city municipal Wi-Fi rocks with the right business model (meaning the city itself needs to anchor)
I'm not sure that the Times realizes we have a subscriber network in addition to our "state-of-the-art" public safety network. It is nice for Minneapolis to finally be mentioned in a municipal Wi-Fi article. Sad to say but it's probably related to a catastrophic infrastructure failure (bridge collapse) even as we build out a new infrastructure (muni Wi-Fi).
Technorati Tags: wireless, minneapolis, broadband, municipal, wifi
Minneapolis Unwired: Community meetings 10/18 and 11/1
Upcoming Wireless Minneapolis informational/community meetings.
Oct. 19 at Logan Park, 690 13th Ave. NE.
Nov. 1 at Nokomis Park, 2401 E. Minnehaha Parkway.
Both go from 5:30 p.m. until 7.
Minneapolis Unwired: Digital Inclusion Update
I now have forty-five proposals to go through requesting far more than the $200,000 that's available for grants. I think there will be some interesting projects coming along in the next year to help low income and marginalized folk in Minneapolis get to the Internet. Not much more I can say until an official announcement some time before the end of the year.
I can announce our members though. I was shy about that previously as there was no listing available on the web until recently. I planned to check with my colleagues about listing names here after reading Josh Breitbart's post pointing out that we aren't identified anywhere. That has changed and the official list of reps is up at the Digital Access site. (Thanks, Josh. I have a feeling your blog post helped in getting this information out there.)
Read Josh's post. His ideas around horizontal collaboration vs. hub-and-spoke deserve serious discussion. He likes much of what he sees in Minneapolis compared to Philadelphia. But we are still in the development stage, now creating the reality of the shared vision. What is disheartening for me is the minuscule information about the Wi-Fi project itself and the walled/civic garden portals. (I am supposed to be on a committee that is planning the community portals and it hasn't met in months.) The deployment is a month or more behind schedule and I doubt if the network will be completed before 2008. I think delays are to be expected in new ventures like this but US Internet Wireless (USIW) and the City of Minneapolis have not been forthcoming in updating residents as to status. There is a city-sponsored mailing list but little flows through it and there has never been any type of status report even when new neighborhoods are added to the Wi-Fi mix.
USIW and Minneapolis need the community to rally round the Wi-Fi system. Frequent and honest communication is the best way to ensure that engagement.
Technorati Tags: wireless, broadband, municipal, minneapolis, wifi, digital_inclusion
Minneapolis Unwired: ZDNet article covers USIW response to bridge collapse
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.
Technorati Tags: minneapolis, wi-fi, municipal, 35W, broadband, USIW
Minneapolis Unwired: Five things we gotta do for success
It would be in the best interest of us all in Minneapolis to take Gigi Tagliapietra's five qualities for success of muni wi-fi to heart. They show an understanding for just how important the Internet is becoming in all of our lives.
Minneapolis Unwired: Having City as an anchor tenant is the way to go
BusinessWeek sees problems with muni-wi-fi deployments with companies requiring cities to become the anchor tenant with guaranteed revenues. That sounds very familiar. Maybe it should be called the Minneapolis Option.
BusinessWeek: Why Wi-Fi Networks Are Floundering
Minneapolis Unwired: Muni Wi-Fi Meeting Tomorrow Night
City Wi-Fi Community meeting for Southwest Neighborhoods tomorrow night at Lyndale Farmstead Park, 3900 Bryant Ave. S., 5:30 p.m. to 7.
Whether you live in Southwest or not, you can attend for more information on what's happening with the wireless system.
For more information on this and future meetings, check the City site.
Minneapolis Unwired: Tell us how to digitally include everybody
With little fanfare, the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee has released it's RFP with responses due by September 14. (Background info on the fund is here and the application form is here.)
I sit on the committee. It is a donor-advised fund of the Minneapolis Foundation. There is about $200,000 available in this round and grant awards will run from $5,000 to $30,000. US Internet will be paying another $300,000 after the City signs off on the network plus a percent of their revenues in upcoming years. Barring unforeseen circumstances, there will be another round coming in 2008.
