Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Sunday, October 02, 2021

When Flablog.net declared Tampa Bay to be Florida’s blogging nexus, I wondered if that claim was somehow verifiable.

I still haven’t found any hard evidence (not that I’ve been looking). But I have come across another anecdotal tidbit that suggests another Sunshine State city isn’t up to snuff. Back in June, Orlando pulled the plug on its citywide free wi-fi service, citing low usage (27 people ever logged on) and high costs. Presumably, a sizable blogging community in O-Town would have attracted usage and sustained the service.

Naturally, this doesn’t prove a thing. There may have been other reasons for Orlando’s free wireless to have tanked: Unreliability of connection, lack of marketing to make people aware, predominance of wired connections in homes and businesses. Still, you’d think a horde of techno-geeks would have kept this thing afloat.

Actually, this makes me curious about the city of Tampa’s public wi-fi zone, which is nearly a year old now. I’ve never sampled it, because I’ve never been in the area while in need of a wireless hookup.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/02/2021 09:28:27 PM
Category: Bloggin', Wi-Fi, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Tuesday, August 16, 2021

Befitting its Silicon Valley image, San Francisco is looking to set up a free or low-cost wi-fi hotspot to cover its entire 49 square mile municipal area, and provide enough computer equipment for all strata of residents to access it.

Last year, the city erected antennas to make one of its most popular tourist destinations, Union Square, a free hot spot, and three others are set to go up later this year. Responses to the city’s request for information are due in six weeks and [mayor Gavin] Newsom said he hopes to have the citywide Wi-Fi plan at least partly “manifested” within six months.

“Cities are starting to realize this is not a ‘nice to have’ anymore,” said Paul Butcher, Intel’s state and local government marketing manager. “To operate efficiently as a government, to enable business to compete and provide adequate resources to cities, you pretty much have to do this.”

It’s an audacious project, and a big step toward making the Internet a true mass medium. It’s also another blow against for-profit wireless hotspot providers; think of how distressed this makes the gajillion Starbucks stores in the Bay Area! Assuming this spurs even more cities to undertake wi-fi implementations — and I’m sure it will — it’s looking like the pay-for model is an ultimate dead end, even using selling points like secure connections.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/16/2005 10:43:31 PM
Category: Wi-Fi | Permalink | Feedback (6)

Wednesday, July 06, 2021

The next time you prop open your wireless-enabled notebook computer any old where, think about Benjamin Smith III of St. Petersburg, who made history for being arrested for illicitly tapping into someone else’s open wi-fi access point.

Makes it less convenient for some of us to tap into the Web while out and about. Personally, I rely upon the (unintended) generosity of strangers when visiting my mother’s house in New York, since she’s not likely to ever get Net-connected.

Enabling encryption as a default setting in wirless equipment would obviously kill off this practice. Of course, I’m writing this from an unsecured access point, because the WEP mode is too damned hard to turn on…

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/06/2021 10:45:28 PM
Category: Wi-Fi, Society | Permalink | Feedback (4)

Wednesday, June 15, 2021

Tired of having to hoard quarters in your car? If you live in Coral Gables, you can soon start using your mobile phone to pay for your street parking.

The automated system allows drivers who subscribe to simply dial in from their cellphone, punch in the number assigned to their parking spot, and the required costs — plus a 25-cent usage fee — will be billed to their credit card. When leaving, subscribers call back and end the billing cycle.

The Miami suburb began offering the system this month on its 4,573 meters; so far, more than 250 people have subscribed.

Paying via cellphone has long been the dream; phone-crazy regions like Japan are pioneering such micropayments. Despite the proliferation of phones here, Americans haven’t been as willing.

And really, this pilot system in Coral Gables, implemented by PayMint, seems a bit too complicated. You have to call ahead of time to set the thing up, you have to call in to start the meter, and — most laughably — you have to call back to stop the billing period? Come on. I see loads of people forgetting that last step and racking up thousands of dollars of charges.

I’ve been seeing more meters going in that accept credit card swipes; that seems like the more realistic route.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/15/2005 07:50:55 PM
Category: Wi-Fi, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Saturday, May 07, 2021

They said they were going to do it, and it looks like they will: Dunedin is ready to roll out a municipally-operated broadband wi-fi ISP, competitively priced at $25 a month. St. Petersburg-based Citi Wifi Networks is providing the hookup.

