Hopefully our readers have not been sleeping. While much of the world has been watching WiMax deploys stall. (Bad economy, bad decisions, bad deploys.) Another tech has creped up next to WiMax — Super WiFi.
Background. sWiFi is WiFi with longer range and newer frequencies. The FCC granted approval to use the `white spaces` between the old analog TV channels now that the TV industry has transitioned to digital on different frequencies.
On the equipment front the first moves by most of the WiFi providers has been a boost in wattage in the current 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. Thats the same frequencies that the a/b/g/n ranges use today. The extra power has been able to boost range from a practical limit of a few miles to 25 miles in some cases. Longer term, the equipment providers will come to the front with devices that will utilize the longer distance TV frequencies. With multi antenna polar installs ranges of 50+ miles could be entertained.
This still on the drawing board stuff? Nope. Rice university has already trialed a deploy here in Texas. More here. Fact this could be something any average ham or electronic hobbyist should be able to do. An existing WiFi AP fed to a 1-5w power RF amp on existing frequencies could be utilized. The trick is to select an appropriate amp for the frequencies.
Upsides. Everything you know about WiFi is the same. The usual tools, tricks, and security schemes apply. That is a large savings in educational ramp up.
Downsides. All the problems associated with security on WiFi still apply too. Be cognizant of that fact. The other of course, with the longer ranges it is quite possible for ad hoc set ups to step all over each other.
Futures. For rural, low density locations this may well be the solution for them. Permitting is not an issue. With WiMax stalled, sWiFi may take over. When it is possible for a community of people to erect their own community AP’s and buy high gain receivers off the shelf it will take off.
What triggered the creation of this Blog may well be at hand in the next couple of years.
You’d think AT&T had spread enough money around in Washington to keep this from happening. Apparently not. Senate Anti Trust leader Herb Kohl has made it pretty clear this buy should not happen in an official communique to the FCC.
Kohl said in his letter that the merger would concentrate the U.S. wireless market too much.
“I have concluded that this acquisition, if permitted to proceed, would likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers, would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies,” Kohl wrote.
A proposal being considered by Congress will allow unlicensed use of spectrum only if its potential users are willing to pay the highest bid for it. The bill is being spun as a way to put an end to a free ride for corporations like Google. Unfortunately it is a far more sinister attack on everyone’s freedom.
Among the proposals, the law sets up an auction system for the allocation of spectrum for unlicensed use—think “white space” devices and WiFi. The Federal Communications Commission would be required to conduct auctions in which bidders could declare their intention to buy spectrum for licensed or unlicensed deployment.
But (our italics): “The Commission may only exercise its authority under this Act to allocate a portion of the spectrum for unlicensed use if—the bids for unlicensed use, in the aggregate, exceed the highest bid for such license.”
If an unlicensed spectrum sale went through under this condition, the FCC would be forbidden to impose any rules on the sale winner that “limits the ability of a licensee to manage the use of its network, including management of the use of applications, services, or devices on its network, or to prioritize the traffic on its network as it chooses.” (Ars Technica)
There are a couple of issues at work here. Congress is unwilling to restrain its insane spending, so any new source of revenue is attractive. It could also justify the continued existence of the FCC, which has become an agency without a real mission. The other is Congressional sweetharts, AT&T and Verizon want to lock up virtually all available spectrum. The real reason for this is to lock out new competitors, not to deliver better service.
New wireless technology is making it possible to deliver reasonably good service at a far lower cost than in the past. Open, unlicensed spectrum could mean a more open market for small players to enter the fringes of the market. Why should the wireless cartel fear new players in the fringes? Companies like Wal Mart began in fringe markets. Eventually fringe players could be a threat.
Congress and FCC need to be reminded that radio spectrum is defined by law as a public commons. While giving more control to a few oligarchies will bring in revenue and perhaps justify the continues existence of the FCC, neither of these are in the public interest. The best solution to spectrum scarcity is to put more of it in the commons for all to use. Oligarchs would be free to do business there along with everyone else, but they would also have to compete. For some reason these folks would rather pay any price than face a new competitor. It’s probably the same reason that Congress has labored long and hard to keep power exclusively in the hands of two political parties.
The customer in question did exceed his his 250GB cap two months in a row. So did Comcast decide to make an example of him to warn its other customers of the dire consequences of too much Netflix? I’m happy to do my part to the get the word out.