Here is a list of a few examples of "eligible activities" for funding that the committee put together:
- Supporting technical literacy programs and initiatives
- Developing economic opportunities through digital access
- Using digital access for civic engagement and supporting accessible government
- Using digital access to aid in community and neighborhood collaboration efforts
- Distributing assistive technology to people with disabilities and the elderly to ensure equal access to digital content
- Distributing hardware to low-income households
- Providing relevant and engaging content in multiple languages
- Finding new and innovative methods to spur digital inclusion
- Implementing web-based English language training
- Closing the educational achievement gap between white students and students of color
Many current projects within nonprofits that may not seem digital could actually benefit from a shot of Internet and could easily become an inclusion activity. Look closely at what you're doing. Talk to some Internet geeks. (Most of us love talking about this stuff, especially if you buy the beer or coffee.)
How about a single mom project? Devise a program to provide at-home telecommuting jobs to young single moms. Provide hardware, training and the job itself. Find a corporation to work with and get some matching funds for the digital inclusion money.
How about a community economic development project where you set up an ecommerce server to sell over the Net? Free entry to the server for any qualifying business and then they pay a small percentage of sales. Again, make sure you train everyone in how to use those computers! This would have the potential of funding itself as more businesses became involved.
English as a second language... I have heard that classes are full and there is a waiting list. So use the Internet for some distance learning on demand. Team up with grad students at the U for a research project to provide curriculum and metrics. And budget training funds!
Those are just a few ideas and they are pulled out of my brain. I'm on a committee so you would have to convince us all (or at least most of us) to get anything funded. But the Internet space really lends itself to brainstorming like this because the potential is almost limitless.
I would love to see you add ideas in the comments. Maybe some of my sisters and brothers on the committee will also drop by and and add to the conversation.
Minneapolis Unwired: New Wi-Fi helps in aftermath of bridge disaster
ComputerWorld has a nice article about how the City of Minneapolis was able to utilize the new wireless network in the aftermath of the bridge collapse.
US Internet Wireless also opened the network for free service after the disaster. With the cell network maxed out for voice calls, some people were able to use voice over the Wi-FI system.
There's a spectrum auction around the bend and maybe we'll get lucky
The FCC will be auctioning off old TV spectrum in 2008 and they are hard at work today creating a set of rules for the auction. Past spectrum auctions are dominated by really big companies with lots of money (and lobbyists) and this auction will be no different except there's a new kid on the block named Google. And Google thinks the FCC should require openness:
- Open applications: consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
- Open devices: consumers should be able to utilize a handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
- Open services: third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms; and
- Open networks: third parties (like internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at a technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee's wireless network.
Yesterday the FCC voted to require 1 and 2. Sad not to have 3 which would have really opened up the spectrum but any openness is welcome. Of course, enforcement of the openness will be another issue.
Washington Post has a good article about the whole situation, Susan Crawford reports on the decision, and Paul Kapustka at GigaOm has a good summary of what happened yesterday.
Given that AT&T is happy about the decision (see the Kapustka link), it may be (as Susan Crawford feels) unenforceable.
Minneapolis Unwired: Status and a report at W2i
Has USI Wireless (USIW), builders of the Minneapolis Wi-Fi mesh network, officially finished Phase 1 (the downtown area and near downtown and where I happen to live). Local media hasn't reported and the two official mailing lists--one from City of Minneapolis and one from USIW--have been silent.
Today, via Google Alerts, I found a current report of sorts dates July 25. It's by James Farstad, the City's wireless consultant. It's remarkably frank and gives some insight into the building out process and some of the problems USIW is facing.
Here's a copy of the phase map with the current schedule.
- Although it doesn't say that Phase 1 is done, it says Phase 2 has started.
- The network does cover 12 miles and it worked on a T-Mobile Wi-Fi device.
- Electrification is a big problem. Crushed conduit is a big problem as it has to be replaced. There are also permits to consider.
- Phase 2 should go faster because of the standard street grid but there is some road construction and missing poles to hang the nodes.
- Phase 3 is parks and lakes and potential headaches. Farstad: "I've asked the team to locate solar powered artificial pine trees that we can plant." Wow.
- Customer experience is important (sign-up, sales, support, etc.). Farstad: "Some early test interactions indicate there is work to do here and it has become an important focal point this week." Statements of poor customer service have been reported at the community wireless meetings.
And USIW, it's still not too late to implement some of my community wireless related recommendations. (They got a bit of airplay via MuniWireless.)
Senator Durbin live blogs broadband policy
Tonight and the rest of the week, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin will be engaging in conversations at the OpenLeft blog about US broadband policy starting at 6 p.m. CST (that's tonight's time check the schedule for other nights). Check here for details and instructions on getting an account.
