Tag Archives: Wi-Fi

Another Great Video of Local Kids Using Free Wi-Fi in the Playground

Here’s some more videos from the new CDSC Hotspot in Clinton Hill:


Continue reading Another Great Video of Local Kids Using Free Wi-Fi in the Playground

Photos and a Video from our Clinton Hill Hotspot Launch

One of the reasons why we build free Wi-Fi hotspots is the impact it has on local communities. Our Clinton Hill Hotspot is no different — check out the great photos of kids surfing the internet. We’ve even found some budding TV stars in the 2 kids who were interviewed!



photo 3

More photos after the break…
Continue reading Photos and a Video from our Clinton Hill Hotspot Launch

PSA: "Free Public Wi-Fi" is NOT a Free Wireless Internet Hotspot

Public Service Announcement

I often get asked why our hotspots aren’t providing internet access, only to learn that someone is trying to connect to the network named “Free Public Wi-Fi”. When I explain that the network named “Free Public Wi-Fi” is not only never going to provide free internet, but is also a Microsoft Windows “virus” (in a loose sense), they are astonished.

But its true! As a result of the way Microsoft Windows XP “Preferred Network Lists” function, Windows will try to connect to each of the preferred networks in the order they appear in the Wi-Fi card’s Network Properties panel. Usually, people have a few preferred networks, and when they are at home or at work, one of them is available and Windows will connect to that Wi-Fi network.

However, in a public space, most likely there will be no network named after one of the preferred networks. As Windows tries to connect to each network name (or SSID) in turn, it eventually gets to one called “Free Public Wi-Fi”, which is likely in the list from a user’s prior attempt to get free Wi-Fi (that’s the viral part). When Windows tries the network named “Free Public Wi-Fi”, since its an “ad-hoc” network, it will start broadcasting over Wi-Fi for other computers that are also looking to join the “Free Public Wi-Fi” network.

At some point, as its broadcasting for “Free Public Wi-Fi”, someone at another computer thinks “Oh, what good luck! Someone is offering free Wi-Fi for the public,” and that person then connects to the Free Public Wi-Fi ad-hoc network, and then their computer becomes a “carrier” for the Free Public Wi-Fi virus.

Its quite unfortunate that Microsoft’s attempt to be helpful in reconnecting to a known Wi-Fi network has caused this terrible virus to propogate. While most of the time, accidentally connecting to this rogue network won’t cause your Windows computer any harm, it is possible to catch a computer virus from the computer broadcasting the rogue network. To make sure your laptop isn’t in harm’s way, make sure you have the latest Windows updates, have your firewall enabled and properly configured, and have up-to-date virus protection. And most important: check your Wi-Fi card’s Preferred Network List to make sure that the Free Public Wi-Fi network isn’t listed. If it is, be sure to delete it from the list!

And of course, if you have a Mac, since your computer won’t attempt to reconnect to the network in the same way as a Windows laptop, nor will it propogate the Free Public Wi-Fi (nor is it susceptible to Windows viruses, for that matter), you are most likely safe.

NYC MTA Looking to add Wi-Fi Services to LIRR and Metro-North Railroads

Esme Vos of MuniWireless just sent us a copy of an RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) she received from the NYC MTA about their interest in adding Wi-Fi internet access aboard LIRR and Metro-North Railroads and in stations. The RFEI is just a preliminary step in what many New Yorkers (and NJ and CT residents) think is a sorely missing feature of the MTA’s rail lines, given how many other railroads both in the US and in the rest of the world offer Wi-Fi.

There’s no mention of “Free Wi-Fi”, but that’s to be expected as this type of service is both expensive to install and requires a lot of maintenance, both costs that the MTA is likely unwilling to bear. This means that if Wi-Fi is to become available on the LIRR and Metro-North Railroads, its going to be as a for-pay service to commuters and riders. The big question the MTA is looking to answers is: What’s the best infrastructure technology to use to provide Wi-Fi internet aboard trains.

The RFEI has lots of details about ridership numbers that I haven’t seen posted elsewhere, which should help any company understand the number of users each train is likely to have. Interestingly, Metro-North riders are more likely to have internet access at home or at work (92% vs 90%) and Metro-North riders are more likely to have mobile internet access on cell phones and PDAs (42% vs 27%).

Also not discussed at all is the fact that many LIRR stations already have Wi-Fi internet access as provided by Cablevision on Long Island, though riders must be Cablevision subscribers in order to access the network.

Request for Expressions of Interest in Broadband Wireless on Trains and in Stations http://d.scribd.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=17219578&access_key=key-18mseo4j9ev7iwm6v7xs&page=1&version=1&viewMode=

Our Take: NYC RFI on "City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces"

Earlier today (Wednesday) DoITT released an RFI for “City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces” (PIN: 85809RFI0045). I’ve had a chance to review the RFI, and NYCwireless will be responding to it, but I wanted to provide a summary for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read through it yet.

