Friday September 22, 2006

Wireless town-hall meeting

Wireless townhall meeting

Ok, it fell to me to go to the Miami-Dade Mayor’s meeting regarding the beginnings of a plan to have county-wide free wireless last night. For the most part, it was a back-patting/grandstanding session for both the presenters and the audience participants. But they did provide a decent overview of the plan. The mayor gave a brief “this is going to be great” sort of opening talk, and then three other speakers did the bulk of the information sharing. Actually, the guy who did the research for the project, Ira (I missed his last name, and the handout helpfully didn’t bother to list the names of the speakers!!), gave most of the useful information. Even though the crowd was maybe 100, the speakers were on stage, and even the questioners had microphones, so there wasn’t much opportunity for “conversation,” per se. But here’re the salient points (apologies for the bullet point format)(and i’ll correct/amend/supplement this post as I get more information):

Sorry for the parenthetical rant. Actually, a little information on the project is available at the Mayor’s page, here and here, although you could be checking those pages twice a day and you wouldn’t have known about last night’s meeting. Our government has a way to go.

Oh, but back to the project at hand. Of course this is sort of “duh” to me, and I think they should get rid of the “no $$ out of the tax till” concept and just fund it 100%. In the future everyone will use the internet (that’s the idea behind this thing, anyway), so what’s the point of charging some and subjecting the rest to ads? Just make it free as the air we breathe, and fund it out of the money you collect from property-owners. Whatever injustices that unleashes will be offset by reduced administration costs. This is a no-brainer. It’s obvious. Except, of course, that the sooner it happens the more it’ll cost. With every year that goes by the technology gets simpler, easier to install, more far-reaching, and cheaper. But whatever: we have lives to live. Get the shit up and running.

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  1. Christian Calzadillas    Fri Sep 22, 12:46 AM #  

    Is this something separate from what we’re supposed to be getting on the beach this summer/fall?
    ( )

  2. alesh    Fri Sep 22, 06:38 AM #  

    1. Yes.
    2. kingoffrance reported that it’s already up and running. can anyone confirm? is it just in limited areas?

    Alvarez made a big point of saying that this was the first program of its kind, which is BS of course. I think what he might have said is that if it was actually rolled out today, it would be the biggest wireless web of its kind. But of course many cities are considering doing this, some are already implemented, and many much bigger ones will be before us.

  3. J-J    Fri Sep 22, 07:15 AM #  

    I live by Collins Park- near the Library- I sometimes pick up a wi-fi named “Default” Is that the new Miami Beach broadband?

    It seems to me that kingoffrance may not be right about his claim…the Beach wi-fi is supposed to roll out around November.

    Anyway could someone please re-confirm this? I’m looking forward to get rid of DSL once the Beach wi-fi is up and running…and would love to have a confirmation date for the free wi-fi…


  4. mkh    Fri Sep 22, 07:57 AM #  

    There are two aspects of this which concern me.

    The first is technological: how will they determine the specs and protocols used, what kind of pipes are they putting behind it, what stance will they take on net neutrality, how will upgrades be handled, etc.

    My second concern is security and privacy: it’s likely to be easy for someone to get into the system, just because the access points will by necessity be publically accessible; also, while a private company can delay a federal request for a citizen’s Internet usage and search logs, a govermental agency would have less wiggle room before handing over the goods.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great step forward for a backward city. I simply have a bit of justified skepticism. I mean, they don’t even have a web site yet?

    Thanks for taking the time to attend the meeting, Alesh!

  5. Rebecca Carter    Fri Sep 22, 09:44 AM #  

    I’m still reading the post, but this is the webcast and it’s on now…

  6. Tere    Fri Sep 22, 09:48 AM #  

    I’ve heard for a while that there’s free wireless on Miracle Mile, but haven’t confirmed it myself with my laptop. One of the people I know closely tied to the police dept. told me and swears he’s used it.

    I know Starbucks has, but it’s only free if you have a (??? can’t remember which provider) account. I’m trying to remember if I’ve seen signs about it anywhere but am drawing a blank.

  7. Rebecca Carter    Fri Sep 22, 09:53 AM #  

    South Miami has a WiFi area in that main drag of shops…I’m pretty sure I saw signs.

    I don’t know how this will possibly be free, but I would LOVE to have cheaper internet. The price I’m paying right now is ridiculous and is unreasonable for many.

    Alesh, is the idea to cover the whole city with wireless? That I could be almost anywhere in Miami-Dade and be on the internet? I hope so. It would absolutely change the way we do things and bring us into the “future”.

    Thanks so much for going!!

  8. Rebecca Carter    Fri Sep 22, 10:23 AM #  

    I’m listening to the webcast. Thought I would provide some notes on what I’m listening to.

    Implementation boundaries (locations), and the order in which they are implemented will be decided by a steering committee. Because the wireless project is coming about to address the “digital divide”, areas affected by this divide will probably be implemented first.