Here's a summary of each night's discussions:
Day 1, Tuesday July 24, will feature a live-blog with the Senator
where we'll be looking to lay out the big picture: how should we
think about broadband policy? How should we be looking at it
differently? What should the key principles for a national broadband
strategy be? It's a big-picture night and an opportunity for folks to
say what they're concerned about, as well as how they think the
Internet (and broadband overall) should operate in the future.
Day 2, Wednesday July 25, will focus on net neutrality and other 'how
the Web works' issues, but indeed, net neutrality will take center
stage. Organizers are hoping we find new frames, new insights, and
new directions for this debate.
Day 3, Thursday, July 26, is going to be about municipal
infrastructure with an emphasis on the use of the public airwaves to
provide broadband. We'll talk iPhone politics, spectrum auctions, and
discuss models for municipal broadband and their implications.
Day 4, Friday, July 27, is going to be more about practicalities in
regards to the provision of infrastructure itself: public/private
partnerships, projects like UTOPIA and Fiber for the Future, Connect
Kentucky, and USF/USDA reform.
Minneapolis Unwired: Are we live yet?
Has US Internet USIW finished phase 1 of the network? This includes downtown, Cedar-Riverside area, and part of Seward Neighborhood.
Checking their ordering site, I'm told that I can't yet purchase service at 24th Ave. and Franklin. I assume that means they haven't finished yet. The current build-out schedule lists June but also says that all dates are subject to change.
The next community meeting will be at Lyndale-Farmstead Park, 3900 Bryant Ave. S., on Thursday, July 19, 5:30 p.m. to 7. A second meeting with same time schedule will be held there Aug. 15.
Minneapolis Unwired: Kari tests Phase 1 Wi-Fi
Kari VanDerVeen at the Downtown Journal tests the network in the downtown area. Works well where it works, she says, but there are still holes (which USI Wireless acknowledges.
Seems she could keep a connection while riding in a car. I wonder how fast she was going.
Wireless Woes: MBP Unable to Connect to Actiontec
I have an almost brand new Apple Macintosh MacBook Pro (MBP) (15-inch). It's one rev back from the mercury-less model.
My home Wi-Fi connection is via Qwest DSL and an Actiontec GT701-wg DSL gateway. Qwest sold me the Actiontec and that they still support it. My MBP connected with no problem initially. In fact, it could pickup a signal from the gateway where no signals had been picked up before in my home.
Then I added Apple's last two updates: Security Update 2007-006 (from June 22) and the OS X 10.4.10. The MBP will no longer connect to the Actiontec. I can see the SSID but get an "Error in joining blah network..." message every time.
From googling the issue, I think it's a 10.4.10 problem.
I also have an older 12-inch Powerbook (aluminum) and it has not had any issues and has been able to connect to the Actiontec with no problem.
My MBP can still connect to some Wi-Fi networks including the one at the University of Minnesota and via the US Internet municipal Wi-Fi system in Minneapolis.
A. Brody has an excellent FAQ for troubleshooting Wi-Fi connection problems with current Macs. So if you're having problems like this, start there.
None of A Brody's solutions helped me. I called Apple and the support person said it's a problem with the gateway not the Mac and there were no known issues relating to the latest updates. I mentioned that there was a buzz in the Apple discussion area as well as on the Internet to which he responded that people will write anything they want and their discussion boards are user-to-user. Thanks, Apple.
Potential solution 1: I have been running my system without any encryption and some people have found that adding WPA encryption solves the problem (WPA is recommended over WEP). I'm going to try that next.
Potential solution 2: Wipe the drive and reinstall the system. Don't use the migration tool if you are migrating from an non-intell Mac because you could bring over incompatible settings. And don't update to 10.4.10. I really don't want to do this.
Today I called Qwest and talked to a DSL support guy named Steve. He said that he had a few calls last week on this issue and he was very appreciative of the testing and research I had done. He put me on hold and called Actiontec. (Actiontec charges $29.95 per incident if I call.) They said that yes, there is a problem with 802.11n Apple wireless cards. I don't know if they have linked anything specifically to the 10.4.10 update or not. They are working on it. They are hoping that Apple is working on it or will tell them more of what they are doing so they can make their Gateways compatible.
Thanks, Qwest. Apple could learn a bit about tech support from you.
I'll update with any resolutions or new information. If you know anything, please comment.
