Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I guess it's harder than we realize to set up free wi-fi zones in the city

NoMA Business Improvement District's recent announcement about offering free wi-fi in the public spaces in their district reminded me when I was a Main Street program manager that we were looking to do something like that in Brookland, possibly with the local universities there, but I didn't stick around and the program went defunct.

And I have wondered why we don't do this in the downtown area and at various parks and plazas around the city.

But this article "D.C. Neighborhood First in City to Launch Free Wi-Fi" from the Digital Communities website about the project tells us that it was a lot of work for the NoMA BID to pull this off, that they had to dedicate one full-time person to the project for about one year. From the article:

The launch on April 2 was the first phase of the rollout and provides access to roughly six streets -- streets considered the neighborhood's core. The current set up can easily support up to 1,000 concurrent users, with data speeds of 200 Mbps, according to the district. Users should be able to stream high definition video throughout the neighborhood while outside, unless they are in a fast-moving vehicle or the network is particularly congested, Jasper said.

Though the official cost of the network has not yet been tabulated, Jasper said that it was expensive, despite a lot of local support from government agencies and community members. The network was more than one year in development, with one staff member who dedicated almost all her working hours for that year on the project. The rollout was funded entirely by district member dues, as well as supported by commodity contributions from the community.

The article discusses some of the difficulties, how they worked with an out-of-town vendor to set up the system because of limited expertise for such projects being available locally, etc.

One of the points I make about "soft networking," is that DC has lots of groups, like Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or business improvement districts, Main Street commercial district revitalization programs, and friends of libraries and friends of parks groups, but we tend to not share expertise across the groups.

Hopefully that could happen from this project, that the NoMA BID can share its expertise and help more areas of the city develop wi-fi access programs.

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At 11:21 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

NYT magazine has article on dutch water control, referenced an emergence wifi network being set up in Hoboken.

DC should mandate that everyone with cable tv get a "free internet" that is somewhat slow and limited.

comcast is distributing more of their xfinitywifi routers around that give wifi access. allegedly they are talking about their own wireless network. I'll believe it when I see it.

Just like free electricity in tree boxes, free internet can enable a lot of governmental functions. Parking meters and bikeshare being one of them...

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

DC was supposed to do some of what you're talking about with its own municipal backbone, but I don't know what the status is.

I used to deal with a guy named Greg Bloom, who used to work at Bread for the City, who was involved in that issue. We haven't kept in touch though since he left BftC.

2. We have FiOS, not Comcast, but in their marketing materials, Comcast claims that you can use that wifi network in DC if you are a subscriber to their cable or broadband service.

But I don't think I've ever seen a Comcast wifi network come up as an option in a public site, when I've been looking to connect.

A colleague has Verizon Wi-Max which is really amazing. I borrow it from time to time and have used it in places like Idaho...

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

yes, sorry, so comcast has a series of xfinity hotpsots.

A good chunk of them are based on this home routers, so the range is lmited.

And if you are an xfinity subscriber you can login.

It works fine, although as I said the range is very limited. Home routers don't have the power or propogation to go far.

When Vivek was at Arlington at OCTO he puhed hard for municpal wifi.

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Almost all NYC parks have free wifi. And have since before I moved here in 2009. It can't be THAT difficult. But it does require some dedication. (Wifi in the subways is taking much longer, but everything with the MTA takes much longer. Parks and plazas are a City gov thing so that was pretty early.)


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