CITI's 25th Anniversary Celebration Invite and Discount Code for NYCwireless Members

Eli Noam, the Director of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI) emailed me an invite to CITI’s 25th Anniversary Celebration and Conference. All NYCwireless members can attend this great celebration at a discount! We’ll be there, and hope you can be also.

See below for the invitation and discount code.

We would be pleased if the members of NYCwireless could attend a 25th anniversary celebration of Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI). CITI is a research center at Columbia Business School that has published over 70 books, written more than thousand articles, and hosted over 200 conferences, bringing together illustrious speakers and accomplished alumni to explore the wonderfully dynamic fields of Telecom and Electronic Mass Media.

Our 25th anniversary celebration will begin with a Gala Dinner on Thursday, October 30th. Speakers include Vint Cerf of Google, the man who is credited as being the “father” of the Internet. Also, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, who used to be on our board, and Washington’s foremost communications lawyer, Richard Wiley. The following day, Friday, October 31st, CITI will host a full day conference, The Next Generation of Communication: The Dawning of the Ultra-Broadband Era. This conference will explore the next generation of broadband– personal ultra-broadband (connections above 1Gbps, hundreds of times faster than most of today’s broadband) — and the vast changes in mass media, consumer electronics, and ICT that this technology will drive. (For more information on these events go to http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/citi/events/summit2008)

As a token of our appreciation for your assistance in circulating this announcement, we would like to offer your members of a 10% discount off the regular admission price to the gala and conference. Please feel free to send the attached PDF as an email announcement to your associates and provide them with discount code NYCWLS10 so that they can get the discount when registering. Please use the following link to register eRSVP.

With Kind Regards,

Eli M. Noam
Professor of Finance and Economics
Director, Columbia Institute for Tele-Information

CITI 25th Anniversary Celebration and Conference Details (pdf)

NYCwireless Testimony for NY City Council Hearing: The Regulation and Use of the Unallocated Portion of the Radio Spectrum, Also Known as White Spaces

This is the testimony that I gave and submitted to the NY City Council:

NYCwireless New York City Council Testimony on White Spaces (pdf)

NYCwireless Testimony to the New York City Council
Regulation and Use of the Unallocated Portion of the Radio Spectrum, Also Known as White Spaces

Ladies and Gentlemen of the New York City Council and friends and guests, thank you for inviting me to speak. My name is Dana Spiegel, and I am the Executive Director of the non-profit NYCwireless, which builds free, public Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces throughout New York City.

I come today not to talk about the FCC’s plans or the facts about white space devices. I also will not speak about Broadway and Off-Broadway, which is an important cultural resource for this great city. Nor will I speak about the company Shure and other wireless microphone manufacturers, who have admitted to spreading false information about the impact of white space devices on existing equipment. Other presenters here today will speak extensively about these subjects.

I wish to speak solely about the value of such white space devices for all of New York City, and draw some parallels to a similar technology, Wi-Fi, and its history. I believe there are enough similarities between white space devices and Wi-Fi that we can draw some realistic conclusions about what might actually happen when white space spectrum becomes available.

Wi-Fi uses radio frequency spectrum covered under the FCC’s Part 15, which allows companies to manufacture and sell certified devices that operate in the 2.4Ghz frequency range, and allows anyone to purchase such devices and operate them without applying for an FCC broadcast license. If you use Wi-Fi in your home, office or park, you are using a Part 15 device. The same goes for bluetooth headsets used with mobile phones, and baby monitors, garage door openers, and some cordless phones.

The precursor to 802.11 technology was invented in 1991, and since then has enjoyed tremendous success. You’d be hard pressed to find a computer user today who hasn’t used Wi-Fi at some point. But it was never imagined to be such a ubiquitous or widely used technology. It was always originally expected that Wi-Fi devices would be used in large office buildings only, and consumer use was never considered.

