TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Philly Reveals Wireless Plan

Philly Reveals Wireless Plan

David Chessler (
Thu, 07 Apr 2005 18:58:25 -0400

From WiFi Planet --
By Eric Griffith

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, at noon today, John Street,
the mayor of Philadelphia, Penn., and the cities CIO Dianah Neff
planned to make official the business plan behind Wireless
Philadelphia ( -- see below), the city's
embattled move to bring wireless broadband to everyone in its

The cost will be $10 million dollars to install as many as 3,000
wireless nodes on light poles across the 135 square mile city, with an
additional $5 million to run the network for the first two years,
according to Neff. The money won't come from tax payersa major gripe
of the anti-municipal-wireless crowdbut will be raised through taxable
bonds or getting low-interest loans. The money would be repaid in four

No one company has been picked yet to do the install or provide
equipment for the network, but Neff believes a selection will be made
by June 30, with deployment to start in August. Subscribers could be
online by the end of the year.

The network will be owned by a non-profit also called Wireless
Philadelphia, which will be run by a CEO and appointees from Mayor
Street. Wireless Philadelphia will make money by licensing the
network to carriers, which would resell access to end users. Neither
the city nor Wireless Philadelphia would actual serve as the wireless
ISP. Licensers will be required to keep the cost for end-users
downlikely lower than $20 per month. Even less for low-income homes.

Right now, they estimate that 42% of the city's denizens are not
online. This is usually due to the cost of broadband.

The companies Wireless Philadelphia could let use the network may be
some that tried to stop it in the first place. Local providers of
cable and DSL based broadband like City Councilman Frank Rizzo has
long been an opponent of the Wireless Philadelphia project, and says
it is not something government should do. He fears taxpayer money will
be needed if subscribers don't sign up, and that the technology will
be outdated very soon. In a op-ed piece in today's Chicago Tribune,1,5006951.story?coll=chi-techtopheds-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true ,
Rizzo implies that Wi-Fi is "just another Big Dig," referring to the
highly over-budget highway project in Boston that is still having
issues even after completion. He says "the real costs could range from
$30 million to $100 million for a feasible network" to cover Philly.

Wireless Philadelphia has gotten around the city council by not using
public funds and by going non-profit. They don't need the council's

The push to put a wireless cloud across Philly has been at the center
of attacks against muni-backed Wi-Fi networks for months. A bill was
passed by the Pennsylvania state legislature last yearjust weeks after
the news surfaced that Philly wanted such a network that would prevent
any state municipalities from installing a broadband network without
an incumbent provider getting a right of first refusal. In December of
last year, Verizon waived that right, and the project proceeded. Other
cities in the state have until January 1, 2006 to give their local
telcos a chance to put in a network first.

In February, a Washington D.C. based group called the New Millenium
Research Council (NMRC), issued a report called "Not in the Public
Interest: The Myth of Municipal W-Fi Networks " , which
called into question the necessity, anti-competitiveness and overall
viability of municipal run wireless networks.

Many have charged the NRMC with a "lack of transparency," especially
in terms of the groups backing, potentially by big telcos like
Verizon. They also say the report ignores many successful deployments
of municipal wireless, such as the network in Chaska, Minn.

That network is powered by equipment from Tropos Network, and that
company's CEO, Ron Sege, has become one of the most vocal proponents
of muni wireless networks (which is no surprise, as he wants his
company to sell more products). In a commentary at ZDNet this week , he argues that the
anti-muni groups have "flawed arguments" and says "Policies that limit
the rapid deployment of broadband wireless networks mean limiting the
real benefits of these networks to public safety, economic growth and
the education and enrichment of our citizens."

