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Impractical Proposals Santa Monica
Second thoughts: Municipal Wi-Fi Easier Said Than Done
As you know if you've tried to use it, wi-fi access in Santa Monica is hit or miss. Instead of organizing wi-fi around the excess bandwidth of major users -- businesses such as Yahoo, Google, Sony; educational institutions such as SMCC; government entities such as the city itself -- Santa Monica is planning to hire a private service provider to build a system over the next few years (why it should take "years" to provide service to 8.3 square miles of flat terrain is a topic for another time).
According to reports, instead of contracting with a big player like Earthlink or a civic-minded company like Google, the city plans to hire AzulStar, a little Michigan-based company specializing in municipal access, to create a seamless city-wide network of hotspots.
According to AzulStar’s website, the company has built four city-wide systems to date, in such major metropolitan areas as Grand Haven, Michigan and Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
Although touted as a free service, in reality, relatively slow, advertising-supported public access will be available to residents and tourists for free, but they will be asked to pay for faster ad-free service. Businesses will required to pay for access separately, which will require the creation of some sort of enforcement mechanism to keep companies from logging on to the slower but costless version.
Any city-wide plan will be a big advance over the patchwork of public hotspots, now numbering 11 and growing, including City Hall, the Third Street Promenade, the Pier and Virginia Avenue Park, that make current access so spotty (at the end of May, three more parks -- Reed, Cloverfield, and the new park at the airport -- were scheduled to be on line).
A city-wide system will also enable the City of Santa Monica to tie all municipal services together on one wireless network.
Some of the problems with using a private company to provide a public service (instead of relying on a municipally owned system or a city-wide cooperative, two methods widely used in other parts of the world), as well as some of the technical difficulties particularly irksome to commercial providers, are outlined in an article published this week by The Economist (2007-05-25).
Long before Walt Disney built his theme park in Anaheim, this savvy little city 30 miles south of Los Angeles was deploying cutting-edge technology to improve its citizens’ lot and upstage neighbouring communities. It was one of the first cities in America to build its own electricity grid -- to illuminate its streets and lure late-night shoppers from nearby towns.
The innovation continued. Before most had even heard of the internet, Anaheim had networked the city with fat communications piping, so residents could have a variety of cable TV providers and telephone companies to choose from, while local utilities could automate their meter reading and businesses could provide all manner of online services. Now the city is in the process of blanketing itself with a wireless broadband network.
Anaheim is not the only city turning itself into a giant Wi-Fi hotspot. No fewer than 175 municipalities and metropolitan regions in America are building community-wide networks. A similar number are in the planning stage. But having blazed the trail in network services, Anaheim is the municipality that other cities are watching the closest -- all the more so because the company rolling out its wireless network is Earthlink.
Once the loudest booster of municipal Wi-Fi and still the biggest in the business, Earthlink is having second thoughts. Having turned in a $30m loss for its most recent quarter, Earthlink now says it is “re-evaluating its position in the muni-Wi-Fi market." The announcement has sent shivers through city halls across America.
Like Anaheim, most municipalities installing wireless networks are not paying for the privilege, but relying on providers like Earthlink to foot the bill. Having won the right to supply Wi-Fi services to a municipality, most companies expected to recoup the investment though subscriptions and advertising.
Neither revenue stream has lived up to expectation. Originally, Earthlink thought it would be in clover if 20-25% of households signed up for its wireless internet service. It now realises it will be lucky to get 15%. And without the eyeballs, advertisers have been slow to come aboard.
The trouble is that too many cities' schemes were half-baked to start with. In some cities, such as Philadelphia, the mission was to offer cheap (or even free) internet connections to the poor. In others, such as Anaheim, a more pragmatic, market-driven approach was adopted. Elsewhere, populist mayors and city councils pandered to voters with promises of universal internet access. In almost all cases, however, the reigning philosophy was “build it and they will come."
What no one seems to have bargained for was that, while Wi-Fi technology works perfectly well over short distances within a home, coffee shop or airport, it doesn’t work all that well outside. Wi-Fi’s popularity stems from its use of the unlicensed, 2.4 gigahertz part of the radio spectrum. But being unfettered by licences and regulations means that there are many PCs jostling for access. Adding to the mayhem are the domestic appliances, like cordless phones and microwave ovens, that radiate in the same frequency band.