Basically, the City wants to light up more Parks, and is looking for ways to make this happen. We’ve provided lots of suggestions both on and off the record [1, 2, 3], and some of what we’ve said (and certainly what we’ve successfully done) has started to seep through. We should be celebrating that the City is asking questions first before issuing a blanket RFP and they seem to have learned a bit after being burned twice before by the Parks Departments previous RFPs, but the jury is still out on how progressive their ultimate plan will be. This RFI represents baby steps in the right direction, though there’s still a long road ahead for those of us that want to see free Wi-Fi in all city parks and public spaces.

The (Mostly) Good

  • DoITT seems to recognize the value in Wi-Fi in parks and public spaces, and indicates that they are clearly aware of the work that organizations other than the Parks Department have done to grow free public Wi-Fi.
  • DoITT is open to how they should organize any public-space Wi-Fi initiative, though there are still funding issues (see below).
  • More parks are being added to the list of possible Parks Department sanctioned free Wi-Fi, however this does beg the question about how parks not on the “official” list are going to be able to get service.
  • The City wants to work with more BIDs in offering free Wi-Fi, though they don’t acknowledge the fact that the BIDs and other organizations that have created free Wi-Fi hotspots have done so without much involvement by the Parks Department, and often in spite of any blockades the Parks Department has put up.
  • DoITT is potentially open to other business models for building Wi-Fi hotspots, though as indicated below (and as I have been saying for a number of years), there aren’t any viable ones where businesses can independently fund the buildout and maintenance.
  • The City is willing to provide both signage and some publicity for the Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • The City will provide free access and use of city-owned property to facilitate the installation of equipment.
  • DoITT seems open to reducing insurance requirements for running a hotspot, but even this doesn’t go far enough. We have hotspots where there is NO equipment on park property at all (its on a neighboring building rooftop). Why such installation strategies should require ANY general or personal liability insurance is a mystery (we do carry liability insurance for equipment installation and maintenance).
  • Any submissions must be mostly non-proprietary, which means that we should all be able to read whatever companies submit for the RFI (we will publish our submission for all to read on this site). DoITT should go one step further and commit to actually publishing all submissions, so we don’t have to file Freedom of Information Law requests just to get them.

The Bad

  • DoITT talks a lot about “other comparable wireless Internet service” versus Wi-Fi. In the long term, I suppose its important to recognize that laptops and mobile devices may ship with newer wireless standards, but we’re quite a number of years off from this happening, and for the forseeable future, Wi-Fi is it–Apple introduced Wi-Fi on laptops 10 years ago, and those laptops are still compatible with today’s Wi-Fi networks.
  • Access to city-owned property isn’t the biggest issue in getting Wi-Fi deployed. Getting reasonably fast internet access lines (or WiMax uplinks) is the biggest problem. NYCwireless has had tremendous success rapidly deploying Wi-Fi equipment on building rooftops and even nearby businesses, but we (and WiFiSalon as well) have spent countless, fruitless hours getting internet lines from Verizon. In a recent example, it took over 4 months to get internet service to Wagner Park, even though our gear was installed within a month of signing a contract.
  • DoITT is looking mostly for one or a few companies to step up and do all the work. We’ve long talked about how the City can take a grass-roots approach to getting local parks and public spaces lit up, but for the most part, DoITT is focussing only on the biggest and most prominent locations. This is unfortunate, since the people in lower income and further afield areas are often the ones who benefit the most from such initiatives, but they seem to be mostly left out of this party.

The Ugly

DoITT seems mostly steadfast in their insistence (as the Parks Department has been in the past) that no City funds should be spent on any buildout or maintenance of hotspots. This is still a really big sticking point: The first Parks RFP required that a concessionaire pay significant money to the Parks department, and the second Parks RFP required that a concessionaire pay some proposed amount of money to the Parks department.

There have been only a handful of interested companies (we offered to pay $1), and the WiFiSalon, the only concessionaire that paid any fees was driven out of business by that requirement. Ad revenue is negligible since such networks see a fraction of the impressions that even a second-tier blog sees, and sponsorship dollars are only available to the most prominent parks like Madison Square Park and Bryant Park, and such deals are done only through whole-park sponsorship, not sponsorship of just the Wi-Fi network.

As I’ve said many times before and as the industry has seen countless times, Ad-based business models are unsustainable for individual hotspots and even reasonable sized hotspot networks. If DoITT and the City want to really ensure that free public Wi-Fi should be made available, and that locations other than the most highly-trafficked and well-to-do are served, they need to step up and offer alternative funding models.

One thing to consider is that the companies that can do the installation and maintenance of high-quality outdoor hotspots (there are few) don’t have big advertising or sales teams to make them self-funding. These are two orthogonal specialties and forcing a single company to be capable of both severely limits the applicant pool and threatens the business viability of any participating company. NYCwireless has been successful because we provide all of the back-end technical know how and support for free public Wi-Fi hotspots. We are paid by our partners (BIDs and others) to perform this service, and they do the money raising since that’s what they are good at.