Category Archives: News

Bruce Fein's New York Times Letter to the Editor

Bruce Fein, a former general counsel for the FCC under President Reagan, published a letter to the editor in today’s New York Times. He claims that Nicholas D. Kristof’s recent column “wrongly chastises New York for neglecting to emulate the citywide wireless networks in rural Oregon” due to far greater cost of deploying Wi-Fi in populated urban areas.

While Mr. Fein is correct in stating that Wi-Fi in New York would be more costly than in, say, Philadelphia (as I have written previously in this blog 1, 2), his claim that it would cost $1 billion is way off the mark. Yes, New York City recently put out an RFP for a $1 billion wireless network for police, fire, and emergency rescue use. This network is intended to be private and secure, and won’t likely use Wi-Fi (it certainly won’t use Wi-Fi in the normal 802.11a/b/g bands).

From where is Mr. Fein getting his $1 billion figure? According to JupiterResearch, the cost of building and maintaining a municipal wireless network is $150,000 per square mile over five years. Sascha Meinrath of CUWiN claims that a network with a density of 142 nodes per square mile would cost about $49,700. If we take these as a low and a high estimate, we wind up with a total cost for NYC between $15 million and $50 million. Even if we triple the JupiterResearch cost estimates, we don’t come even close to Mr. Fein’s number.

Furthermore, Mr. Fein’s claim that such a network would be entirely Wi-Fi is mis-informed. Such a network should use whatever wireless and wired technologies are appropriate. Wi-Fi happens to be the best solution for getting internet access over the “last 100 yards”. As for competition, New York could be the city that encourages the most R&D in wireless, if only the City created the right environment, perhaps by opening up more lightpole franchises at an affordable rate.

All of this doesn’t address the most important issue: only about 35% of New Yorkers have broadband, and only 10% of low-income families in New York City have broadband. And this is the most connected city in the country! We should be demanding that the Mayor and everyone else in our City Government address this situation! Wi-Fi, WiMax, Wi-whatever—wireline or wireless—it doesn’t matter. In fact, any viable solution will make use of all of these technologies, as well as some others that aren’t even released yet.

We shouldn’t look at this problem as being so large and costly that we can’t address it. We can start small. NYCwireless and its partners have brought free Wi-Fi to many City parks and other public spaces. And we continue to bring public Wi-Fi to low income buildings and other neighborhoods. Working together, we (and every single New Yorker) can make a difference.

New World Record for Unamplified Wireless Networking

“Loaded for bear.” That quaint phrase means that you have the biggest, baddest gun, loaded with the biggest, baddest bullet, because you may have to shoot a big, bad bear. It indicates that you have gone all out in an effort to be prepared for any situation.

“Loaded for bear” describes perfectly a team of determined young college students calling themselves “iFiber Redwire,” who, with parents, family and friends in tow, traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio to a rugged desert area near Las Vegas, Nevada to compete in the 3rd Annual Defcon Wifi Shootout Contest. The contest challenges teams to wirelessly connect two computers at extreme distances using the radio technology known as “WiFi,” and, on July 30, 2005, the efforts of iFiber Redwire paid off in an impressive way. After part of the team drove a trailer loaded with equipment to Utah Hill, near Beaver Dam in the state of Utah, iFiber Redwire used a fascinating collection of homemade antennas, surplus 12 foot satellite dishes, home-welded support structures, scaffolds, ropes and computers to wirelessly connect to their comrades who were located southwest of Las Vegas at the top of Mount Potosi. The final result was a full 11 Mbps data transfer rate over a distance of 125 miles, a new world record for an unamplified wireless networking connection.

More information and contest results will be posted soon to the official contest website at

Released by the Defcon Wifi Shootout Contest Staff.

Congratulations to NYCwireless for Creating the Best Hotspot in New York City

The Wall Street Journal on July 19 featured an article titled “Testing Out Wi-Fi Hot Spots”, in which Annelena Lobb puts a number of hotspot providers in New York City to the test. While she mostly had success with all of the hotspots she tried out, one in particular stood out:

But a number of our Wi-Fi experiences were pleasant. In the city’s Bryant Park, which has free Wi-Fi, the service worked seamlessly.

While NYCwireless no longer runs the Bryant Park hotspot, we sure did build it, and it still operates as flawlessly and with the same equipment as it did 3 years ago when we lit up Bryant Park.

This is a great testament to the knowledge and value of Community Wireless Networks in general, and NYCwireless in particular!

Maine Becomes First State to Allow Municipalities to Broadband Networks

As reported via MuniWireless, Maine has become the first state to explicitly allow municipalities to create broadband networks. This is a great development for the growth of free choice and locally driven broadband network creation. This is a very progressive stance, and one that is exactly opposite of the restrictive policies of number of other states. Indeed, allowing municipalities to make their own decisions is an important freedom that all local governments should have. Restricting municipal networks serves only the Telecom and Cable companies, and prevents municipal governments from providing important safety, security, and emergency services.

NYCwireless Appointed to FCC Consumer Advisory Committee

FCC Consumer Advisory Committee
Released: March 8, 2005

Members of Consumer Advisory Committee Named; Announcement of Date and Agenda of First Meeting and Future 2005 Meeting Dates

By this Public Notice, the Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) announces the appointment of members to its Consumer Advisory Committee (“Committee”). The Commission further announces the date and agenda of the Committee’s first meeting as well as future meeting dates in calendar year 2005. On December 14, 2004, the Commission issued a Public Notice announcing the re-chartering of the Committee and solicited applications for membership (see DA 04-3892), as subsequently published in the Federal Register at 69 FR 78024-01, December 29, 2004.

