For about $10 million, the city of Philadelphia believes they can turn all 135 square miles of the city into a giant hot spot (recent articles). The ambitious plan, now in the works, would involve placing hundreds, or maybe thousands of hotspots around the city — probably atop lampposts. Each would be capable of communicating with the wireless networking cards that now come standard with many computers.
The city would likely offer the service either for free, or at costs far lower than the $35 to $60 a month charged by commercial providers, said the city’s chief information officer, Dianah Neff.
Once complete, the network would deliver broadband Internet almost anywhere radio waves can travel — including poor neighborhoods where high-speed Internet access is now rare.
The Wireless Philadelphia Executive Committee will work with the city’s chief information officer, who estimated it would cost about $10 million to pay for the initial infrastructure for the system, plus $1.5 million a year to maintain.
“If you’re out on your front porch with a laptop, you could dial in, register at no charge, and be able to access a high speed connection,” Neff said. “It’s a technology whose time is here.”
Carriers like Verizon are less than enthusiastic. “No one should have to give up trash collection or police patrols for free broadband,” said Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe in Investor’s Business Daily. “City governments don’t pay taxes and they don’t operate under telecom regulations. We shouldn’t have to either if we’re competing with the city for customers.”
Verizon threatened to sue FCC commissioners personally during Consensus Plan proceedings where Nextel swapped spectrum to prevent interference in public safety frequencies. William Barr, Verizon executive vice president & general counsel and former attorney general under the first President Bush, said;
“It is no accident that Congress chose to employ the criminal law to police the fiscal accountability of public officials”.
If the Innovative Philadelphia plan becomes a reality, Philadelphia could leap to the forefront of a growing number of cities that have contemplated offering wireless Internet service to residents, workers and guests.
“We like to say it should be like the air you breathe — free and available everywhere,” Gonick said. “We look at this like PBS or NPR. It should be a public resource.”
Over the past year, OneCleveland has added some 4,000 wireless transmitters in its University Circle, Midtown and lakefront districts. The service is free, and available to anyone who passes through the areas.
New York City officials are negotiating to sell wireless carriers space on 18,000 lampposts for as much as $21.6 million annually. T-Mobile USA Inc., Nextel Partners Inc., IDT Corp. and three other wireless carriers want the equipment to increase their networks’ capacity. Los Angeles plans a similar city-wide cloud.
One part of the 15-year deal is cheap Wi-Fi phones for neighborhoods where less than 95 percent of residents have home phones. IDT, which has agreed to market the cheaper phone service in those neighborhoods, would pay lower rates for poles there than other companies would in wealthier areas.
Wireless technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years and become drastically less expensive. “Wireless mesh”, under consideration in Philadelphia, is one option to expand the network over entire neighborhoods, without wiring each one to a backbone.
A SlashDot poster had an interesting observation:
Comcast will never let it happen. They have their corporate HQ here in Philadelphia, and are quite influential in the city. They will find a way to kill this initiative. Why am I so sure? Look at their past behavior:
They own some of the Philadelphia sports teams and refuse to sell the home game broadcast rights to satellite providers for any price– so if you live in Philadelphia and want to see televised Flyers and Sixers home games you must have Comcast cable, period.
RCN tried to start offering cable TV, internet and phone service in Philadelphia a few years ago, and Comcast used their influence to throw up so many roadblocks, that RCN gave up and went away.
They do not, and will not, stand for something endangering their revenues on their home turf.
Past experience indicates Comcast will do most anything to preserve their monopoly.
Cable and phone companies will almost certainly try to build the “cloud” first. They’ll argue:
- The city is wasting taxpayer money.
- It’s an information service (like cable modems).
- It’s unfair — using taxpayer money while avoiding taxes
Cable and phone operators want control over rates and competition. If they build it, they’ll get control and exclude competitors. A multi-million dollar advertising campaigns will be designed to sell $19.95/month “cable zones” (even “free” if you buy their home service). But debt servicing and cash-flow is their thing. Comcast/AT&T paid some $4,500 to acquire each subscriber.
They paid too much. The “triple play” required plant upgrades and new gear. Sure satellite TV and cable operators (who don’t own studios) must pay for content — which can run 35 cents/month or more per channel. The margins are quite different for internet access. It costs next to nothing.
Most cable costs don’t directly relate to operating expenses. It’s debt. The reality is this; in a couple of years a 10 Mbps WiMax card will cost fifty bucks and the WiMax infrastructure is mostly air. Multimedia laptops, Portable Video Players and settops inevitably need wireless. A la carte.
Cable and phone companies are terrified of the “free” cloud. How can they compete in the new wide-open “free” marketplace that has sprung up like mushrooms — where value-added voice, data and video services provide the revenue. They must preserve their monopoly status — or die. Even if municipalities withstand an aggressive attack from cable operators, The Phone Company still has the core surrounded with fiber. The pole is their totum. Gods will thunder, ground will shake, alliances will form. They’ll all come after The City. It will be a hell of a battle.
Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, a technology buff who carries a wireless handheld computer everywhere he goes, appointed a 14-member committee last week to work out the specifics of his city’s plan, including any fees, or restrictions on its use. God speed, John Glenn.
Other U.S. cities that are building city-wide clouds include Athens, GA, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Boston, Bellevue & Kirkland, Cerritos, Charleston, South Carolina, Durham/Raleigh, North Carolina, FreeBeeAtlanta, OneCleveland, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Datona Beach, Hermosa Beach, Indianapolis, Louisville, Long Beach, Kennewick, WA, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Washington, Hermiston, OR, Medford, OR, Louisville Kentucky, Washington DC and others. Let’s not forget the State of Maine, the State of Georgia and the Southeastern United States.
Other large regional clouds include:
- A nearby 40 square mile hotzone around Kennewick uses WiFi on Bonneville Fiber. Benton PUD is working with several ISPs to offer Wi-Fi. Chameleon Technology developed the $300,000 software management system for Benton PUD’s Wi-Fi network. Benton and Franklin PUDs will jointly market their fiber optics networks under a partnership called Broadstream.
Ottawa Wireless has a wireless zone that’s 70 city blocks, with plans to cover the rest of the city by mid-2004. They use Proxim s recently introduced ORiNOCO AP-4000 tri-band access point and Proxim’s Tsunami MP.11a for backhaul.
Louisville Kentucky has a metro-area network powered by Navini’s Ripwave system. Phase 1 will cover approximately 75 square miles using five towers for $30/month mobilized broadband. Phase 2, in 2004, is expected to cover about 85% of the city. US Wireless Online, which is building the network, says each cell antenna site cost about $45,000 to set up and it can put together a network of 10 cell sites to serve 30,000 customers for less than $500,000. Jefferson County covers 375 square miles.
Houston County, in Georgia, will blanket the region’s 376 square miles in WiMax. Initially, WiMax service will be offered to businesses, later to residential customers.
Oregon’s VeriLAN recently switched on the first commercial 802.16a-like service feeding their Portland Vivato antenna and other connections beyond 465 square mile Multnomah County.
- Nextel’s Flarion test serves the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill region in 823 square mile Wake County with a population of 1,036,703.
Perhaps the largest regional wireless network in the United States is a Navini non-line-of-sight network (above), which covers a vast expanse of South Texas, about 5,000 square miles. Clients get “wireless DSL” using indoor USB clients and 500kbps-1Mbps speed. No truck roll. Navini has a PC card, too.
Additional “4G” articles in Daily Wireless include; Nextel + Flarion?, Nextel Trials Flarion (2002), Verizon: 300-500kbps Everywhere, Nextel’s Consensus Move, Nextel Gets 2.1 & 2.5 GHz, VeriLAN Turns on 802.16a, MAN with a Plan, 4G Clouds in the United States, 4G War in Sydney, Navin Unwires Douglas County, Navini in Houston, America Connect in the Southeastern U.S., Dr. Xu’s HPi Love Fest, 802.16 Vrs 802.20 and Navini’s Pitch.
Linux vendor Linspire has released PhoneGaim, a free software program that adds voice-over-IP functionality to the Linux-based Gaim instant messaging client. Gaim is a multi-protocol IM client that runs on Linux, BSD, MacOS X, and Windows and is compatible with AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC and Jabber.
Linspire, aka Lindows, has taken the popular open-source Gaim IM client and enhanced it with SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-based VOIP services. The resulting program, PhoneGaim, enables users to communicate by voice as well as by IM chat. Calls to other SIP endpoints, which travel over the Internet, avoid all per-minute charges, just like voice calls using Windows-based voice IM clients like Yahoo, MSN or ICQ.
Skype for Pocket PC also provides free (wireless) VoIP.
Related Dailywireless articles include; City Cloud Enablers, More City Clouds, Localizing PDA Content, Free Content on VeriLAN’s City Cloud, Portland Online Vrs The Blogs, Localizing Content, Handheld Content, Solar Powered Hotspots, Intel + Sony = Mobile MTV, Handheld Video: $99, Revenue for the “Free” Cloud, Homeless Roaming Hotspot, the OregonLive Blog, Seattle’s PlaceLab, Streaming Location Content, Handheld Tours, Wireless Museums, GPS Narrative Archaeology, Wireless Walking Tours, Electric Bike Tours, Mapping to Go Projects, My Pal Mickey, Cellular Walking Directions, Ekahau + ESRI, Linkspoint GPS + Symbol, MapInfo’s Hotspot Services, MapInfo’s Open LS, ATT + Microsoft + Maps, Location without GPS, Location By Triangulation – Not, Open GIS Magazine, Mapping Oral History, Poem Spots, Geocoding the Wiki, The Un-walled Garden, Tracking Individuals, Tracking Bryon, GPS+TV=Location and Location, Location, Location