Free & Fee MuniFi at Intel

Paul Butcher, Intel’s North American Marketing Manager for State and Local Government, has an opinion piece in GovTech Magazine this month. It’s an effective counterpoint to the “free for all” pitch, currently fashionable among many municipalities looking at wireless networks for their cities.

If you are familiar with Intel’s Digital Community initiative and the great companies who foster this initiative, you know that it has little to do with access, but instead promotes solutions. Solutions for example, which enable mobile workers, provide life saving capabilities for first responders, and enable device monitoring and control which enable greater efficiencies for local government.

In almost all cases, the visionaries and project managers behind these wireless initiatives are leveraging the network asset to achieve broader economic and community benefits which extend to citizens and local business.

As more communities announce RFP’s and wireless projects, I am hearing the call for “free access” with increased frequency. Worldwide broadband rankings have nothing to do with free access but instead have everything to do with sustainable business models

The implications of human nature: Fresh out of college, I worked for several years in a county public health facility as a clinical case manager. I had an opportunity to learn from some of the best councilors and administrators in the field and a chance to learn a little bit about poverty, the digital divide and human dignity. I worked with a variety of people, including people who suffered from mental disabilities, drug and alcohol addictions, some who were homeless, some elderly and the categories go on.

These clients were often unable to afford service but services were never provided for free, instead there were payment plans and sliding fee schedules. I learned that services rendered for “free” would always hinder an individual from achieving life-affirming change. I learned that a hand out of an item or service with real value can shame a person, while an intelligent plan can enable a person to hold their head high with dignity.

As we look to extinguish the digital divide, we should focus our resources on education, mentorship programs and payment programs rather than on free access or free devices. For those individuals who truly want to step up out of the divide, do not lower the bar of expectation; for doing so will only crush their spirit.

Meanwhile, Nigel Ballard manages Intel initiatives for low-income, underserved or immigrant populations. Nigel has been a member of Portland’s Personal Telco for years and actively supports the “free” concept.

Ballard joined Intel just days before Hurricane Katrina stuck. He was immediately asked to join the tiger team Intel had assembled to manage aspects of wireless technologies and deployments in the stricken area. Explains Ballard,

“The first thing I did Saturday morning (of Labor Day weekend) was phone every supplier I could think of to find one that had that many access points in stock. Then I had to find an Intel person who could put $106,000 on his credit card by Saturday noon, because we needed the equipment then and there.”

Added Ballard, “Normally, the bigger the company, the slower and thicker the treacle. Instead, we actually managed everything by noon. I was amazed at how a company this size could make things happen so easily.”

Glenn Fleishman has a podcast with Ballard this week (MP-3) Both Ballard and Butcher can be seen working together on municipal wireless for Intel.

It’s what you call teamwork.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Intel On Katrina, WiMax: Trial By Fire, Katrina Telecommunications Report, InterOp Takes a Holiday and Oregon’s Statewide Interoperability Plan.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

In 1996, a fleet of electric cars began to hit the road in the United States. They were leased to drivers for about $500 a month. They were ground up for scap just a few years later.

Only a few are left today.

Who Killed the Electric Car chronicles the vehicle’s demise.
The director of the movie (trailer) talks about it on Science Friday.

“The real story is they never wanted to make this car. They were forced to make this car because California passed a law. It was called the Zero Emissions Mandate. It threatened a lot of things. It threatened things beyond the car companies.

Why were the cars taken away? They wouldn’t sell you a car. They would only lease the car. And we suspect they would only lease the car because they were just waiting till they could overturn the law and take the cars back because that’s precisely what they did.

But the truth is this won’t come back unless the government mandates it, the car companies have corporate wisdom and consumers demand it.

EV World has more.

Anaheim Turns On

Officials from Anaheim, California and EarthLink “cut the cord” on their $5.5 million wireless network, yesterday, reports the OC Register.

Holding the cable’s dangling ends were Garry Betty, president and CEO of EarthLink, which will run the $5 million network, and Ronald Sege, president and CEO of Tropos Networks, which provided WiFi mesh gear mounted on light posts around the city, reports C/Net.

It’s EarthLink’s first large-scale “city cloud”.

While only 10 square miles of the 49 square mile wireless network is currently operational, Anaheim’s residents and 20 million yearly visitors (attracted mainly by Disneyland), will soon benefit — for a small fee. Residential 1 Mbps service costs $21.95 per month. Occasional use customers can get temporary access in a variety of packages ranging from $3.95 for a one-hour pass to $15.95 for a three-day pass. No free service will be provided.

The network is entirely subscription-funded. EarthLink expects 15,000 to 20,000 of the 340,000 residents to sign up for what it calls an “Open Access Model.” It will also serve city departments and businesses.

Earthlink, and other municipal wireless providers are beginning to roll out “city clouds” nationwide. Earthlink has contracts to “unwire” San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and many other cities.

