Category Archives: broadband

Minneapolis Unwired: Dead zones & IOUs (plus a Wi-Fi in the parks update)

Steve Alexander has a report on the Minneapolis Wi-Fi deployment at the Star Tribune. Judging from the dates on the comments, I think it’s from May 26 but there’s no dateline on the story.

The gist is that it’s not done which is also the ongoing mantra. “It’s always something” as Gilda would say. Prospect Park is still a “challenge” area and there are others around the metro–a total of three square miles still unwired. The park issue I reported on before seems to be resolved and a contract is in place with a bit of money changing hands from US Internet to the Park Board. (Read details over at the eDemocracy Forum).

The City of Minneapolis is using only $50,000 worth of services but paying $1.25 million per year. The article says the money carries over (an IOU so to speak) so supposedly we will get full value eventually. Some reasons we aren’t getting full value now are because the network needs to actually be complete before Police and Fire will mess with it and because some City departments are slow in adopting the service.

Alexander talks about using the network to track video from a police car going 80mph. I would love to know how that is possible. I don’t think the current network, in areas where it is fully implemented, allows you to smoothly travel from node to node in a car without losing the connection some of the time. So do we have a “special” high-speed backend network for police and fire? I know there is a “public safety” channel or something but if it’s still in the Wi-Fi range, it would be subject to all kinds of interference.

US Internet meanwhile says they now have 14,000 subscribers. Those numbers should eventually translate to cash infusions in the City’s Digital Inclusion Fund with a minimum of 5% of net pretax income. The fund has $100,000 left of the initial $500,000 from US Internet. The fund and the money are part of the Community Benefits Agreement in the contract. I’m on the Digital Inclusion Fund Committee and so far we have not heard when we will receive more money and we have postponed this years grant-making cycle.

We are still the muni-wi-fi poster child of the world. It’s working here because the City of Minneapolis signed on as anchor tenant and is paying a hefty fee to support a network. However, unless the City starts to get its money’s worth of services soon, we may have rethink this poster child status.

Minneapolis Unwired: NY Times Wi-Fi article lists Minneapolis wireless

Cities themselves may be muni Wi-Fi’s savior – New York Times

Timeline:

2005 City municipal Wi-Fi rocks.

2006 City municipal Wi-Fi still rocks. Disputes over public vs. private ownership.

2007 Private ownership winning but now city municipal Wi-Fi itself is a bad idea. it. Business model is flawed and Wi-Max will kill it anyway.

Later this same year… NY Times says city municipal Wi-Fi rocks with the right business model (meaning the city itself needs to anchor)

I’m not sure that the Times realizes we have a subscriber network in addition to our “state-of-the-art” public safety network. It is nice for Minneapolis to finally be mentioned in a municipal Wi-Fi article. Sad to say but it’s probably related to a catastrophic infrastructure failure (bridge collapse) even as we build out a new infrastructure (muni Wi-Fi).

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Minneapolis Unwired: Digital Inclusion Update

I am a community representative on the Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee and if you drop by often you may have read this article when we were looking for proposals for our very first funding cycle.

I now have forty-five proposals to go through requesting far more than the $200,000 that’s available for grants. I think there will be some interesting projects coming along in the next year to help low income and marginalized folk in Minneapolis get to the Internet. Not much more I can say until an official announcement some time before the end of the year.

I can announce our members though. I was shy about that previously as there was no listing available on the web until recently. I planned to check with my colleagues about listing names here after reading Josh Breitbart’s post pointing out that we aren’t identified anywhere. That has changed and the official list of reps is up at the Digital Access site. (Thanks, Josh. I have a feeling your blog post helped in getting this information out there.)

Read Josh’s post. His ideas around horizontal collaboration vs. hub-and-spoke deserve serious discussion. He likes much of what he sees in Minneapolis compared to Philadelphia. But we are still in the development stage, now creating the reality of the shared vision. What is disheartening for me is the minuscule information about the Wi-Fi project itself and the walled/civic garden portals. (I am supposed to be on a committee that is planning the community portals and it hasn’t met in months.) The deployment is a month or more behind schedule and I doubt if the network will be completed before 2008. I think delays are to be expected in new ventures like this but US Internet Wireless (USIW) and the City of Minneapolis have not been forthcoming in updating residents as to status. There is a city-sponsored mailing list but little flows through it and there has never been any type of status report even when new neighborhoods are added to the Wi-Fi mix.

USIW and Minneapolis need the community to rally round the Wi-Fi system. Frequent and honest communication is the best way to ensure that engagement.

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