This creates enough trouble inside a building. Outside, there are the added problems of foliage, tall buildings and hills. These can reflect, absorb or otherwise interfere with a municipal Wi-Fi’s signal, beamed from aerials on lamp-posts and traffic lights.
Because of these glitches, network operators have found that the old rule of 15-20 Wi-Fi aerial nodes per square mile is nowhere near good enough. Nowadays people expect to connect to the internet using low-powered devices such as laptops and Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phones. To meet this demand, operators must install twice as many nodes per square mile.
The cost escalation does not stop there. In opting for external Wi-Fi, municipal operators seem to have forgotten that the vast majority of dwellings in America use chicken wire in their walls. As every high-school physics student learns, a mesh of chicken wire can screen out electromagnetic fields, especially those caused by radio waves. For an external Wi-Fi beam to be detected indoors, homes have had to be kitted out with signal-boosting wireless modems.
These complications have made a mockery of service suppliers’ business plans. When Earthlink says it is re-evaluating its position in the municipal Wi-Fi market, what it really means is that it can’t make money out of communities with fewer than 2,500 households per square mile. Even then, it needs assurances that the city will commit to buying a big chunk of the network’s capacity for such “anchor tenancies” as emergency services, traffic and parking control, video surveillance and internet telephony, as well as automated meter reading and other utility services.
This is precisely how it should be. Internet access for residential users was never going to be the mainstay for municipal Wi-Fi. Most communities are pretty well served these days by cable, DSL and satellite internet services. As a result, competition has beaten broadband-access charges down to around $15 a month. And where such services are not competitive, they quickly become so the moment municipal Wi-Fi presses its nose to the window.
No, the future of municipal wireless broadband rests on making cities safer, saner and simpler to manage. Trivial pursuits like downloading songs or posting video clips can be safely left to phone and cable companies."
Azulstar is using in Santa Monica the same business model, attempting to recoup its investment in infrastructure and to turn a profit through subscriptions and advertising, that the Economist reports is a failure elsewhere. At least Earthlink and its ilk have the deep pockets that would enable them to live up to their commitments even while losing money for a while. How long will a little outfit like AzulStar be able to hang in without making a profit? I guess we're going to find out.
Here's a list of some events happening during Bike to Work Week 2007 (see next post).
Monday May 14, 2007
Downtown LA Bike Rally and Concert City of Los Angeles City Hall, South Lawn 11:30 am to 1:30 pm Festivities include Ed Begley, Jr. and other speakers, health and bike fair, custom bike show, and a live concert by the Ditty Bops!
Bike Week Pasadena C.I.C.L.E. and the City of Pasadena along with Patagonia and Metro are hosting more than 15 events all week! Highlights include: Mayor's Bike to Work Brigade led by Bill Bogaard, bicycling aficionado and Mayor of Pasadena. Themed bike tours like the Sunset Sonata Ride: cycle to an enchanting overlook on the Arroyo Seco, complete with hors d'oeuvres and a live violin and cello duet. Free bicycle-related films and documentaries screened outdoors nightly in the One Colorado Courtyard. An Urban Bicycle Commuter Expo featuring folding and electric bicycles, accessories, cargo bikes and trailers that handle everything from shopping trips to hauling lumber. More info www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivot/entry.php?id=1373
Tuesday May 15, 2007
4th Annual Blessing of the Bicycles Good Samaritan Hospital, 616 S. Witmer Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90017 8:00 am to 9:30 am More info www.goodsam.org
El Segundo Bike Challenge El Segundo and surrounding areas For more information call Devon Deming at 310 646-7775
For the 13th straight year a record number of cyclists are expected to give bicycle commuting a try and leave their cars at home. Bike to Work Week is May 14 – 18, 2007.
Be part of the solution and PLEDGE not only to bike to work but pledge for a better you and for a better LA. Bicycling reduces traffic, improves the environment, improves your health and even saves you money on gas.
Pledge online today! Get a free bicycle patch kit (while supplies last) just for pledging. And, be automatically entered to win prizes. Visit our Riders page for more on planning your ride to work.
Free Rideson Thursday, May 17 from participating transit agencies. Just board with your bike or helmet.
Stop by at Metro’s co-sponsored Pit Stops on Thursday, May 17! Metro is teaming up with a number of Los Angeles County organizations, employers and merchants to host local pit stops for all Bike to Work participants. Pit stops are locations for bicyclists to stop, relax, get energized, have snacks, receive give-aways (all for free), and obtain informational materials on bicycling to work. Check back for LA County Pit Stop locations.