Andre Vrignaud lost his Comcast account for going over 250 GB two months in a row, mainly from using various legal online services, including Pandora and Netflix. He had also switched to a new online backup service, and the initial upload used up a bunch of bandwidth. He did admit to downloading a few things via BitTorrent (a UK show not available in the US), but it seems clear that most of his internet usage was perfectly legitimate. And now he has no account, and Comcast won’t let him back on for a year. They won’t even let him buy a more expensive package. (Techdirt)
Fortunately for Mr. Vrignaud, he should be able to get service from AT&T. Unfortunately, it does not offer the same speed, and it has a lower cap. Maybe he can sign up for two AT&T accounts and carefully monitor his use of the first to switch to the second when its cap is reached?
Sound ridiculous? Welcome to the reality of a duopoly, headed to monopoly. Admittedly, Andre is a heavy user. In the new reality of a cloud world, he’s not an isolated case. More of us are becoming heavy users of legitimate services every day. Unfortunately in a non competitive environment the service provider, not the customer determines what level of service is appropriate. An appropriate service level to accommodate Andre at a fair price would be available if we had an open, competitive market. I fear we’re getting close to the time when broadband users will be visiting Congress en mass with torches and pitchforks. Fixing is would be so easy if even half the members of that body had an ounce of courage and the will to give up duopoly perks.
In broadband policy, one could argue the French have been leading the world. France relies on a relatively open market that has created an abundance of options and very high standards for consumer broadband service. In contrast, American policy relies on bureaucrats and pols picking winners and losers. This has given the US artificially scarce, substandard service at high prices. The average French city dweller has broadband all but a lucky few Americans can only dream about for about the cost of a night out at the movies. What about wireless? Most of us dream of a single connection we could use with any and all of our wireless devices. In France and a few other European countries, that dream is a reality.
For a couple of months now, France Telecom’s Orange unit has been allowing iPad owners in Austria to share one allotment of data with a phone, while other shared data plans were recently launched in France, the United Kingdom and Spain.
Although the plans vary somewhat by country, the basic premise is the same. Users pay an extra couple of dollars a month for each additional device that shares data — similar to the way families and businesses here have long been able to share minutes between multiple phones.
“We believe that’s really a way for the future,” said Olaf Swantee, senior executive vice president for France Telecom’s Orange unit. (Wall Street Journal)
While there is more wireless competition in much of Europe, there are also regulations that separate devices from service. Most Europeans shop for their device(s) before choosing a service provider. To be fair in making comparisons, a single standard (GSM slowly shifting to LTE) makes things a little simpler, but modern technology has pretty much negated that advantage with programmable transceiver circuits on a chip. In other words, network agnostic devices would be readily available here in our multi-standard world too if the market was open. By the way, thanks to a more open market, Europeans also tend to pay less for devices than we currently do.
Why not here, you ask? It’s certain consumers would flock to the carrier(s) who offered all device access via a competitively priced catch all account. After all, that’s essentially how we use our fixed connections. The hard reality is that we have a Wireless Cartel that prefers things the way that they are with a subscription for every device. And… our pols and regulators are aggressively defending that status quo. We could change this, but we’ll need to make far more noise than we’re making today. With AT&T and Verizon consistently placing in the top ten lobbying spenders, that noise needs to be deafening to overcome appeal of the perks reps and regulators enjoy. The message that needs to be delivered is simple: No more than 2o% of available spectrum can be controlled by any single entity, and all devices must be sold unlocked. With these fair, open market rules in place, competition will take care of the rest.
Calling the regulations the “most egregious of all violations of federal law,” Mr. Cuccinelli told The Washington Times on Thursday that he will begin in July or August to gather support from other attorneys general and private partners for a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission.
“They have no respect for the courts, no respect for the states, no respect for the Constitution, no respect for federal law,” Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, said during an appearance on Capitol Hill at a lunch meeting of the National Italian-American Foundation.
Mr. Cuccinelli has engaged the federal government in legal battles related to other hot-button political issues, including health care and climate change. The net neutrality issue has become a cause celebre for Republicans who fear the Obama administration is attempting to control the Internet.
The regulations were approved Dec. 21 by the five-member board of the FCC over the objections of its two Republican members and are expected to go into effect this summer.
Is he right? Probably. Conceptually Net Neutrality, wherein there are no tiers or right of way charge for access is laudable. That is not however what we have in the current regs. Fact it is doubtful that the FCC even has the charter to do so if the reading of the first District court is to be believed.
Va’s uphill battle however is in how they go about it. They won’t be able to attack it directly on regulatory grounds. Its a creature of the Congress and SCOTUS gives broad latitude to the Legislature on such matters. No, Va will have to do so on Constitutional grounds which will be a tougher nut. I wish them luck, but I won’t hold my breath.