Chicago Unwired: Transforming through digital excellence
Michael Maranda and the rest of the Chicago Digital Access Alliance (CDAA) are celebrating the release of the report from the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide. It's titled The City that Networks: Transforming Society and Economy Through Digital Excellence. You can get the Chicago report here (link on the right).
Reading it is in-progress here but already I've found a term that I want to appropriate here in Minneapolis: digital climate:
a state of awareness in which virtually everyone—people, businesses, service providers, government, community organizations and others—fully understands and embraces the potential of technology in everything they do.(This will be the second term appropriated by Minneapolis. The first was civic garden to replace walled garden in relation to portal entry pages on our muni Wi-Fi system.)
After the celebration is over, watch for report analysis at Michael's blog.
Unwired in Philadelphia Part 2
Miriam Hill at the Philadelphia Daily News has a good piece on the trials and tribulations large municipal wireless deployments. Of course her focus is Philadelphia but it's really an overview as to what is going on in this space nationally. She provides a good description of how a wireless mesh network works and why it might be difficult to keep up and running and providing ubiquitous access.
Philadelphia is a whole lot bigger than Minneapolis both in population—1.4M compared to some 300,000—and area—135 square miles compared to 60 square miles. The stakes are definitely higher. How Earthlink fares with it's Philadelphia network will set a tone for large deployments around the country and world.
I want to commend Ms. Hill for her article and entreat our local press (Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, TC Daily Planet) to start providing this type of coverage. More than anything, we need more information about what is happening locally and nationally. We want US Internet Wireless (USIW) (our muni wireless network builder) to prosper and give us another choice for broadband Internet services in Minneapolis. But we also need to be weighing the problems with a large deployment and nurturing a conversation on how we can make this work together.
Unwired in Philadelphia
Glenn Fleishman has a good post on the Philadelphia wireless effort. Philadelphia will be the first major city deployment and he (and others) think that the success or failure of that deployment could be a bellwether for other big city deployments.
One issue he points to is nodes. Originally, Tropos believed a city network could provide adequate service with twenty to twenty-five nodes per square mile. That number has since risen to 30+ and Novarum (a muni-scale independent testing service) puts the number even higher.
I don't know what the node density is in Minneapolis but I'll try to get that information. I do know that US Internet is increasing density in the pilot area and they told current pilot customers that the reason was "to accommodate the additional leaf coverage since installing the original
Read Glenn's post.
*from an email that US Internet sent to current customers.
Please ignore. Technorati claim in progress. Technorati Profile
Unwired Community Summit
Back in May, I attended the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks and I was honored to be asked to represent Minneapolis's digital inclusion and community benefit efforts on one of the panels: Holistic Planning & Deployment of Wireless Networks.
Josh Breitbart at Civil Defense recorded several of the presentations including the one I participated on.
Here's the direct link to my presentation.
Make sure to check out Robin Chase's description of what's going on in Boston. (It starts 15m30s in.) Boston's plan is to have a nonprofit own the backbone and sell databits cheap to ISPs. They define an ISP as anyone: You, me, your mother. The goal is connectivity for $10/month.
US Internet in Minneapolis is also going to sell accounts to ISPs but there will be qualifications and minimum account buys in the area of 5,000 at a time. Not for the average geek to purchase.
Minneapolis Unwired: Technology Day in Minneapolis featuring Wi-FI
Minneapolis Wireless Update
Minnesota Stories guy Chuck Olsen captured the Technology Day festivities on video. Included is information on the community portal system. This blogger will talk about that soon too.
Minneapolis Unwired: Only one can roam
Minneapolis Wireless Update
In my rush to the presses last night with details of USIW charges, I forgot to cover roaming accounts on the US Internet-Minneapolis Wi-Fi system. This is the ability to pick up your laptop and go nomadic since theoretically you should be able to connect to the system anywhere in the city limits where you can get a strong enough signal.
Monthly fees allow you a single roaming account. In two-laptop families (like mine), you would have to purchase a second account if you both want to sit in the back yard and surf the Web.
Now if you rent or purchase the USIW/Ruckus modem, you get an extra login somehow tied to the modem. Now Mary can be logged in the modem and I can roam or vice-versa.
You can rebroadcast the modem signal via a hub, switch, or an internal wireless radio (like an airport).
Minneapolis Unwired: The Nitty Gritty Details
[Update: I forgot to mention nomadic roaming accounts and logging in anywhere in the City where you can get a signal. You get one roaming account. More details here.]