Purpose & Functions

The purpose of the Committee is to make recommendations to the Commission regarding consumer issues within the jurisdiction of the Commission and to facilitate the participation of consumers (including people with disabilities and underserved populations, such as Native Americans and persons living in rural areas) in proceedings before the Commission.

During its two (2) year term, the Committee will address a number of topics including, but not limited to, the following areas:

  • Consumer protection and education (e.g., cramming, slamming, consumer friendly billing, detariffing, bundling of services, Lifeline/Linkup programs, customer service, privacy, telemarketing abuses, and outreach to underserved populations, such as American Indians and persons living in rural areas);
  • Access by people with disabilities (e.g., telecommunications relay services, closed captioning, accessible billing, and access to telecommunications products and services);
  • Impact upon consumers of new and emerging technologies (e.g., availability of broadband, digital television, cable, satellite, low power FM, and the convergence of these and emerging technologies); and
  • Implementation of Commission rules and consumer participation in the FCC rulemaking process.


The Commission received seventy (70) applications for membership on the Committee, from twenty-three (23) states and the District of Columbia. After a careful review of these applications, thirty-five (35) members were appointed to the Committee. Of this number, ten (10) members represent consumer interests; ten (10) members represent disability interests; two (2) members represent the interests of state regulators, two (2) members represent tribal interests and eleven (11) members represent industry interests. The Committee’s slate is designed to be representative of the Commission’s many constituencies, and the expertise and diversity selected will provide a balanced point of view as required by the Federal Advisory Committee Act. In addition, Chairman Michael K. Powell has appointed Shirley L. Rooker, President, Call For Action, as the Committee’s Chairperson and Commissioner Charles Davidson, Florida Public Service Commission, as the Committee’s Vice Chairperson. All appointments are effective immediately and shall terminate November 19, 2006, or when the committee is terminated, whichever is earlier.

The roster of the Committee, as appointed by Chairman Powell, is as follows:

  1. AARP, Debra Berlyn;
  2. Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians, John F. Stensgar;
  3. Alliance for Public Technology, Daniel Phythyon;
  4. Benton Foundation, Charles Benton;
  5. Brugger Consulting, David Brugger;
  6. Call For Action, Shirley L. Rooker (CAC Chairperson);
  7. Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, Carolyn Brandon;
  8. Community Broadcasters Association, Louis A. Zanoni;
  9. Community Technology Foundation of California, Laura Efurd;
  10. Consumer Electronics Association, Julie M. Kearney;
  11. Consumers First, Inc., Jim Conran;
  12. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Action Network, Claude Stout;
  13. Florida Public Service Commission, Commissioner Charles Davidson (CAC Vice Chairperson);
  14. Georgia Centers for Advanced Telecommunications Technology, Helena Mitchell;
  15. Hamilton Telephone Company, d/b/a Hamilton Relay Service, Dixie Ziegler;
  16. Ideal Group, Inc., Steve Jacobs;
  17. Inclusive Technologies, Jim Tobias;
  18. International Association of Audio Information Services, George (Mike) Duke;
  19. Rebecca Ladew (representing the interests of users of speech-to-speech technology);
  20. League for the Hard of Hearing, Joseph Gordon;
  21. Media Access Group WGBH, Larry Goldberg;
  22. National Association of Broadcasters, Marsha MacBride;
  23. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Commissioner Ron Jones;
  24. National Association of State Relay Administration, Brenda Kelly-Frey;
  25. National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, Joy M. Ragsdale;
  26. National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Loretta P. Polk;
  27. National Captioning Institute, Joel Snyder;
  28. Nextel Communications, Inc., Kent Y. Nakamura;
  29. NYC Wireless, Laura Forlano;
  30. Mark Pranger (individual with expertise in telecommunications law and policy);
  31. Sprint Corporation, Brent Burpee;
  32. Time Warner, Inc., Tom Wlodkowski;
  33. T-Mobile, Thomas Sugrue;
  34. Verizon Communications, Richard T. Ellis, and
  35. Linda Oliver West (individual representing the interests of the Native American community and other consumers concerned with telecommunications services in rural America).

Meeting Dates

The first meeting of the Committee will take place on Friday, April 29, 2005, 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., at the Commission’s Headquarters Building, Room TW-C305, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20554. Future meetings of the Committee during calendar year 2005 will take place on Friday, July 15th and Friday, November 18th, at the same time and location.

At its April 29, 2005 meeting, the Committee will address matters of internal business and organization, including the establishment of working groups, and will consider various consumer issues within the jurisdiction of the Commission. Meetings are open to the public.

The Committee is organized under, and operates in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C., App. 2 (1988). Minutes of meetings are available for public inspection at the FCC and are posted on the Commission’s website at Meetings are broadcast on the Internet in Real Audio/Real Video format with captioning at Meetings are sign language interpreted with real-time transcription and assistive listening devices available. Meeting agendas and handout materials are provided in accessible formats. The meeting site is accessible to people with disabilities.

Members of the public may address the Committee or may send written comments to: Scott Marshall, Designated Federal Officer of the Committee.


To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).

For further information contact: Scott Marshall, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, 202-418-2809 (voice) or 202-418-0179 (TTY), (e-mail).

– FCC –