My friends Tom and Amber live in Dunedin, so they would take advantage of this. I hope they do, just to get some feedback on how it performs.

Even though it’s not a free wi-fi offering, I imagine that established telcos won’t be too happy about this template for utility-like competition.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/07/2021 07:17:27 PM
Category: Wi-Fi, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, May 03, 2021

Predictably, telecoms and others aren’t too happy about local government efforts to set up free wi-fi hotspot zones. Instead of merely grumbling about it, they’re mobilizing lobbying forces to outlaw implementation, with 10 state legislatures already drafting bills to curb the movements.

“This isn’t a grass-roots backlash,” said Ron Sege, chief executive of wireless gear firm Tropos Networks, which supports municipal wireless plans. “This is an organized campaign of disinformation.”

I’ve questioned the wisdom behind city-run wireless networks. I like free and easy as much as the next guy, but local governments have to take their business constituents’ interests into consideration, too. It makes no sense to undercut a wireless provider’s market. I can see the justification for a municipally-run network in a suburban or rural area, where private providers can’t/won’t do anything. But in a big metro like Philadelphia, it’s only causing needless clashes.

So I can see the self-preservation motive for Verizon and others to squash this early. It’ll be fascinating to see the campaign take form; enlisting think tanks and other opinion-influencers is a classic early step.

There’s probably room for both the free and pay-for models, after the requisite tussling. I can see a system where a free service offers wide coverage, but is relatively low-bandwith, good mostly for spot-checking email and brief surfing for 5-minute increments. Private networks can step in to fill more intensive connectivity needs, for power users (mobile businesspeople, etc.) who need a super-reliable and -secure connection for big file transfers and other heavy, always-on usage.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 05/03/2021 09:18:25 AM
Category: Wi-Fi | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Tuesday, April 19, 2021

Customers can be such a pain, expecting their products and services to work all the time. Such is the pain that Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg is experiencing, as he laments too-high wireless customer demands:

In an interview published Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle, Seidenberg seemed to suggest the company’s wireless customers were becoming too demanding.

“Why in the world would you think your (cell) phone would work in your house?” he asked. “The customer has come to expect so much. They want it to work in the elevator, they want it to work in the basement.”

Couldn’t the company correct customer expectations by distributing statistics on how often Verizon’s service works indoors or by providing more detailed coverage maps that show all possible dead zones?

Seidenberg said it wasn’t Verizon’s responsibility, the Chronicle reported.

It’s hard for me lay into Seidenberg too much, at the moment. I’m in the NYC metro region right now, and I’ve never experienced such a consistently strong signal on my Verizon Wireless phone, indoors or outdoors. Still, it’s a fairly ugly set of comments to come from a leader of a cellphone behemoth. I don’t know if he’s trying to psychologically hedge the continual dropoff of landline customers as they opt to go wireless-only, but it’s not an elegant way of getting that point across.

Seidenberg also takes a dim view of the wi-fi hotzones many cities are planning:

“That could be one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard,” he told the Chronicle. “It sounds like a good thing, but the trouble is someone will have to design it, someone will have to upgrade it, someone will have to maintain it and someone will have to run it.”

Such comments carry some resonance in Florida, where the Legislature has been considering bills backed by phone companies that would complicate efforts by municipalities to offer Wi-Fi and other telecommunications services. (Wi-Fi networks planned or in operation in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Dunedin wouldn’t be affected because those efforts are led by private companies, not local governments.)

I can think of a less-pleasant alternative: A wi-fi network built and maintained by Verizon and other telecoms, that are pay-for — and are still poorly maintained and upgraded.

The potential conflicts between municipal (including regional governments and airports) and private wireless providers like Starbucks are well-known, and need to be worked out; but I say, let other players, including power companies and the like, take their shot. Existing providers are understandably nervous because they don’t want the competition, but them’s the breaks.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/19/2005 08:32:53 PM
Category: Wi-Fi, Business | Permalink | Feedback (1)

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