Philly and Chaska are far from the only cities with, or considering, a
wireless Wi-Fi cloud. Others include Minneapolis, St. Paul & Moorhead,
Minn.; Alexandria, Va.; Rochester & Buffalo, N.Y.; Rio Rancho, N.M.;
Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Ill.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Lexington, Ky.;
Addison & San Antonio, Texas; and Lompoc, Isla Vista, Fullerton,
Cerritos, & San Francisco, Calif; Independence, KS; others. There are
many more Tropos already claims over 125 metro-scale customers. And
that's just the Wi-Fi networks. Many more have fixed wireless
broadband that uses pre-WiMax or proprietary equipment to replace the
physical lines needed for DSL and cable modems, even T1 leased lines.

However, many states have passed or are trying to pass legislation
similar to Pennsylvania's that would, at worst, make city-wide
wireless networks illegal. Those states include West Virginia, Texas,
Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, Illinois, and others. Similar bills were
tried in Indiana and Virginia but died in committee, according the March 2005 report

City of Philadelphia will be hosting the Wireless Internet Institute
(W2i) Digital Cities Convention: The Frontier of Broadband Wireless
Applications at the Pennsylvania Convention Center May 2-4, 2005

Promote Open Metro-scale Wireless Connective Citywide Wireless
Philadelphia aims to strengthen the City's economy and transform
Philadelphia's neighborhoods by providing wireless internet access
throughout the city. Wireless Philadelphia will work to create a
digital infrastructure for open-air internet access and to help
citizens, businesses, schools, and community organizations make
effective use of this technology to achieve their goals while
providing a greater experience for visitors to the City.

Advocate of Wireless Community Networking Appointed by Mayor John
F. Street in July 2004, the Wireless Philadelphia Executive Committee
(Committee) serves as an advisory/advocacy group for wireless
community networking through community outreach programs,
communications with the press and participation in meetings and
conferences. Wireless Philadelphia seeks to educate the general public
and businesses about the benefits of wireless community
networking. Wireless Philadelphia seeks to utilize existing wireless
technologies and incorporate evolving wireless technologies as they
become available.

Provide a Forum for Wireless Networking Wireless Philadelphia provides
a forum for discussion to enhance usage of emerging wireless
technologies especially for those related to building wireless
community networks. The Committee seeks to promote the third-party
development of research, development and use of mobile mesh networks
to enrich neighborhood economic viability.

Recommend Policy

The Committee will formulate recommendations in several policy areas
including fees, roles and responsibilities, extent of service, privacy
and security. The Committee will identify possible legal and
regulatory barriers and help develop strategies to overcome them.

Future Uses

Wireless Philadelphia will develop a process through which the initial
outdoor network can be expanded to allow indoors utilization by
residents, businesses, visitors, institutions, and students. In so
doing, Wireless Philadelphia shall coordinate efforts with other
agencies of City to maximize the social, developmental, and
educational return .

> From the Chicago Tribune --,1,5006951.story?coll=chi-techtopheds-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

Wi-Fi: Is it just another Big Dig?

By Frank Rizzo
a member at large of the Philadelphia City Council
Published April 7, 2005

In Chicago and elsewhere, city administrators are considering a
massive, open-ended public works project: municipally owned and
subsidized wireless (Wi-Fi) networks. The goal, say the bureaucrats,
is to capitalize on advances in wireless technology to build a local
information nirvana that will help bridge the digital divide.

But before embarking on this seemingly visionary agenda, local
governments should take a closer look at municipal forays into the
world of telecommunications. For if they do, they might find that
history littered with cost overruns, debt and rapidly outdated
systems. And if they look under the hood at what self-interested
consultants are selling them on projected costs of new wireless
systems, they are likely to find a bit of Enron-style accounting.

The wireless revolution has much seductive allure, to be sure. Wi-Fi
hot spots -- whereby a hard-wired router sends wireless signals in an
area with a radius of 300 feet -- abound in many homes, coffee shops
and elsewhere.

The even more robust Wi-Max technologies, with propagation capability
over many miles, may also soon come to the market. These new services
have aided mostly upscale consumers with expensive laptop computers.

