St. Cloud Sees Muni-WiFi Woes

from the wonky-wireless dept

St. Cloud, Florida, has attracted some attention for being the first place in the US to roll out free citywide WiFi service. One month in, the city of 28,000’s 15-square-mile network is hitting some road bumps, with users complaining about dead spots and weak signal strength. It’s only been a month, so it’s still too early to condemn the network, but the tale does serve as a reminder that despite all the hype surrounding citywide WiFi, it remains something of an unproven commodity, both technically and financially. Municipal WiFi is a compelling idea that offers lots of benefits beyond just simple internet access. But the hype surrounding it is deafening, and it’s pretty obvious that these networks are going to have some teething pains, and it’s going to be a while — if ever — before they deliver all their promised benefits.

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Comments on “St. Cloud Sees Muni-WiFi Woes”

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Techie (user link) says:

The citywide WiFi race is really hard to measure. Plenty of big cities in the world are at various stages of implementing WiFi. But when can you say that you have “finished” installing WiFi in a city? There will always be bugs and other problems like signal strength even if the city claims that it has already blanketed the city 100% with wireless Internet access. Constant construction and new buildings/skyscrapers will necessarily continue to effect the quality of WiFi in a city. It will be interesting to see how citywide WiFi will be maintained in the future under these changing conditions.

On an international note, Taipei is much in the race as well. In fact, it had already started planning a citywide WiFi network as early as 2003.

Free Press and Techsploder write about Taipei’s citywide WiFi.

doug linman says:

Re: WIFI MUNI Networks

There have been more failures in standing up wireless networks that first time successes. WE have researched about 60 of the known 280 thus far, and what we have found is that basic front end engineering has been forgotten.

Architecture planning has been replaced with hyperactive buying and installing of equipment then making it work. In any structure, you must stick with the basics–network architecture planning first, layout basic drawings, then perform the RF study, confirm your mathematics and frequency selections, plan your installation with your master controllers in place first-then antennas and access points- accomplish it in short phases- so if a problem arises you know when it happened and where.

Following these simple matters and always starting out with your planned architecture will provide you a much higher level of success the first time. Our firm came from working disaster networks first where everything had to be pre-planned because the field implementation was immediate and expected to work 100% the first time. Good networking!

bob (user link) says:

bad idea

It seems to me that a ciry wide wireless network is not a good idea. I don’t want my tax money going to provide this service that I will never use, nor does the 2.4ghz spectrum need to be overridden by the city’s network. A city wide network would also allow those wishing to do illegal activities on the internet using city paid internet. Even if a lot of filtering is put in place, there will be ways to get around them.

Shannon says:

Bunch of Freakin Whiners!

Man I hate it when people whine about anything and everything. Maybe the city should have put signs up saying “City Wide WiFi (beta)” so people would know that the network is constantly under design, redesign, and re-re-design. Signals can change with the wind, foliage, number of PEOPLE in the area. There is NO way to 100% engineer a completely ubiquitous WiFi network for a city. anyone thinking it is going to happen overnight or whine about dead spots needs to get over it and realize it is a free service being provided by a municipality that has no business in that venue.

What is next? City sponsored phone, gasoline, electricity? Wait in line for bread, it’s free. In Mother Russia we get…. Socialism is a GREAT idea in theory. Bad in practice.

chuck says:

Re: Bunch of Freakin Whiners!

Muni-wireless is bad because it is govt and not corporations?

What next? toll-free roads? free police protection? Firefighting without a credit card? Won’t that just lead to soldiers protecting the rich AND the poor?

what a bunch of scoialists!

don’t you know how much better we would be with At+T highways and Verizon sewers? Haliburton soldiers, praxair air

Adron (user link) says:

Re: Re: Bunch of Freakin Whiners!

Yeah, it would be great if I could actually expect either an ROI on my forcefully taken money (taxes) or at least get what I pay for.

But then of course, when someone raking in 50k is paying several thou to state & city, several thou to ss, about a thou to medicare, and then getting hit with sales tax and federal income tax… being left with a total cash income of about 25-30k… we’ll NEVER be able to expect what we pay for from the Government.

If they did what the law outlines and not monopolize and destroy businesses thru such gestures it WOULD be a better world.

Let’s see, we’ve reduced transit capacity, decreased family and community involvement, eliminated income as something someone earns for doing a job, created income taxes, paved a few roads, lost a lot of money, and started a lot of wars ever since the Guv’ment started being socialist. U can trace the behavior all the way back to the whites going after the indians. All for the betterment of the “settlers” i.e. society. Socialism RULZ!! yeah. Let’s tax more and start more wars! wooohooo!


