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Posted: 9/1/2004 7:58:00 PM EDT
Philly Considers Wireless Internet for All

Wed Sep 1,10:24 AM ET

By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA - For about $10 million, city officials believe they can turn all 135 square miles of Philadelphia into the world's largest wireless Internet hot spot.

The ambitious plan, now in the works, would involve placing hundreds, or maybe thousands of small transmitters around the city — probably atop lampposts. Each would be capable of communicating with the wireless networking cards that now come standard with many computers.

Once complete, the network would deliver broadband Internet almost anywhere radio waves can travel — including poor neighborhoods where high-speed Internet access is now rare.

And the city would likely offer the service either for free, or at costs far lower than the $35 to $60 a month charged by commercial providers, said the city's chief information officer, Dianah Neff.

"If you're out on your front porch with a laptop, you could dial in, register at no charge, and be able to access a high speed connection," Neff said. "It's a technology whose time is here."

If the plan becomes a reality, Philadelphia could leap to the forefront of a growing number of cities that have contemplated offering wireless Internet service to residents, workers and guests.

Chaska, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, began offering citywide wireless Internet access this year for $16 a month. The signal covers about 13 square miles.

Corpus Christi, Texas, has been experimenting with a system covering 20 square miles that would be used (for now) only by government employees.

Over the past year, Cleveland has added some 4,000 wireless transmitters in its University Circle, Midtown and lakefront districts. The service is free, and available to anyone who passes through the areas.

Some 1,016 people were logged in to the system at 2:20 Tuesday afternoon, said Lev Gonick, chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University, which is spearheading the project and paying for a chunk of it.

"We like to say it should be like the air you breathe — free and available everywhere," Gonick said. "We look at this like PBS or NPR. It should be a public resource."

In New York, city officials are negotiating to sell wireless carriers space on 18,000 lampposts for as much as $21.6 million annually. T-Mobile USA Inc., Nextel Partners Inc., IDT Corp. and three other wireless carriers want the equipment to increase their networks' capacity.

One part of the 15-year deal is cheap Wi-Fi phones for neighborhoods where less than 95 percent of residents have home phones. IDT, which has agreed to market the cheaper phone service in those neighborhoods, would pay lower rates for poles there than other companies would in wealthier areas.

Wireless technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years and become drastically less expensive.

The new "wireless mesh" technology under consideration in Philadelphia has made it possible to expand those similar networks over entire neighborhoods, with the help of relatively cheap antennas.

Neff estimated it would cost about $10 million to pay for the initial infrastructure for the system, plus $1.5 million a year to maintain.

Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, a technology buff who carries a wireless handheld computer everywhere he goes, appointed a 14-member committee last week to work out the specifics of his city's plan, including any fees, or restrictions on its use.

Link Posted: 9/1/2004 7:59:20 PM EDT
wireless as a new city provided utility like water and sewer? interesting.
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:02:54 PM EDT
Oh great, now laptops will be getting stolen out of vehicles so that the gutter snipe can surf the net.
I'd be curious to see how this plays out...from a network security aspect, could be interesting.
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:03:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Red_Beard:
wireless as a new city provided utility like water and sewer? interesting.

NOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo­oooooooo this will wind up being subsidized by the rest of the state and fat fast Eddie Rendell will use it to buy more votes

Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:05:49 PM EDT
It would only be a matter of time till someone gets busted for viewing porn on their laptop in public
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:11:50 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Red_Beard:
Once complete, the network would deliver broadband Internet almost anywhere radio waves can travel — including poor neighborhoods where high-speed Internet access is now rare.

and computers are rare......
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:22:10 PM EDT
If the city is supplying the service for free does that in any way affect your privacy rights?

Would they be allowed to snoop if they felt like it?
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:29:08 PM EDT
not free- tax$$$ at work, now if it were a private company "giving" it away...
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:30:39 PM EDT
Doesnt sound like a good idea. Internet doesnt need to be a city service like water.
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:31:10 PM EDT
From my experience, im most big cities there is almost always some fool with an unsecured hotspot in range of wherever I am.
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:35:20 PM EDT
That sounds like a good start but security issues will need to be addressed
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:36:37 PM EDT
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:42:11 PM EDT
If this was financialy viable the private sector would have already done it.

This is just another black hole for gov't to throw money into, and another way for politicians to buy votes and redistribute wealth.
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 8:50:15 PM EDT
Don't you guys realize this is jus the governments response to the wide success of tinfoil hats?

Everyone knows that Tinfoil hats don't stop wireless internet rays!!!

and wtf won't the animations button work for me? it won't let me use any of the animations, but I see other people using them...
Link Posted: 9/1/2004 9:02:07 PM EDT
another tax hike is coming
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