    They are talking about “broadband over power” or something like that…will they put broadband wires over power lines?

    Benefits: Miami-Dade more attractive to businesses, conventions, and tourists. Potential corporate headquarter location for Latin American companies. Disaster remediation. Available during/after storms. (What? How?) Assist county in competing in global market.

    Will update more if anything else interesting pops up.

  9. Manola Blablablanik    Fri Sep 22, 11:22 AM #  

    I think this is great, but following with MKH’s concerns, I’d be wary of not having a backup system. For me it’s because I’m an at-home telecommuter and my business depends 100% on connectivity. If this wi-fi can provide that, then great. But if this system were implemented tomorrow, I’d still keep my high speed cable modem. I imagine such a concern is multiplied many times for companies.

    I’m checking into the MB wi-fi, more info later.

  10. nonee moose    Fri Sep 22, 04:30 PM #  

    Wi-fi is still considered nascent technology, and therefore cannot be counted upon for uses that demand higher order reliability- public safety, commercial transactions, etc. Also, as MKH has suggested, security is still somewhat sketchy, and though the technology exists to establish a high level of security (necessary again for things like public safety, commercial transactions, etc.), that technology is expensive for the average consumer at this point. So the ante for bridging the digital divide in this manner starts reverting to the traditional economic divide, which all this is trying to remedy in the first place. Has anyone caught their tail yet?

    On funding… Current law prohibits local governments from providing services such as the ones proposed for a fee, ostensibly in competition with private for-profit service providers, without some form of referendum. So the notion of the government charging any fees for access to this service to anyone is problematic (though not absolutely impossible), and by problematic, I mean dueling lawsuits over long periods of time, thereby extending the implementation horizon beyond whatever is currently contemplated. The investment to build these networks is VERY expensive, the operating costs are as well. So combine the costs and the extreme difficulty in establishing revenue streams to defray them, what do you get? TAXES. HIGHER TAXES.

    I think the Miami Beach project opted for private operation, with the City being the largest “customer” to the tune of whatever the entire operating costs are for the entire network, which leaves the excess capacity on the network free to use by all who can access it, free of charge. But where does the City get the dough to pay for it? Somebody just charged me for my lunch.

    Also, no matter how “wireless” they may say it is, eventually it has to go to the wires… and the private operators own those, so far…

  11. kingofrance    Fri Sep 22, 06:52 PM #  

    If you’re reading this post, it was sent via the City of Miami Beach’s wifi, a wifi network belonging to a neighbor, or Stevie Nicks rode her mystical, magical unicorn over an enchanted rainbow to deliver this message with her good wiccan magic. One of the three, you make the call. All I know is I bought a wireless card about two months ago and haven’t paid for internet access since then. I live on 11th St, across from Flamingo Park in case you want to check it out with your laptop.

  12. Michael Froomkin    Sat Sep 23, 10:12 AM #  

    Hi, this is Michael Froomkin of, former guest blogger here via Miami Cross Blogination.

    I just wanted to say the I am a member of the wireless steering committee, so if you have particular concerns I’d be happy to hear them.

    My understanding, so far (it’s early days) is that there is no plan to tax to pay for this, but rather the idea is a public-private partnership. So the worry isn’t taxes but rather what the county will have to trade away to get businesses to shoulder the costs….

    The issues mkh identified above are important to me (among other things I’m a member of the EFF’s Advisory Board), and you can be certain I’ll be looking out for them.

    Then again, I’m only one voice of many. At the last focus group meeting I attended a prosecutor suggested all data be retained for six months. We’ll see about that.

  13. alesh    Sat Sep 23, 12:43 PM #  

    kingofrance~ I’d like to think that Stevie Nicks is carrying around MY messages on her unicorn, too, but I suspect you’re borrowing a neighbor’s wireless internet connection. I’ll connect up my wireless card when I get a chance and test it out. I’m at 13th and Euclid.

    Michael~ That’s awesome. I have two main questions:

    1. Is my understanding of the funding scheme basically correct: that the free service will be ad-supported, and the ad-free service will cost something to the user. (Personally, I see more benefit to using some tax money and making it free and ad-less to everyone, but that’s obviously making something that’s already a stretch even less politically feasible. Or is it?!)

    2. However tentative and subject-to-change, what sort of time line are they kicking around?

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  15. snowbird    Mon Sep 25, 02:52 PM #  

    The proposed South Beach WiFi has still not been activated.
    The city’s wesite says ” Jan or Feb, 2006,” and if you call today, they say “by the end of summer.” Since my summer is over, this also seems doubtful. Last year they were about to be sued by the local “pay” internet provider because of a loophole in the state law. WiFi does not travel very far, so even when it starts, you probably won’t get a signal on the upper floors of a tall building. This a great idea but one that has proven extrememly difficult for several other US cities to implement.