Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, April 23, 2021

Orlando suburb St. Cloud demonstrated its with-it tech chops by setting up a city-wide wireless Web service, accessible for free. Alas, residents are getting — or really, not getting — what they paid for, as performance has been spotty for many:

At first, a desktop computer in [resident Joe] Lusardi’s house could use the Wi-Fi network with no problem, but his laptop would only work outdoors. Even then it was too slow and unreliable, so he kept his $20 per month Sprint DSL service.

Now the desktop doesn’t even work, and he’s completely abandoned the idea of dropping his pay service and using the network.

“It’s just total frustration,” Lusardi said. “I’m going to stay with the DSL and just forget it, because I don’t think it’s going to work. Very few people are going to use it, and they’re going to say it’s underutilized and they’re going to shut it down.”

That last sentence may be drawing from local experience. A year ago, right up the road, Orlando killed off its own free wi-fi blanket, citing extremely low usage. I guess folks in the heart of Florida aren’t too keen on pulling in their Internet from the air.

These examples suggest a couple of things:

- Regular wi-fi equipment and frequencies might not be the proper route for such wide coverage areas. The 802.11b/g standards were intended for use in relatively tight zones, i.e. houses and buildings. They can be extended and boosted via transmission antennae, but they weren’t really designed for that kind of heavy lifting. There are alternatives like WiMax; I’m not sure how feasible they’d be to deploy, or how compatible they are with bundled and off-the-shelf wi-fi computer equipment.

- Reliability and speed of connection are factors that make such freebies more usable as backup access. Other cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco probably should approach their wi-fi blankets as complementary services that are better than nothing; most people will retain their ISPs for a more reliable connection.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/23/2006 10:33:57 PM
Category: Bloggin', Wi-Fi, Florida Livin' | Permalink |

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  1. WiMax or its Korean cousin WiBro are ideally suited for such applications. Unfortunately, the pentration of 802.11 technology makes shifting to wide-area wireless broadband a rather difficult sell. There are some laptops in Korea coming out with integrated WiBro. What woudld be ideal, would be to bridge the two technologies by using WiMax for wider-area coverage and 802,11 networks for the LAN type conditions it was designed for.
    Living in the SF Bay Area, I am anxious to see the free Wi-Fi for San Francisco initiative backed by a Google/Earthlink venture works out.

    Comment by Jonathan Foley — 04/24/2006 @ 12:03:34 AM

  2. I wondered if WiMax didn’t require a retooling. Built-in 802.11 networking in notebooks (and some desktops) is a relatively new hardware feature; I don’t see the industry making a switch in that area now, just when it’s mainstreaming. I’m afraid WiMax/WiBro is going to be leapfrogged by whatever comes next, in the next cycle or two (3-6 years) of hardware rollouts.

    Comment by CT — 04/24/2006 @ 08:21:23 PM

  3. Cellular broadband (EVDO….) services are also in the mix now. Unlike WiMax some laptops are already being integrated with EVDO receivers (Lenovo Tpads and perhaps others). The cell idustry lobby may keep a damper on WiFi WAN techology so that they can continue to charge astronomical rates for their services.

    Comment by Jonathan Foley — 04/25/2006 @ 12:25:43 PM

  4. UNWIRED SUFFOLK

    The free wi-fi bug has bitten Long Island, as Suffolk County has announced plans for a free-of-charge wireless Web blanket to cover its 900 square miles.
    It’ll be a neat trick, logistically:
    Typically, wireless systems have caught on in remote…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 04/28/2006 @ 09:45:45 PM

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