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[f2c] Muni Wifi

[Note: All of these conference bloggings are rough notes, wrong, incomplete, poorly paraphrased, full of spellping errors, etc.]

Esme Vos begins by saying that municipal wifi is far from dead. The companies that failed at it generally failed not because they were doing muni wifi (e.g., Earthlink). She talks about some cities where it’s working. E.g., Riverside, Minneapolis, Cleveland. Philadelphia is now succeeding; they got some muni “anchor applications” and is expanding from there. About 50% of logins to the Philadelphia system are Apple products; the Phila project is not a failure. Esme also talks about Lompoc CA, which had been considerd to be a failure, but it’s been turned around.

Sascha Meinrath says his role these days is “to translate geek into wonk.” He says we need “alternative media dissemination and through these networks institute fundamental changes to civil society before it collapses under the weight of its own inequity.” [approx] Public-private partnerships have placed communities in subservient relationships to corporations. “Our very lexicon” about muniwifi revolves around ROI instead of fostering a 21st century civil society.

Ken Biba of Novarum talks about “Municipal Wireless 2.0.” His company measures wifi. What went wrong with 1.0? There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Fantasy business models and overhyped products. What went right? When there was skin in the game, it worked It worked for things like public safety, parking meters, and internal municipal communications. Wireless works as an extension to wire. (Wifi 802.11n is beginning to beat Wimax for bandwidth, he says. Wimax is about as good as 3G. [I’m probably getting this wrong.]) He says “Cellular data has doubled in the last two years.” Now getting 1000-1500kbps download via cellular.

L. Aaron Kaplan (who gave a Berkman talk last week) is giving a presentation on Funkfeuer and community wifi networks in Europe. He shows maps of mesh networks in Vienna, highly scaled, 240 roofs. Repeated in Graz, Bad Ischl, Weinviertel. The longest links are 30km. It’s also happening in Barclona, Djursland, Berlin Freifunk, Athens, Paris Sans Fils, czfree nework.

Dewayne Hendricks says the biggest barrier to wireless is the regulatory environment. “The tools make the rules,” he says. E.g., if you have smart radios, they’re better able to tell what’s going on than rules written on tablets. Look at what’s happening at the grassroots level. What if we went back to the original vision and made the entire spectrum open? Reality is making it harder to stop this movement. The facts are on its side. Remember Metricom? They spent a billion dollars to deploy, and where it was deployed, it was great. They put their radios on light poles. But when muniwifi 2.0 started, no one went back and learned from Metricom’s efforts in getting permits.

Q: [harold feld] How can we talk about these things that doesn’t make it sound like you have to turn a profit in a year?
Esme: Cities like Rock Hill N. Carolina said that they’re installing a wireless meter-reading service, or some such…a muni service. It was easier to get the network in…
Ken: Someone has to pay for it. Find an app where you can show real economic return.
Sascha: I’m business-model agnostic. We just need to get this done.
Isenberg: From the chat: Why don’t we use Verizon or Sprint, etc., to provide muni services, i.e., in police cars or for public safety??
Ken: It’s too expensive.
David Young (Verizon): We’re looking at new pricing models for low-capacity networks.

Q: Will the telcos resurface as worthy adversaries?
Ken: The need for video surveillance is driving the creation of high-capacity networks. You can’t do that on cellular; there’s not enough bandwidth.

Q: What about privacy?
Ken: Once you move into an Internet-connected world, you’re doomed.
L. Aaron: If you import hardware from, say, China, how do you now it’s a secure? The only solution is to build it on your own.
Sascha: Privacy and security are not mutually inconsistent, but there are problems when companise are privatizing your identity and data.
Ken: You could do end-to-end encryption now, but no one chooses to do so. [Tags: ]

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