Employers take action! Thank your employees for bicycling to work by setting-up food and refreshments for them or by going all out and having a fair. Whatever you decide on, REGISTER with Metro to receive free give-away items to support your event. See our Employers page to register and for more information.
Be part of the solution and use your pedal power on Bike to Work Day Thursday, May 17!
The New Amore Bay Makes Outdoor Spas Hot and Sexy Again
Seductive Combination of Ultra-Modern Technology and Good Old-Fashioned Sex Appeal…
Warm Contact Induces Release of the “Cuddle Hormone”
(SAN DIEGO, CA) Dimension One Spas’ just-released Amore Bay luxury hot tubs – retailing for between $15,000 and $17,000 -- combines the pleasure principle of the 70’s with ultra-modern technology to get down to the basics: today’s hot tubs can be sexy and high-tech…and a secret tool to help melt away your lover’s defenses.
With curvaceous lines, strategically placed water jets, mood lighting, a “playground” area, a hand held massager and cup holders, the only thing left to do is download Barry White or Marvin Gaye on the Amore Bay’s wireless, iPod-friendly stereo!
But could such a watery Shangri-La really help your sex life?
According to findings in a 2005 study by the Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “warm contact…and frequent hugs between spouses/partners caused oxytocin levels to rise in premenopausal women.” So, any warm contact boosts oxytocin – known by sex researchers as the “cuddle hormone.”
This mammalianhormone also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and is involved in social recognition and bonding, and is thought to be involved in the formation of trust between people. Some researchers have also suggested a beneficial link between oxytocin and social anxiety, memory control, cardiovascular functions, and thermoregulation in menopausal women.
Did someone say, ‘Sexual Healing!'?
An irresistible backyard oasis, the Amore Bay also features his and her “hydronomically” designed, lounge chairs lined with massage jets, relaxing fountains, a remote control to select your underwater massage programs and a sleek, energy efficient design with average heating costs of only $15.00 a month (subject to individual heating costs). This year, couples can just relax and “Get their Sexy Back” in an Amore Bay!
About D-1 Spas: With high tech and design innovations reminiscent of each year’s developments in the automobile industry, this award-winning, California-based hot tub company holds over 30 patents, more than any other hot tub manufacturer.
The family-owned, $60 million a year business is known for introducing advances in materials science and water handling technology to bring customers the most advanced spas in the world.
Founded in Vista, California by Bob and Linda Hallam, D1 spas and aquatic fitness products are now sold through a network of more than 250 dealers in the United States, and 450 dealers worldwide in 30 countries. The company's three product lines include a range of home hydrotherapy and aquatic fitness products that meet a variety of consumer needs and budgets: D1 Reflections®, D1 Bay Collection®, AFS -- Aquatic Fitness Systems® and @ Home Hot Tubs®. Innovations include: hydronomics -- design based on human anatomy, ergonomics, acupressure, reflexology and fluid mechanics -- a wireless, totally submersible hot tub stereo system; a spa-within-a-spa lounge chair aqua massager; clean energy systems; and patented fountain & lighting systems.
For more information about Dimension One Spas, its products and practices, please visit: http://www.d1spas.com/.
S.M. Planning: "Placemaking" workshop Monday eve at the Civic
Santa Monica is once again going through the motions of seeking planning input from residents. The long-delayed public process to revise the Land Use and Circulation Element, the "blueprint" for development and transportation in our city for the next 20 years (it will be interesting to see if it is followed more closely than the last "blueprint" was), will start up again on Monday in an event at the Civic. Residents will be asked to choose among "principles" that will guide Santa Monica's development future. If you have the time, it's worth attending to gain insight into how the city staff pilots the process toward guidelines so vague as to be meaningless.
Below is an excerpt from City Hall's press release:
On Monday, May 7, at 7:00 pm in the Civic Auditorium, 1885 Main Street, the City of Santa Monica's Planning & Community Development Department will be holding a citywide Placemaking workshop - the last of a four part series. This event will provide an opportunity for participants to have a direct voice in endorsing Placemaking principles to guide long-term development through the Land Use and Circulation Elements and, in the nearer future, to be applied to proposed projects throughout the City. These principles come out of the input of residents and business owners in the Santa Monica community that participated in the first three workshops of this series.