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Apple Historian
Join Date: May 2004
2004-09-03, 08:51

This is an amazing idea. I would get on a ladder and steal a couple base stations.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- For about $10 million, city officials believe they can turn all 135 square miles of Philadelphia into the world's largest wireless Internet hot spot.

The ambitious plan, now in the works, would involve placing hundreds, or maybe thousands of small transmitters around the city -- probably atop lampposts. Each would be capable of communicating with the wireless networking cards that now come standard with many computers.

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.

And 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.

"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."

If the 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.

Chaska, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, began offering citywide wireless Internet access this year for $16 a month. The signal covers about 13 square miles.

Corpus Christi, Texas, has been experimenting with a system covering 20 square miles that would initially be used only by government employees.

Over the past year, Cleveland 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.

"We like to say it should be like the air you breathe -- free and available everywhere," said Lev Gonick, chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University, which is spearheading the project and paying for a chunk of it. "We look at this like PBS or NPR. It should be a public resource."

In 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.

Wireless technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years and become drastically less expensive.

The new "wireless mesh" technology under consideration in Philadelphia has made it possible to expand those similar networks over entire neighborhoods, with the help of relatively cheap antennas.

Neff estimated it would cost about $10 million to pay for the initial infrastructure for the system, plus $1.5 million a year to maintain.

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.

"We are reviewing some 9,000 recent UNHCR referrals from Syria. We are receiving roughly a thousand new ones each month, and we expect admissions from Syria to surge in 2015 and beyond." - Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Mr. Katan
Join Date: May 2004
2004-09-03, 09:09

Here in Chattanooga, we have two large, popular public parks that are both outfitted with high-speed, wireless and FREE Internet access. It's awesome.

One, Miller Park (and Miller Plaza, directly across the street), is smack-dab downtown, so all the office and business types can eat lunch and surf or do business. The other, Coolidge Park, is about a mile or so north, right on the banks of the Tennessee River that winds through the city.

That's the park that shows Friday night free movies on a big screen (Willy Wonka, Wizard of Oz, etc.) and before the movie starts, you'll see people on their blankets or lawn chairs with their laptops open, surfing, e-mailing, etc.

I've gone down before, on a Saturday or Sunday, just to watch the kite-flyers, barges and power-walking soccer moms ( ) and take my PowerBook and enjoy the morning.

Athens, Georgia is set up like this, I heard. Or at least a large section of it. I figure in five or so years, it'll be fairly common and expected. My friend was just in Quantico, Virginia a few weeks ago, and while flying out of Richmond, VA, back to New Orleans, she opened her iBook up and found that the entire airport was set up with wireless free Internet access. Suddenly, her two-hour layover didn't seem so bad. She e-mailed me from there, "guess where I am?".
Hates the Infotainment
Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
2004-09-03, 09:40

This is a very cool idea, and very progressive for a town like Philly IMO. I hope they can find a reliable way to do this. Would be a great model for other big cities. And I agree also that in 4 or 5 years, most downtown and densly populated metropolitan areas will have something like this.

One thing it will do is certainly drive up the demand for laptops, and drive down the costs of home-based broadband. Whose going to want to pay $40 a month when they can walk outside their home or drive down the street to their favorite park bench and hop online? Of course, the weather and other factors will have some say in the practicality and reliability of "working outside", but still....

This can only lead to good things IMO. And how great will this be for poorer neighborhoods? The trick will be to get inexpensive laptops in the hands of the families that live there. Want to give them access without driving up the liklihood of break-ins and such (to get the fancy computer equipment).

...into the light of a dark black night.
Mr. Katan
Join Date: May 2004
2004-09-03, 10:02

Amazing how all this has skyrocketed (the Internet and everyone using it and wanting on) in the past eight years or so. I got online first in 1997, with a USRobotics 33.6 modem. Had it for YEARS, and thought I was hot stuff.

Now, eight years later, cable and DSL are in nearly every city, wireless is commonplace, non-tech regular joes have their houses networked and routers for all computers in the house to get online, etc.

People now actually freak out - on various levels - when they CAN'T get online. Notice that? Suddenly, their entire world comes to a halt (I'm that way to a point...I hate being away from e-mail and breaking news).

If terrorists REALLY wanted to throw the Western world into a tizzy, they'd figure out some way to bring all this down, and hard. People would panic and spaz-out big time.

I take it for granted, at this point, just going to my computer and going anywhere I want, for whatever reason. My banking, ordering products, buying music, staying in touch with friends that I'd never consider phoning, news, Mac stuff, etc. If I had that taken away from me for more than several days, I'd kinda hate it, to be honest.

It's changed everything, it really has. Makes me wonder what another 5-10 years are going to be like. And with all that good stuff, there's the unavoidable bad. I'd be really interested in seeing an objective, non-politicized study on the effects of easily-acquired pornography and gore on society. There HAS to be some, because when I was eight years old, I had no idea what a cumshot was, or an interracial she-male amateur cheerleader gangbang.