In 2000, in New York and a few other cities like Boston and Seattle, technologists started to use the Wi-Fi devices to do the unimaginable: share the internet with their neighbors. NYCwireless was founded in 2001 with the pioneering purpose of using this technology to broadcast internet access to local neighborhoods. One of the first public hotspots in the world was in our own Tompkins Square Park.

Back then, devices were neither easy to use nor cheap to purchase for consumers. If you had a laptop, you could buy a Wi-Fi card and access point each for a few hundred dollars. But if you went to Tompkins Square Park or Bryant Park, you could do something that no one else in the world could do: sit under a tree and surf the internet.

Since 2000, New York City has seen dozens of parks lit up by NYCwireless and others, and each year more parks and public spaces are brought online. New York City was host to the first ever wireless arts festival, called Spectropolis, in 2003 and 2004, held in City Hall Park. NYCwireless and others have lit up dozens of affordable housing residences, providing residents the ability to get online and have a critically important lifeline. None of these achievements would have been possible without the FCC enabling the free, unlicensed use of the 2.4Ghz spectrum range.

But even more impressive than these achievements has been the explosion of Wi-Fi usage throughout New York City. Just about every business, both big and small, makes use of Wi-Fi. Cafés, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops offer Wi-Fi to their customers, and a significant percentage of the over 8 million residents in this city use Wi-Fi in their homes.

With all of these people using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, you don’t often hear about interference issues. Just about everyone makes use of Wi-Fi in their homes and businesses without issue. Bluetooth headsets work everywhere you walk. Baby monitors and cordless phones, devices that use the same tiny sliver of 2.4Ghz spectrum, work just fine too.

With all of its success, its surprising that Wi-Fi is in part utterly unlike the types of devices that the FCC is considering for use of white space frequencies. The biggest difference is that the proposed FCC rules for white space devices ensure they won’t interfere with existing spectrum users, and that devices will contain technology to move around the white space spectrum to ensure that they never interfere. These tested devices have successfully proved that such technology is achievable, as have Bluetooth devices which contain similar intelligence.

In discussing this history of Wi-Fi, and highlighting its achievements, I hope to paint a picture for the Council about what white space devices may mean for New York City. Such devices have the possibility of enabling larger scale internet broadcast, providing inexpensive or free access to whole neighborhoods from the central anchor of a park. More buildings will be able to be retrofitted with internet access, a current challenge for a number of older NYCHA buildings. Schools and libraries will become internet hubs for their neighbors. In short, the amazing things we’ve done with Wi-Fi will be amplified with the availability of white space devices.

The FCC already has proposed white space device rules in place that ensure non-interference. Indeed, New York City, and Broadway (who makes use of Wi-Fi in their theaters to provide internet access to stage and production staff), stand to benefit enormously from white space devices, even while continuing to use their existing technology. Imagine if, instead of just using wireless microphones for audio, we could have videos of performances could be broadcast and entire neighborhoods could participate in such events.

Additional Reading
New America Foundation Wireless Future Program
Free Press, White Spaces: Bringing the Internet to Everyone
GigaOm: 1 and 2
People’s Production House

NY City Council Hearing: The Regulation and Use of the Unallocated Portion of the Radio Spectrum, Also Known as White Spaces on Sep 28 @ 10am

The New York City Council is holding a hearing on “The Regulation and Use of the Unallocated Portion of the Radio Spectrum, Also Known as White Spaces” on Monday, September 28th @ 10am in the Committee Room at City Hall. I will be there presenting on behalf of NYCwireless. We need as many people as we can get to attend and support us.

Here’s a press release from Josh Breitbart and Free Press about the hearing:

Groups Call on NYC to Open Public Airwaves to New Technology

City Council should embrace ‘white spaces’ and bring high-speed Internet to all New Yorkers

NEW YORK — Community media, public interest and immigrant rights advocates are calling on the New York City Council to endorse “white spaces” technology that could boost the economy and drive down the cost of mobile phone calls and Internet access.