But while a wireless router at home is relatively inexpensive, an
entirely new wireless network built by a local government is likely to
be very costly for many years -- when municipal budgets are expected
to be increasingly strapped. In Philadelphia's 135 square miles, a
wireless network would likely require well over 20,000 access points
-- remote routers, essentially -- with no more than 10 subscribers per
access point to ensure satisfactory speeds.

The city that I represent as a council member at large -- Philadelphia
-- seems to be the national test tube for this debate. Here, the chief
information officer -- backed up by a battery of financially
interested analysts -- projects that the City of Brotherly Love could
construct such a system for less than $11 million.

But with numbers like this, she could wind up in a heap of trouble
were she held accountable to investor disclosure laws.

Simply put, believing one can cover our 135 square miles with a
wireless network for $11 million is like believing the moon is made of
green cheese.

Independent analyses and prevailing market prices for network and
construction costs make clear that the real costs could range from $30
million to $100 million for a feasible network. And this is just the
starting point. For most cities with a greater landmass, the costs
would be even greater.

Once committed, taxpayers are likely to be on the hook for the
foreseeable future. Sheer maintenance will cost annually a minimum of
10 to 15 percent of the initial upfront costs, according to most
experts. Further, engineers estimate that an astounding 60 percent of
the equipment requires replacement or upgrading every three to five
years. These expenses, together with other operating and
administrative costs, network redundancy and security over ever
insecure wireless technologies -- as the hacking into Paris Hilton's
cell phone reminds us -- could cost tens of millions of additional
dollars. And, as many experts tell us, the city's new wireless network
could quickly be outdated with advances in technology. It is precisely
this kind of unrealistic planning that created Boston's Big Dig tunnel
project fiasco.

Indeed, municipal forays into local telecom networks have created a
sea of red ink in Georgia, Iowa, Oregon and elsewhere. Realizing this,
and faced increasingly with demands for greater budgetary scrutiny
over these proposals, some city administrators are engaging in a
strange dance: They argue that they can solve the problem of
ballooning network costs simply by handing off the network to a
private vendor.

The notion of cash-squeezed local governments seeking to enter an ever
more competitive marketplace, only to then hand off a
taxpayer-financed network in the form of a subsidy to one competitor
in that marketplace, would seem an odd role for government --
particularly in a city that represents the birthplace of
democracy. Remember, of course, that the wireless Internet service
industry is increasingly competitive, with scores of carriers entering
the marketplace. In Chicago alone, there are hundreds of hot spots.

If, on the other hand, local governments really want ownership of such
speculative ventures, they should stop playing hide the ball and
instead be honest with the taxpayers -- the bill payers -- about real
costs and the need for the government's entry into an increasingly
competitive industry.

What's really needed is a true national broadband policy. Rather than
subsidizing narrow-band technologies, the federal Universal Service
Fund should promote market-based incentives to ensure universal
rollout of broadband technology and access to needed computer hardware
for underserved communities.

This kind of comprehensive, thoughtful approach would dramatically
boost our economy and our literacy without putting vulnerable
municipal budgets at dire risk with Don Quixote searches for the
broadband cure.

Copyright 2005, Chicago Tribune

From WiFi Planet -- (there are
many links in this article -- go to the site to go deeper)

Think Tank Trashes Municipal-Run Wireless
By Eric Griffith

A report out today from the Washington D.C.-based New Millenium
Research Council (NMRC), called "Not in the Public Interest The Myth
of Municipal W-Fi Networks," calls into question the necessity, the
anti-competitiveness, and the overall viability of towns, cities, or
counties installing wireless broadband and treating it like a public

However, Wi-Fi-supporting pundits point out potential issues with not
only the arguments made in the report but also the objectivity of the
authors, who the pundits brand as "sock puppets of industry."

The NRMC was created in 1999 to "develop workable, real-world
solutions to the issues and challenges confronting policy makers,
primarily in the fields of telecommunications and technology." The
group is an "independent project" of Issue Dynamics, Inc. (IDI), a
group that has the support of such incumbent telcos as Bell South,
Comcast, SBC, Sprint, Verizon and Verizon Wireless to name just a few
(according to reports at eWeek.)