Minneapolis Wireless Update
Technology Day, Minneapolis, and finally details of how much Wi-Fi is going to cost on the US Internet Wireless (USIW) network.
That's a quick view (click the image for enlargement). For the official prices, go to http://www.usiwireless.com/Promo03, "Click Here," agree to whatever they ask, and you will see the official offer.
You need the Ruckus device (USIW modem) to have a guarantee on the speeds. That will cost you $5/month rental or $80 to purchase. Joe Caldwell, US Internet CEO, says rental is better for the consumer as USIW will replace it if you break it. From conversations with USIW sales, I also know that firmware upgrades will also come from USIW if you rent. Rental looks like the best deal.
Uploads Throttled! My hope was for symmetrical upload/download but USIW has decided to hold all uploads at 1 Mbps. Ironic that our local vlog guy, Chuck Olsen, was recording tonight. Sorry Chuck. If you get high-speed USIW, your vid to the Net will still be in the slow lane.
If you can't get a decent signal with the Ruckus, USIW can try mounting an external directional antenna on your house or apartment building. Didn't catch the brand but I will guess Belair, same company that is making the main radios.
High Rises. After the network is in place, they are going to tackle the high rises. I think the first plan will be to turn a radio sideways which will "paint" the side of the building with a signal. Another possible plan is to use IP over electric in the building. (What's the bandwidth on that?)
Completion of the first segment (Phase 1) covering downtown, Cedar-Riverside, and part of Seward, is June 19.
That's all for now, folks. Post your questions and I'll try to answer plus the USIW folk read this blog so maybe they will chime in. What do you think of the rates?
Minneapolis Unwired: Community Benefits
Ed has a good summary of the community benefits included in the City's contract with US Internet. Also check my home page for links to various documents like the full contract and the original community benefit recommendations.
Happy Technology Day, Minneapolis! Everyone should wear one of those little hats with a propeller on top. The Wi-Fi Wireless Rollout is at 4 p.m. in the Doty Room at the DT library accessible by train, bike, bus or automobile. Bring your ideas about what equals community content.
Minneapolis Unwired: 2.0 style marketing
Early Wi-Fi adopters in the pilot area (Seward Neighborhood mainly) have not been well-served. Service has been very intermittent since around Mother's Day. At least one person I know has not been able to use Wi-Fi for at least a month. I believe users were warned of outages by US Internet but not that they would be without service for days or weeks.
To their credit, US Internet Wireless (USIW) is trying to rectify the situation and has refunded monthly fees.
Back in October, when USIW started selling accounts, I had some suggestions as to how a company might market Wi-Fi as they build out the network. Reading them over again, I realize I was trying to help them to transform sterile municipal wireless into something akin to community wireless.
I think the suggestions—listed below—are still viable and would result in more long-term profit than the current course USIW is following.
- Don't charge anything for now. In fact, give us free accounts for a year and we'll help you troubleshoot problems. [Plus, subscribers could keep their other Internet accounts until the network was official.]
- Start blogging about the deployment. In fact, start blogging about your company. Be as transparent as you can. Make sure the CEO is blogging. [Information about the deployment from both the City and USIW has been sparse at best.]
- Lend out your Ruckus Metroflex Wireless Access Gateway units. We'll pay a deposit and return it in good working condition or buy it if we like the Wi-Fi
- Help us optimize service and set up networks in our homes. You will learn as much as we do and foster good will.
- Hold events at Wi-Fi hotspots in the pilot area.
- Give away some of the Ruckus units at the events. (Winners must prove they live in the pilot area!)
- Give away some of the 3-6Mbps accounts.
- Meet with the community to educate them about the Internet and wireless. Talk to PTAs, senior centers, trade groups, and neighborhood groups. Engage the people with how cool the Internet is. Don't sell anything! In fact, answer questions honestly about the competition, and discuss the pros and cons of Wi-Fi.
- Start working on digital inclusion initiatives.
- Engage the open source and software development community in the Twin Cities. Attend Minnebar and Minnedemo and read the blogs.
- Give us cool lawn signs advertising our USI Wi-Fi connection.
- As you build out, give away some accounts in each neighborhood. Hold a street party with a raffle.
If you live in Minneapolis, Wi-Fi antennas will soon be marching across pole tops to your neighborhood. By the end of the year (current projection is November), we should be an unwired city.
