[NetBehaviour] [ciresearchers] New Orleans's New Connection (fwd)

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Tue Nov 29 16:48:46 CET 2005

Extremely interesting especially in relation to Verizon's bullying - alan

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 09:52:10 -0500
From: "Gurstein, Michael" <gurstein at ADM.NJIT.EDU>
Reply-To: ciresearchers at vancouvercommunity.net,
     "Gurstein, Michael" <gurstein at ADM.NJIT.EDU>
To: ppp-l at pppwatch.org, ciresearchers at vancouvercommunity.net
Cc: L BB-Wireless <broadband-wireless at vancouvercommunity.net>
Subject: [ciresearchers] New Orleans's New Connection

New Orleans's New Connection
City-Owned WiFi System To Be Announced Today

By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 29, 2005; Page D01

Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans will deploy the nation's first municipally
owned wireless Internet system that will be free for all users, part of
an effort to jump-start recovery by making living and doing business in
the city as attractive as possible.

The system, which Mayor C. Ray Nagin is scheduled to announce at a news
conference today, also will be used by law enforcement and for an array
of city government functions, such as speeding approval of building

Hurricane Katrina brought unprecedented destruction to the Gulf Coast.
View the Post's multimedia coverage of the disaster. (Reuters)

Much of the equipment to run the network was donated by companies, but
New Orleans will own it and operate all its components at the outset.
The system, which uses devices mounted on streetlights to beam out fast
Internet connections for wireless-enabled computers, is scheduled to be
operational today in the central business district and the French
Quarter and to be expanded over time.

"Now, with a single step, city departments, businesses and private
citizens can access a tool that will help speed the rebuilding of New
Orleans as a better, safer and stronger city," Nagin said in a
statement. "This is how technology fuels collaboration, allowing our
best ideas to come together so we can speak with one voice."

But the move probably will stir an already roiling national debate over
whether it makes sense for localities to launch their own systems.

Cities around the country are studying or have deployed "wireless
fidelity," or WiFi, networks, because they often provide more affordable
Internet access than private carriers and can help bridge the digital
divide in low-income areas or because high-speed Internet access is not
provided by either telephone or cable companies.

Telephone and cable companies oppose the moves as unfair,
taxpayer-funded competition and have successfully lobbied several states
to prohibit or restrict the networks.

Louisiana is one of those states, prohibiting any locality from offering
Internet connection speeds of more than 144 kilobits per second, about
twice the speed of dial-up but one-tenth to one-twentieth of what is
typically provided via digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable-modem

The New Orleans system will feature 512-kilobit-per-second speed, which
city officials said is the most the network can handle efficiently at
first. Because the city is under a state of emergency, it can skirt
existing law.

Eventually, city officials said, they expect to outsource operation of
the commercial side of the network to a private company, as
municipalities such as Philadelphia are doing. Philadelphia charges
users a monthly fee.

But they have little patience for what they see as efforts by
telecommunications companies to restrict their ability to determine
their own Internet future. For them, moving to a permanent wireless
system is a matter of survival for a city whose future remains

"My number-one job is to restimulate the economy," said Greg Meffert, a
deputy mayor, the city's chief technology officer and a former tech
company entrepreneur. The system, he said, "is going to be the backbone
of a brand new, never fully tried set of technology visions" to help
distinguish New Orleans from other large cities.

Already, WiFi communications for government services are helping the
city speed its recovery. The biggest benefit, Meffert said, has been
enabling building inspectors to quickly process paperwork for
reconstruction permits without having to travel back and forth to city

Moreover, Meffert said the hurricane provided valuable lessons on the
ability of traditional, wired telecommunications systems to withstand
natural disasters.

"I know what failed," Meffert said. "Staying with the status quo would
be the single most reckless thing I could do. . . . If I put it back the
same way that it was, people should fire me before I finish."

City officials said they will battle to overturn the 144-kilobit speed
limitation that will take effect when the state of emergency is over.

"It's the blessing of this tragedy," Meffert said. "It's harder to win
the been-here-forever vendor argument. Either we do this, or we die."

Chris Drake, operations manager for New Orleans, said the system also
proves invaluable for law enforcement. Although first responders will
still communicate over a radio-band network, background data checks and
other police functions can be done on the WiFi network, relieving
pressure on the radio system.

Before the hurricane, city government already had moved to a
voice-over-Internet system to save money. And it had deployed a
new-generation, wireless "mesh" network for anti-crime surveillance
cameras in parts of the city.

The broader WiFi system is an expansion of that network, using equipment
from Silicon Valley-based Tropos Networks Inc.

The system uses shoebox-sized devices mounted on streetlight posts to
provide the wireless coverage. Some of the devices also beam the signal
to existing fiber-optic trunk lines that connect the city to the
Internet backbone. About 20 to 25 units are necessary to cover one
square mile.

After the hurricane, Tropos donated 50 more units to the city and Intel
Corp. paid for an additional 50 units, bringing the total in the city to
roughly 200.

"We donated the equipment because good friends of ours were hit really
hard," said Ellen Kirk, Tropos vice president for marketing.

Devices also were installed to serve specific locations, such as
disaster shelters and cruise ships housing displaced residents.

She said the only previously deployed units damaged during the hurricane
were those in which the light pole was knocked down. Backup power
quickly restored all the other devices to service.

Paul Butcher, Intel's marketing manager for state and local governments,
said the future of communication is wireless.

"The language has changed from two years ago," he said. "The value is in
the mobile worker."

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