According to C/Net:

“Even if EarthLink is hugely successful with citywide Wi-Fi, we’ll only start to see meaningful results in 2009,” said Jim Friedland, a senior Internet equities analyst at Cowen and Co. “EarthLink is essentially running a start-up within a public company, and it’s funding this new business with revenue from its traditional dial-up business, which is rapidly shrinking. It’s risky.”

Rosie Navarrete (right), who owns a candy and toy store near City Hall, signed up to be one of EarthLink’s first customers, reports the OC Register. Two months ago, she switched from DSL to wireless, which she uses to reply to more than 60 e-mails a day, pay her bills online and monitor her eight security cameras from the comfort of her home, which lies in the coverage area.

“I was very surprised by how well it works,” Navarrete, 24, said. “I could go anywhere (within the test site) and go wireless. You can’t beat that.”

Currently, the test site in central Anaheim serves 42 customers.

Audra Hoynacki, the general manager for Earthlink Wi-Fi in Anaheim, says there will be about 1,500 Tropos nodes hanging on poles in town. They connect wirelessly to Canopy backhaul links on rooftops in town. The network should be completed by the end of the year.

The network is operated and optimized using Tropos Control and Tropos Insight, a suite of end-to-end configuration, monitoring and maintenance tools. EarthLink also uses Motorola’s MOTOwi4 portfolio of products, including the Canopy high-speed backhaul that links the Tropos nodes to the internet.

A major update to the 1996 telecommunications bill is now heading to the full Senate for a vote. While it lacks extensive Net neutrality regulations, the new bill has one provision that reflects the new thinking – it will forbid state legislatures from banning “city clouds” like Anaheim’s.

When Philadelphia announced their plan to build a city-wide wireless network, Verizon successfully lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature to effectively stop other communities in the state from offering similar services. Without Net Neutrality provisions, however, the bill’s future is uncertain and a final vote could be delayed for months or even until next year, reports C/Net, which also has a great collection of municipal wifi articles.

WiMAX On Wheels

Intel revealed its next-generation WiMAX silicon device at WCA 2006 today, a dual-mode chipset that will work in both 802.16d and 802.16e modes.

Intel Mobility Group Vice President Scott Richardson said the new device will be bit compatible with its predecessor, Rosedale, and will be the first to integrate Intel’s global WiMAX radio chip. According to Unstrung News, Rosedale 2 is meant for use in residential gateways in modems, but Intel is also exploring its use in picocell base stations.

Rosedale 2 is meant make WiMAX competitive with DSL and cable modems. True 802.16e equipment will likely ship sometime in 2007. The 802.16e “mobile” flavor of WiMAX will allow WiMAX capabilities to be shipped inside devices. Fujitsu also disclose its own timetable for mobile WiMAX capabilities in a press conference on Thursday.

WiMAX could deliver broadband wireless service inside trains and buses.

Juniper research predicts, mobile WiMax subscriptions will go from 1.7 million in 2007 to 21.4 million by 2012. Arraycomm expects (pdf) that broadband wireless could serve a market potential of more than 500 million handheld users by then.

I-Spatial Electronic Compass

“When other location-based service providers such as GeoVector announce that they are the ‘holy grail’ of local search, we have to ask — if the holy grail has never been found, then how good can their search technology really be?” says Chris Frank, CEO and Founder of Intelligent Spatial Technologies.

Intelligent Spatial Technologies says their mobile local search and content delivery platform is a force to be reckoned with. Their iPointer product allows users to query databases simply by pointing a wireless phone or other mobile device at a building, landmark, or point of interest. Just like GeoVector [which got good exposure in the NY Times this week]

I-Spatial’s first product, the iPointer, enables next generation location-based services such as walking tours, city guides, pedestrian navigation, mobile local search, and targeted advertising. It features:

  • Users point their cell phone, PDA, or other mobile computing device toward a location or landmark and click.
  • Geospatial search criteria is acquired through input from off-the- shelf GPS receiver and digital magnetic compass components — either onboard the user’s mobile device or connected via Bluetooth.
  • Positional and orientation data are submitted over the wireless network to the server-based iPointer(TM) Geospatial Search Engine.
  • The location is first identified and then relevant location-specific content is assembled and delivered to the user’s handset.

They used ArcGIS to prepare location data for iPointer which can be configured to access a broad variety of multimedia content sources such as proprietary databases, Web services, and premium content providers to be included in the search result.

iST started as a technology transfer program from the University of Maine’s National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) in early 2003. Sybase’s iAnywhere Suite is big on mobility for businesses.

It brings together its mobile email, security, management, and development tools in a modular package, making it easier for users to manage mobile devices and applications. Rival enterprise mobility solutions are available from Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle and RIM.