There is a Community Technology Celebration in conjunction with the Downtown-Cedar-Riverside wireless rollout. This will be on Thursday, June 14, at the Downtown Central Library from 4 p.m. to 6:30.
One of the items under discussion will be creating neighborhood and community portals. I want to urge those of you already working with citizen media (bloggers, podcasters, vloggers) to come and discuss the potentials of actively participating in the larger conversation that we are already enjoying online. We need to begin the process of converting the municipal wireless system into a true community wireless system.
Historically Minneapolis has always had a strong community journalism system. In recent years, the number of community and neighborhood papers has shrunk. Many that remain are often published by a single group that can share staff and publishing costs to cover many neighborhoods. It's just too expensive for every neighborhood to try and afford a newspaper staff.
The Web has reduced publishing to almost zero once you have hardware and a connection to the Internet. The plan is for the community portal system to provide free tools for getting messages out via blogs, news feeds, audio, or video. This will be an integrated system and location specific with your community page displayed when you are in your neighborhood.
Of course hardware and connectivity costs are still an issue for many which is why Minneapolis has established a Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Board with money contributed by US Internet as part of their agreement with the City. There is $200,000 in the fund now with another $300,000 coming when the network is finished. (I am a member of this Board.)
This Board will entertain proposals to provide Internet access and hardware to all. Potential solutions for the digital divide problem might include computer refurbishing programs, free accounts, or more funding for community technology centers. The Board will also look at training and education for new users and providing relevant multilingual content.
More meetings have been scheduled to coincide with the USIW construction schedule.
- Midtown and South; June 28, 5:30-7, Midtown Global Market
- Southwest, July 19 & August 19, 5:30-7, Lyndale-Farmstead Park
- North, September 13, 5:30-7, Shingle Creek Commons
- Northeast, Oct. 18, 5:30-7, Logan Park
- South & Southeast, November 1, 5:30-7, Nokomis Community Center
Wi-Fi Antenna MIA
Please note the picture at the top of the page which is a Belair Wi-Fi antenna outside my window, part of the Minneapolis muni wireless. Those of you who follow the blog know that I once linked to the Internet via that antenna during the pilot project.
Well the antenna has disappeared. So has the one on the corner. My block is without antenna.
- There are upgrades going on so maybe they are coming back with a new and better antenna.
- No one on my block is subscribing so they moved the antennas to a block with subscribers.
- St. Paul (our twin city) is stealing the antennas to start their own municipal Wi-Fi deployment.
Wireless: College Connection in Philadelphia. What are we doing?
Drexel University to Offer Students, Faculty and Staff Access to EarthLink’s Wi-Fi Networks
PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Drexel University and EarthLink (NASDAQ:ELNK) reached a first-of-its-kind agreement between a major university and wireless network service provider to extend the boundaries of Drexel’s Dragonfly wireless network for students, faculty and staff to access university resources and services or browse the Internet over EarthLink’s Wi-Fi networks, Drexel President Constantine Papadakis announced today.
As I read the story, students, staff, and faculty will be able to extend their college wireless access to the new Philadelphia wireless network. I would guess that Drexel paid something for this service. I wish they had clarified this.
The access is "for a limited time each month." It also extends to Earthlink's wireless networks in other cities.
Are we pursuing anything like this in Minneapolis? I know that the University of Minnesota is preparing to upgrade the entire campus wireless network. I believe either an RFI or RFP has been issued. This sort of arrangement for students, staff, and faculty would be excellent. (Disclosure: I am a U of MN employee.)
While I'm talking about the U of MN and wireless, I recently found that the U is selling wireless access on campus. I would like to see them provide free access. It would be a great community service and I don't think they will see droves of urban digerati flocking to campus especially since most of the nearby coffee shops have free wireless.
Philadelphia Wireless Update
Web buzz this weekend as Philadelphia approves Earthlink's 15-square-mile proof-of-concept network and Earthlink is going to begin build-out of the 135-sq.-mile system that is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2007.
As in Minneapolis, Earthlink is building and managing the Wi-Fi system and will share revenues with Wireless Philadelphia, a non-profit created by the city to fund digital divide/inclusion projects.
Earthlink is offering limited-time promotional rates of $6.95/month for 1 Mbps service and $9.95 for 3 Mbps service (with a 1 Mbps upload speed—why not symmetrical)? The rates will stay in place for the first six months and then go to $19.95 and $21.95 respectively.