In a phone briefing held today with journalists, the authors of
various sections of the report gave a summary of their analysis, all
of which uniformly question the need for any kind of government-run
and funded wireless broadband system. Arguments against include:


Municipal wireless networks will be funded by taxpayers. "When a
private sector company fails, it must respond. But government
[programs] can be propped up with additional tax dollars," according
to Technology Counsel Braden Cox, counsel for the Competitive
Enterprise Institute.

Past failures:

"Nearly every municipal network of the last decade has failed badly,"
says David P. McClure, president and CEO of U.S. Internet Industry
Association. When asked directly what municipal networks had failed,
speakers mentioned Marietta, Georgia, a utility district in Washington
state, and others though not all are necessarily wireless.

Not addressing the "Digital Divide:"

McClure's section of the report states that the phrase is a catchall,
and can't be limited just to a lack of free broadband. He also says
"econometric data shows no specific link between broadband
availability and economic development." And, he says, it won't
increase tourism either, since it won't offer more than the Wi-Fi
already available in public access hotspots run by private companies.

It's already covered:

Steven Titch, a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute, said that major
cities proposing municipal broadband (like Philadelphia and San Francisco)
are already well served by existing hotspots. Citing numbers from, Titch says San Francisco, for example, has 399 hotspot
locations, 42 of which are free. He says that most municipal networks would
only cover areas like downtowns and airports anyway areas that are usually
well-covered with Wi-Fi connections already.

Government Censorship:

"If broadband ownership is by municipalities or county governments,
you have the potential for government censorship that most of the
journalists on this call would bristle against vehemently," said Barry
Aarons, analyst with the Institute for Policy Innovation. Many states,
including Indiana and Nebraska, are already contemplating bans on
municipal broadband networks, much like the one that was signed into
law in Pennsylvania not long ago. Big companies like Intel are
considering lobbying against such measuresmunicipalities are, after
all, potential customers for future WiMax long-range wireless products
that would be powered by Intel chips.

Glenn Fleishman, editor of the popular blog Wi-Fi Networking News,
took the group to task before the report was even out in a post on
February 1, after BusinessWeek's blog took the group's findings at
face value. While he says he doesn't wholeheartedly oppose the NMRC's
point of view, he was put off by the lack of "transparency" of the
groups the authors represent. Most are seen as being possibly funded
by telecom organizations, such as Verizon, which stand to lose out to
municipalities doing their own wireless. (Verizon, however, gave a
right of refusal to Philadelphia after first trying to block that
city's network plans even after the Pennsylvania anti-muni-network law

Esme Vos has been writing exclusively about municipal wireless
networks on her blog MuniWireless for two years. She's previously
written about the Heartland Institute when it stated in October 2004
that that "virtually everyone who wants broadband services can get DSL
from their telephone company or cable modem service from their cable
company"a sentiment they echoed in today's call. Vos said at the time,
"Where is this paradise? Maybe in Seoul, Korea."

Today on her site, referring to an early article Heartland placed on
its own site as a preview to today's NMRC report, she said "For some
reason, it does not cite the successful municipal Wi-Fi (and wired)
deployments we all know about: Chaska (MN), Scottsburg (IN), Auburn
(IN), among others. No, in the world of Heartland, they do not exist."

She counters that, contrary to what the NRMC report says, the false
hopes don't lay with the municipal broadband deployments, but in the
"false hopes propagated for so long by the cable and DSL incumbents,
the one that promises to bring fast, cheap broadband to YOUR
neighborhood. Only now people are very impatient and the equipment is
becoming very cheap."

Fleishman says in his rebuttal against the same Heartland article,
"Municipal broadband is almost the last resort of cities and towns
that can no longer wait on the promises or lack of promises from
incumbents." In a perfect world, he says, municipalities wouldn't have
to build networks: the private companies would already have done so
"without sock puppets making their arguments for them."