Another new (free) service is Mologogo. The Windows Mobile Client (right) features instant messaging and location based services, combining real-time Location Based Services, Social Networking and Location Aware Chat. It allows you to track your friend’s GPS enabled phones from another phone or on the web.

Navman’s new top-of-the-line navigation unit, the iCN 750 (below), has a feature called NavPix, which lets you take picture of places you’ve been through an integrated camera. When you snap the picture, it records the geographical coordinates, so that the next time you want to visit the particular location, you simply tap on the picture.

Perhaps the real benefit of “city clouds” is “always on” location awareness that works reliably downtown.

Wyden Blocks Telecom Vote

Calling a telecommunications bill passed by the U.S. Senate “badly flawed” because it does not include an outright ban on Internet tolls, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), put a “hold” on the bill late Wednesday unless clear language is included banning the phone companies from establishing Internet tolls.

M. President, the major telecommunications legislation reported today by the Senate Commerce Committee is badly flawed. The bill makes a number of major changes in the country’s telecommunications law but there is one provision that is nothing more than a license to discriminate.

Without a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet and without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate, the Internet will be forever changed for the worse.

This one provision threatens to divide the Internet into technology “haves” and “have nots.” This one provision concentrates even more power in the hands of the special interests that own the pipelines to the Internet. This one provision codifies discrimination on the Internet by a handful of large telecommunications and cable providers.

This one provision will allow large, special interests to saddle consumers and small businesses alike with new and discriminatory fees over and above what they already pay for Internet access. This one small provision is akin to hurling a giant wrecking ball at the Internet.

The inclusion of this provision compels me to state that I would object to a unanimous consent request to the Senate proceeding with this legislation until a provision that provides true internet neutrality is included.

Red Herring explains the hold could only be undone by 60 votes in the full Senate. The Senate Commerce Committee rejected the Net neutrality proposal late Wednesday in an 11-11 tie vote, a single vote shy of having the amendment included in the Senate’s bill.

The Senate panel rejected strict Net neutrality rules Wednesday in the Communications, Consumer’s Choice and Broadband Deployment Act (Webcast), dealing a grave setback to companies like eBay, Google and that had made enacting them a top political priority this year.

By an 11-11 tie, the Senate Commerce Committee failed to approve a Democrat-backed amendment that would have ensured all Internet traffic is treated the same no matter what its “source” or “destination” might be. A majority was needed for the amendment to succeed.

This vote complicates Internet companies’ efforts to convince Congress of the desirability of extensive new regulations, especially after the House of Representatives definitively rejected the concept in a 269-152 vote on June 8.

Republicans warned, adding the regulations would imperil the final passage of the broader telecommunications bill, which is the most extensive set of changes since 1996. “This is absolutely a poison pill,” said Nevada Republican John Ensign.

According to the Washington Post, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) (Webcast), chairman of the committee, said he was not sure he had the 60 votes necessary to move the legislation forward. He said he would be open to negotiating with Democrats in September, when Congress comes back from its recess.

The House passed its telecom bill earlier this month. Both versions include weaker net-neutrality language that would require the FCC to study and monitor the issue, reports The Post.

CNET has a reader’s guide to the Communications, Consumer’s Choice and Broadband Deployment Act (in the Senate) and the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (in the House).

Democrats are backing Net Neutrality regulations, which Republicans largely oppose. The House voted by 269-152 on June 8 to reject extensive Net neutrality regulations. Republicans voted against the regulations by a 20-to-1 margin.

A floor vote could happen at any time. But because the bills are different, they’ll have to go before a conference committee before a final version is negotiated.

Net Neutrality increases competition.

The United States, averaged $43/month for 2-3 Mbps broadband but South Korea has 3 Mbps in 90% of all homes for less than $20 a month. In Korea, large apartment buildings make it simple to bring fiber to the basement and then provide VDSL.

The Korean government spend some $1.5B on their “net neutral” network, a national high-speed backbone. Now some 3,000 South Korean videogame companies have combined revenues of up to $4 billion.

Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and Softbank are required to lease bandwidth to anyone. Companies of all kinds can compete without incurring the hefty startup costs of building a network.

In Japan a 100Mbps connection costs an average of $41.00. In France 20 megabits/s costs $36/mo while Stockholm’s one-gigabit service costs $120/month.

Juniper research predicts, mobile WiMax subscriptions will go from 1.7 million in 2007 to 21.4 million by 2012.

The FCC’s Universal Service Fund is a $7.3 billion pile of cash to subsidize telcos and rural users. Experts say a nationwide WiMAX network could be built for $2-$4B that provides faster, cheaper, better service for rural users. Subsidizing telcos to protect antiquated infrastructure is more than stupid – it’s dangerous.

Who will be the global power in five years? Probably not AT&T. The “protection” plan by the NTIA and FCC has failed to produce results.

Google News, Yahoo Full Coverage, The Seattle Times, Tim Berners-Lee, Public Knowledge, and USA Today have more.