US Internet's Minneapolis rates are much higher. There is a current deal of $14.95/month for 1 to 3 Mbps service and $24.95/month for 3 to 6 Mbps service. This will last until the network is finished. After that, basic 1 Mbps service will cost $19.95 and the higher speed will go to $29.95. US Internet does provide symmetrical connections for downloading and uploading. Personally, I'd choose the slower upload speed and lower price in Philadelphia for the 3 Mbps service.
Earthlink has the right idea for getting community buy-in to the service. At $6.95/month, I would definitely try out the wireless system while keeping my current DSL. That's harder to justify at $14.95/month—over twice the Eathlink-Philadelphia rate. Plus my expectations for customer support would be somewhat tempered at $6.95.
Current customer support and network reports are not good here in Minneapolis. Roy, my friend down the block, bought in early here in pilot project land. There were connectivity problems immediately that were finally resolved but now they are upgrading the network and he can't really rely on his connection at all. I would hope they offer him a free month of service for the problems.
My own customer service issue is with an email I sent on May 15 asking about the number of log-ins available with a single account. So far, I've heard nothing back.
Dark Side of Municipal Wireless
AP (via Yahoo) gives us the dark side of municipal wireless looking at potential failures throughout the US.
Cities struggle with wireless Internet
This is laced with hooie. Most of it is very circumstantial evidence that municipal wireless probably won't work. It's really too early to tell.
They focus most of their analysis on Lompoc, CA which is building a publicly-owned system. Lompoc only recently discovered that the wireless signal can't penetrate stucco with it's embedded wire mesh. They should have called US Internet here in Minneapolis-- they knew and that's why their bandwidth is only guaranteed with a repeater to strengthen the signal both ways. The device will cost $80 and can be rented for $5/month. Lots cheaper than the $150 for such a device mentioned in the article.
Here's a quote:
Because systems are just coming online, it's premature to say how many or which ones will fail under current operating plans, but the early signs are troubling.
It's premature but let's look at every single problem we can find with these deployments to make it sound bad. They focus on publicly-owned systems.
Minneapolis doesn't get mentioned (as usual). Maybe it's because our deployment seems to be going smoothly.
Minneapolis Wireless: City plans for portal rollout
Last week at the City of Minneapolis Committee of the Whole: Wireless, Portal, and Community Engagement.
Download the presentation (pdf, 850K).
Michael Maranda discusses community portal ideas and ownership.
Anaheim Muni Wifi by Earthlink
Business Week has an article about the Earthlink Wi-Fi build-out in Anaheim. I remember that they got this contract right around the time when they were demonstrating their pilot network in North Minneapolis before Minneapolis had chosen a vendor.
Earthlink is providing internal antennas/modems for free in Anaheim. Monthly cost is slightly higher -- $21.95 compared to $19.95 -- but some of that is probably local cost of living with Anaheim on the high end.
The article is critical of municipal Wi-Fi, wondering whether the for-profit deployments can ever sustain themselves financially. From the article:
But EarthLink and other providers have struggled with low subscriber response and reliability problems, and entrenched telecom and cable giants are fighting back with alternative technologies. The question is whether municipal Wi-Fi will ever pay off, or if this grand plan to offer broadband to the masses is headed for the dustbin of history.
According to the article, Novarum, a wireless consultant, found that the Earthlinkd network was only connecting about 72% of the time. (Earthlink states that where deployed, they have at least 90% connectivity.)
So what's going to happen if a company much smaller than Earthlink deploys a municipal wireless network in a major Midwest city and discovers that their projections were in error and they are losing money?
Municipal Wi-Fi: A Failure To Communicate
Minneapolis wireless portal needs content guidelines
[Update: Garrick starts a conversation. Plus higher res version of the Wi-Fi portal.]
The portal pages for the Minneapolis muni wireless system are becoming a reality. This has been called the "walled garden" in the past and some new terminology out of Chicago has referred to it as a "civic garden."
The portal will be available free of charge if you can connect to a wireless node. You won't need an account. On one level, this will provide information to visitors. On another level, it's free internet for those who can't afford it.
So what should be in the garden?
I'm a member of the portal committee where we will soon (next week) be working on policies for the content of the portal and walled garden.
I'm soliciting ideas.