From ZDNet --

Should cities hook up to WiFi?
By Ron Sege

Commentary -- Recently, parties lacking experience and facts have
suggested that municipalities should not promote or fund broadband
wireless networks. Their arguments ignore a growing number of
successful municipal deployments and rely on incorrect assertions.

These flawed arguments put the public at risk of making incorrect
policy decisions and having to live with the consequences. Policies
that limit the rapid deployment of broadband wireless networks mean
limiting the real benefits of these networks to public safety,
economic growth and the education and enrichment of our citizens. They
mean that the United States will forgoe its best option for improving
its dismal world ranking in terms of per-capita availability of

Broadband wireless networks are the fastest, lowest cost and simplest
way to increase broadband availability. Municipal broadband wireless
networks do not require digging up streets, complex RF engineering or
expensive subscriber devices. Wireless Philadelphia, based on similar,
albeit smaller systems, conservatively estimates a citywide mesh
network will cost $60,000 per square mile to construct. With a land
area of 135 square miles, this translates into $8.1 million to install
the mesh network. Add a comfortable margin (based on Tropos
experience) for security systems, billing systems, network management
systems, routers to connect to the Internet and the like and, all in,
the cost of deploying a broadband wireless network in Philadelphia
would be about $11 million.

Municipal broadband wireless networks today provide many benefits to
cities and their citizens. For instance,, a citywide Wi-Fi
network in Chaska, Minnesota, projects that revenues from their 2,000+
subscribers will fund the network's operating costs, pay the interest
and repay the principal -- without using taxpayer funds. The 16-square
mile network was financed (less than $600,000) with four-year
equipment certificates. And 25 percent of Chaskas homes have signed on
for broadband Internet access speeds (>1Mbps, symmetrical) at dial-up
prices ($16/month).

Other cities have turned to broadband wireless to support public
safety and other operations. In San Mateo, California, police officers
now spend 8,000 more hours a year on their beats, because a municipal
broadband wireless network gives them mobile access to databases and
in-field reporting. In Corpus Christi, Texas, a broadband wireless
network is automating utility meter reading, reading 73 water meters
per second, compared to minutes per meter using manual processes. New
Orleans installed a broadband wireless network to support public
safety video surveillance. The system was quickly and easily
installed, and reduced the murder rate by 57 percent in six months and
auto theft by 25 percent in the covered areas.

While cities are improving public services with broadband wireless
networks, many project that their networks will provide more bandwidth
than city workers will consume. Mindful of tight budgets, they intend
to sell this excess bandwidth to help pay for the initial installation
and operating costs. This is good fiscal prudence.

Often municipalities foot a fraction of the cost of installation and
operation in other ways. Business models include public-private
partnerships such as allowing service providers to use city rights of
way tenant in exchange for low-cost accounts for use by city
workers. Other possible models allow service providers to lease
capacity on municipally owned wireless networks, split installation
costs with private entities in exchange for service and revenue
sharing, or provide capital to for-profit and non-profit entities in
exchange for an ownership stake. Different models are appropriate for
different local goals and circumstances.

Fears that new technology will quickly obsolete municipal wireless
networks are vastly overblown. To date, over 100 million Wi-Fi client
devices have been shipped. Wi-Fi is connecting an increasing
assortment of devices, not just laptops and PDAs but also security
cameras, traffic management systems, meter readers, location sensors,
cell phones and much more. And Wi-Fi will get even faster and more
capable over time. Further, new technologies such as WiMAX are easily
integrated into broadband wireless networks.

In conclusion, the parties debating this issue must consider the facts
outlined above. With these facts, they must also acknowledge that
broadband wireless networks today provide numerous benefits to many
constituencies. With the facts in hand, lets develop policies at the
state and federal level that encourage the development of broadband
wireless networks, not ones that stifle their creation. The winners
will be the citizens, no matter who deploys a broadband wireless
network--municipality or service provider.


Ron Sege is CEO of Tropos Networks, which sells equipment to
carriers, service providers and municipalities deploying
metro-scale Wi-Fi.

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