White spaces are the unused portions of the public airwaves between television channels. According to a study conducted by Free Press, one-fifth of New York City’s television channels are currently not being used. New technology can use this vacant spectrum to send powerful, high-speed Internet signals — connecting New Yorkers to a fast, open and affordable Internet.

“Opening the white spaces would close the digital divide, and it wouldn’t cost us a dime — or, rather, it would save us a lot more than a dime on what we’re paying now for Internet access and cell phone service,” said Joshua Breitbart, policy director of People’s Production House.

The Federal Communications Commission is currently considering whether to open up the white spaces to the public. Engineers at the FCC, through extensive testing, have shown that low-power, mobile devices can utilize white spaces to connect to the Internet without interfering with TV broadcasts and wireless microphones on adjacent channels.

Lobbyists from the National Association of Broadcasters, cell phone carriers and wireless microphone companies have launched a misinformation campaign to prevent white spaces from being used to provide high-speed broadband access.

“Unfortunately, many key decision-makers simply lack the bandwidth to investigate the benefits of white spaces technology,” said Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press. “Instead they hear misinformation from industry lobbyists who come knocking with lies and spin meant to paint this technology as a danger to humanity.”

A draft resolution currently before the City Council, sponsored by Councilmember Gale Brewer and Speaker Christine Quinn, claims white space devices would be “devastating” to Broadway productions. The City Council Committee on Technology in Government is holding a hearing on the resolution on Monday, Sept. 29, 2008, at 10 a.m., in the Committee Room of City Hall. It is a public forum where anyone can testify.

“White spaces could provide an affordable alternative for people like me who use expensive phone cards to call family and friends back home in other countries,” said Abdulai Bah of Nah We Yone, a community group that advocates for African refugees in New York.

The Internet is Serious Business Film Screening on Sept 30 @ 7:30pm

I, along with Joe Plotkin and a number of other Community Wireless and network innovators, gave a talk a while ago for at People’s Production House. It was a great experience talking about the history of NYCwireless and the Community Wireless movement, and the students were very engaging and asked a lot of thoughtful questions.

The talks were recorded and edited into a movie, which will premiere on September 30. Everyone is invited to attend the screening:

An alien comes to New York City to discover how humans communicate, and is intrigued by the huge networks of cables, routers, and servers that we call the Internet. Who owns all that stuff and how does it work? Join us at Anthology Film Archives for the debut screening of the video “The Internet is Serious Business.” CUP Teaching Artist Helki Frantzen worked with People’s Production House and students from City-As-School to produce this Urban Investigation about the physical infrastructure that undergirds the Internet. Please RSVP to info@anothercupdevelopment.org

The Internet is Serious Business
Tuesday, September 30 at 7:30 pm
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St.)
New York, NY
F/V to 2nd Ave
free and open to the public

Sheraton Hotel Lobbies to Appear in Central Park (with Free Wi-Fi)

1010WINS reports that:

Frits van Paasschen, president and chief executive of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., wants New Yorkers to go to work in Central Park on Monday.

Over 34,000 square feet of the park, Starwood plans to recreate the high-tech lounges it’s introducing in the lobbies of Sheraton hotels and resorts. The company also is offering free Wi-Fi to the public through the rest of September in the park’s famous Sheep Meadow.

We don’t have photos of this yet, but if you visit Central Park and can snap some pictures, please send them in and we’ll post them!

OneWebDay Tech Demos

Where: NYU’s Courant Institute (251 Mercer, corner West 4th).
When: 7-9pm, Saturday Sept. 20
What: This free public event will be run in the style of the New York Tech Meetup: 4 to 6 short demos, 5 to 10 minutes each, with time for mingling afterwards. We will showcase applications that:

  • Are cutting edge
  • Fit this year’s theme of online participation in democracy
  • Are fully developed and ready for use.

Details: http://www.onewebday.org/base/index.php/2008_Tech_Demos_Planning