For those curious, here's the current USIW portal in the 'active' areas (the original pilot project area). As far as I know, you can actively sign up for an account if you can get to this page. There's a 24-hour rate for $9.95 or a 15 min. rate of $3.95.
wireless, broadband, municipal, minneapolis, wifi
Wireless Minneapolis: Seward & DT to go wireless
Article at Star Tribune site posted May 4:
The new Minneapolis Wi-Fi Internet access service begins May 11 in 2 square miles including the Seward neighborhood. Service begins downtown the week of May 21.
Check my last post for a look at the current wireless purchase/log-in page. The article says the cost will be $19.95 but the portal log-in says $14.95. So will the $19.95 be for new customers or are they going to raise everyone's rate?
Wireless Cities Today
I'm in U of MN Walter Library at the Wireless Cities conference and Lev Gonick is going to do the first keynote. He's going to tell us about OneCommunity (used to be OneCleveland). He's CIO at Case Western in Cleveland.
Watch my Twitter feed for updates.
Watch here too.
I present at 3:15 with Garrick Van Buren, Jeremy Iggers, and Cris Lopez.
There is a conference blog.
Yochai "Wealth of Networks" Benkler at F2C
I still have not blogged about my time in DC at the F2C conference (I do have a draft under production but will it ever see the light of day?). Tonight I found Yochai Benkler's keynote from the conference available. It's worth a listen. Watch the video stream or grab the podcast. Includes a panel discussion. And Howard Levy on the harp.
Yochai's book, The Wealth of Networks, is also available (free!) on the Web.
International Summit for Community Wireless Networks
The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN) and the Center for Community Informatics (CCI) will host the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks from May 18-20, 2007 at Loyola College in Columbia, Maryland.
Wireless in Minneapolis
The new Wi-Fi mesh in Minneapolis is slowly making its way across the city. I live in the pilot area so I've had a chance to play with it since July. My access ended recently as USI Wireless (the new US Internet entity for the wireless deployment) began selling accounts in the pilot area.
If you are in the Seward Neighborhood area (around 24th Ave. S. & Franklin), you can check out the USI "Minneapolis Portal" login page. Check for USI Wireless where your network SSIDs are listed. Load a new browser page (or restart the browser in some instances) and you should be at the portal where you can pay $9.95 for a day of wireless browsing (or $3.95 for 15 minutes - yikes!). (I don't know if you can actually pay-&-browse yet but the technology is there.)
If you live in the Seward area, you can also subscribe to the system for $14.95/month (1-3Mbps) or $24.95/month (3-6Mbps). The subscription service is in place as they sent out a mailing a while back.
A comfortable place for wireless exploration would be the 2nd Moon Coffee Shop at 2225 East Franklin Avenue. You should be able to see the USI Wireless network there and you can browse the Web via the free wireless at 2nd Moon if you don't want to pay USI for some browsing time.
Here is a map of the Wi-Fi access points in the Seward Neighborhood. As far as I know, this is the only accurate map. The one the City released last year was pre-deployment of the antennas and is almost completely off.
The downtown Minneapolis area is supposed to have access soon or maybe it's there already. Anyone downtown seeing the network?
The Official Minneapolis Wi-Fi Portal Page has all sorts of links to City information. I don't think any of the links work yet. Eventually, this page will serve as a Walled (or Civic) Garden, allowing anyone with a Wi-Fi connection free access to City and neighborhood information. What will be available in the Garden is under discussion and if you have ideas, please let me know as I'm on the committee that is working on this. (Comments are always best to keep a discussion going but if you're shy, email me at pfhyper [@] gmail DOT com.)
One idea put forth by Michael Maranda, a community activist out of Chicago, is that all .gov, .edu, and .org should be made available. His reasoning is that this will serve as a free access system for low income users who can't afford a monthly fee. It will also be a somewhat "safe" Internet to allow Net Newbies to get their feet wet.
(Please don't bring up the "free Internet for all" discussion. I agree with that but it ain't going to happen here in the near future. The best we can do is increase our garden space as much as possible.)
One-third wireless and one-third dial-up
One-third of U.S. Internet users have connected to the Web using a wireless network to send e-mails, check the latest news or read other things, according to a survey released on Sunday by the Pew Internet Project.
Given that many (most?) cable and tele home connection routers/modems come equipped with wireless, this is not surprising.
More surprising, even shocking, and not mentioned at Reuters, is that one-third of U.S. Internet users connect at home with dial-up. (See p. 7 of the Pew report.)
Download the Pew report (PDF).