Municipial WiFi in Atlanta

If our previous captain, Daniel, were still in town this story would surely have been covered by now.

It looks as though the City of Atlanta is teaming up with Earthlink to build out a 1mbps wireless network for the city [press release].

No details were given on a timeframe or what kind of coverage area the network would have (just City of Atlanta?).

The Metblog has discussed municipal WiFi before and the reaction has been fairly mixed. I’m of the opinion that just like a 21st century commuter solution, adequate utilities infrastructure and safe streets, most world-class cities should be providing WiFi as well.

Of course, Atlanta hasn’t traditionally handled those first three things that well, so why screw up the fourth (WiFi)? And, honestly, I can see some of the Libertarian arguments against municipalities doing this themselves, but I still believe that a forward-thinking city government will only help itself from a tax base perspective and from a quality of life standpoint by being proactive in this arena.

What say you? Is Atlanta’s WiFi experiment with Earthlink a good move?

[Via bored]

3 Comments so far

  1. Sister Shirley (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

    From the NY Times article in my link:

    Here in the United States, 27 percent of the population lacks access to the Internet, according to a study completed last year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Among those who do have access, about 30 percent still rely on slow dial-up connections. The last mile for households with no or slow connections may be provided by radio signals sent out by transmitters perched atop street lights, as hundreds of cities have rolled out municipal Wi-Fi networks, or are in the process of doing so.

    The impulse behind these projects is noble. It’s a shame, however, that lots of street lamps and lots of dollars — a typical deployment in an urban setting will run $75,000 to $125,000 a square mile, just to install the equipment — do not really solve the last-mile problem.

    If you’re sitting with your laptop at an outside cafe, you’ll be happy with the service. But if you happen to be at home, you realize that service to the doorstep is not enough: you still need to buy equipment to bolster the signal and solve the “last mile plus 10 more yards” problem — that is, getting coverage indoors.

    Wi-Fi signals do not bend, and you usually can’t get much of a useful bounce from them, either. Because Wi-Fi uses unlicensed bands of the radio spectrum, by law it must rely on low-power transmitters, which reduce its ability to penetrate walls. Travel-round-the-world shortwave, this ain’t.

    Trying to cover a broad area with Wi-Fi radio transmitters set atop street lights brings to mind a fad of the 1880s: attempts to light an entire town with a handful of arc lights on high towers. But overeager city boosters around the country soon discovered that shadows obscured large portions of their cities, and the lighting was not as useful as had been expected. Municipal Wi-Fi on streetlamps, another experiment with top-down delivery, may run a similarly short-lived — and needlessly expensive — course.


  2. Robert (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 11:48 pm

    Absolutely. It works well in Portland, OR. They not only have it city-wide, but also in the airport (and the lower-tier service is free [you pay for higher-speeds] in both locations unlike what Atlanta is planning). Atlanta is very behind the times in this area, yet they try to call themselves the “Silicon South”. They are far from it. I can floy south to Tampa and West to Portland and have an airport to get stuck in and have free wifi access, but here in Atlanta, woth the world’s busiest airport and the higher likelihood of delays, I get nada. Back to the city-side, in Portland, the access has certainly spawn a greater sense of community and helped to revitalize some downtrodden areas. I’ve met many people in my travels to Portland (all locals) as a result of the free wifi access that permitted me to do some work from open city centers/parks, rapid transit, and along the riverfront. I’ve even meant a number of small business owners that helped to rebuild some of aging areas all because they were able to network with others online while visiting Portland (they were originally from other locales). I’m not sure what specific technologies are in use in Portland, but it works, both for the city and the people.


  3. manunderstress (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 1:09 am

    As long as this is an entirely private venture and not a tax burden, then let them eat wireless. Earthlink will take the fall if no one bites. It’s not a replacement for a home connection at the advertised speed of 1mbps, but it is an alternative to current 3G wireless solutions from cingular and verizon that cost over twice as much per month (at half the speed), unless you need national coverage that is. And competition drives prices down so the more players the merrier.

    Me, I’ll pass on the $21.95 per month “discount” and keep getting wi-fi for free at my favorite cafes like I have been for years. That, or I’ll steal it.



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