Kids now...jeez. I can only imagine what "education" they're getting!

There's no telling the kind of stuff they're trying in the back of the school bus! "No, put her head down lower like that...yeah, that's how the picture looked. Now take your other hand and put it..."

I am worthless beyond hope.
Join Date: May 2004
2004-09-03, 11:29

too bad philly sucks :P

it is a good idea though. the logistics are a bit boggling though.

it'll be interesting to see if it goes through and how it works out.

Will the internet become a city service? Possibly even free?

I assume they are going with 802.11b
Veteran Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Minnesota
2004-09-03, 12:58

In a related story, this appears in today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune. (I'm posting this here in case the article "goes registration" on someone):


Chaska offers broadband Net for $16
Steve Alexander, Star Tribune
September 3, 2004

If the city of Chaska has its way, low-cost, high-speed Internet access might be the newest measure of Minnesota quality of life.

Chaska is shaking up high-speed Internet service by offering all 7,000 homes in town a city-run wireless broadband Net access service for $16 a month -- a price that substantially undercuts cable TV and telephone broadband providers serving the city.

"We see it as a quality of life issue," said Dave Pokorney, the Chaska city manager who oversees the project, called "At one time, people needed to have telephone service at home, and now most people want and need Internet service at home. And when you have higher-speed Internet, it's a powerful communications tool."

Chaska is one of a handful of U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, that want to offer inexpensive wireless high-speed Internet access. But while Philadelphia is in the early planning stages, Chaska will begin selling its service at the end of September and charge them on their city utility bills. About 1,800 households have been using the service for free as part of a test that began in June. The city says it can break even if 1,500 households subscribe.

Wireless community

The social implications of cities offering inexpensive broadband Net access are profound. The cities might pressure telephone and cable companies to lower broadband prices, and thus accelerate adoption of fast Net access. In addition, city-offered broadband is likely to change the way consumers use the Internet by making it easier to obtain online information such as news, weather, music, maps and telephone numbers.

There also is an opportunity for cities to create tightly-knit communities by using an Internet log-in page as a community bulletin board, an event calendar and a linking point to other city-related Web pages.

"One of our city council's goals was to become a connected community," Pokorney said. "It will be such a great communications tool." offers consumers download speeds of 800,000 to 2 million bits per second by turning the suburb into a city-wide Wi-Fi "hot spot," within which Net access is available to laptop and desktop computers that have tiny radio antennas. Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity, a popular technological standard for linking many computers to a single Internet connection. It is used in many homes, coffee shops, bookstores and airports.

Using 200 antennas mounted atop city-owned light poles, the service reaches an area of about 14 square miles and covers the homes of about 95 percent of Chaska's 22,000 residents. Improvements soon will extend the range to the rest of the population, Pokorney said. The city provides customers with free Wi-Fi antennas that are more powerful than those available at an electronics store; however, laptops equipped with standard Wi-Fi gear also will work.

Chaska isn't the first Minnesota city to offer such a service. For $26 a month, Buffalo, Minn., offers consumers a slower wireless service using older technology that was installed five years ago.

Of's competitors, Time Warner Cable's cable modem service, which is widely available in Chaska, costs $45; Sprint's DSL (digital subscriber line), which has only limited availability in the city, costs $40. Chaska will charge small businesses $25 a month for a set-up that allows them to operate their own Internet Web pages.

Time Warner Cable "is not convinced at this point that folks want to switch services," spokeswoman Kim Roden said. There also were doubts that could achieve its speed claims, she said.

Leading a trend

Chaska is leading a trend of cities offering Wi-Fi Internet access, said Roberta Wiggins, a research fellow at the Yankee Group in Boston. About 15 cities are experimenting with public Wi-Fi systems that provide limited coverage, but few have tried city-wide systems, she said. Cities wanting to use Wi-Fi will be helped by Intel Corp., which is including Wi-Fi capability in its new laptop chips.

Others are skeptical about cities being in the Internet access business. Cities often aren't good at managing utility businesses, and with Wi-Fi they could run into technical trouble from radio interference, said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at research firm Gartner in San Jose, Calif. Cities intent on offering wireless Internet might be wise to wait for a newer technology, called WiMax, which will offer better quality, he said.

But cities might want to offer Wi-Fi Internet service today because it makes broadband affordable for most citizens, Pokorney said.

"When we looked at offering residential service, we decided we would only do it if we could serve everyone in town, offer broadband speeds comparable to other providers and charge less than $20 a month -- or half of what you could buy broadband service for anywhere else," Pokorney said.
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Road Warrior
2004-09-03, 13:02

I live on newbury street in boston. The whole street is wired for a wireless connection. We get reception in our apartment(top floor) but it's pretty weak and the connection is slow.

it's a great idea, and I really hope that more cities start doing this citywide instead of just streets and parks.

The next place I want to see internet is on planes. (I know that some planes already have it, but really, by planes I mean jetblue
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