Grumpy Old Man says:

Get the whole story

Get the whole story before whining about wasted tax dollars. The city of St. Cloud did not install this system just for free WiFi for its citizens, which is just a side benefit. It was a tax CUTTING measure. It was determined that the city could forgo hiring 10 new building inspectors (by allowing the existing inspectors to file reports from the inspection location), as well eliminating many of the city owned cell phones. It is also worth noting that the program started on a smaller scale to attract business to the area, and then was later expanded to the whole city.

scooter (user link) says:

Muni-WIFI is a pipedream

Speaking as an ISP that has provided internet access for many years, cities that think they will somehow save money providing free internet access have a rude awakening awaiting. How are they going to deal with abusers of all sorts, drive-by spammers, and the endless calls from clueless users calling because all they know is “my email don’t work”.

When they figure out how big and difficult a task it actually is.. they’ll all throw in the towel as the real cost will unacceptable to the taxpayers.

Pessimist says:

Customer Service

When was the last time you called an FM radio station because your radio couldnt pick up the broadcast. Or complained to the bank when a drive up ATM was out of service. There is no customer support for a free service, because there are no real “customers”. The real issue should be is the eye in the sky moving in closer to your personal life without you knowing… What better way to keep current with online activity, search terms, internet predator activity than passing it through a central location and recording each transaction of data. The public tends to forget the cons-(Being watched like a child) when the Pro’s-(FREE INTERNET) seem so much more appealing. In the not very distant future I see current ISP’s providing “Chaperone Free Internet” as the premium pay service. Those who rather have the free Muni-Fi must bow to the watchdogs, who decide if you require closer monitoring……

wolff000 says:

Free WiFi Does Work

Oh no my free service is shitty! Any large wifi network is going to have dead spots and weak signal problems they are inherent to the technology. As said but apparently people don’t understand everything in an enviorment can affect the signal, when that enviorment is a city there is a whole lot to effect it. Oh and Scooter(comment 7) why would you call the city becuase you can’t get your e-mail? Last I checked an internet connection has nothing to do with e-mail other than you need a connection to get to your mail. I also saw no plan with muni wi-fi to give email addresses along with the free connection. As far as tech support for connection as stated it would be 0 since you are not paying for the service anyway. As for “wasting” tax money, look at the millions that our government wastes every day on much more frivolous stuff. Free wifi would not be one of those things as it can actually help people and foster growth in stagnant communities. Which is exactly why it was started in a few cities.

Anonymous Coward says:

call the city because...

wolffooo (post 11):
People would call the city because they’re idiots. They’ll probably have a basic understanding that they access their email by using the city internet, so that’s who they’ll call. Granted, however, it’s a free service so they won’t be providing tech support.

The fact that the government wastes a lot of money isn’t justification to waste more, it’s a reason to attempt to save more.

Aside from all that: are they expecting to replace the need for ISP’s for businesses? I can’t imagine that a business is going to use a spotty wifi network that has no support, and no one to call when it goes down. Even home users probably won’t use it because of unreliability. I can’t imagine they’re going to accomplish anything aside from the ability to (sometimes) connect to the internet on-the-go, and if someone wants to do that they could just pay $40 or so a month to use their cell phone provider for a reliable connection, now that broadband is out on mobile phones.

Elaine Cardinal says:

st cloud wi-fi

It sure is a good thing that we never had ONE problem when the INTERNET system was first put in place years ago, right?

If technology was stopped because of a few complaints, we would still be “mailing letters”, no cellphones, palm pilots would be” hands of a pilot”,

carbon paper instead of copy machines, and horses instead of vehicles, now that wouldn’t be bad with the gas costs. Let’s give those who have the knowledge a chance to work out a great planned system, it may take a couple days.

New St Cloud Resident says:

St Cloud WIFI?

I recently moved to St Cloud to a brand new subdivision. One of the selling points was the free wifi access provided by the City. In fact, there is a wifi receiver on the light pole in my front yard! I was really looking forward to utilizing the free wifi access…but even though the receiver is in my front yard…the signal is weak almost everywhere in the house. Within a week, I was purchasing my own high speed internet and setting up my own wifi router just like I had before I moved. OH WELL…SO MUCH FOR FREE WIFI…I still think it is a great idea though.

Lucas (user link) says:

Wi Fi works in St Cloud

I live about miles (by how the signal travels) from downtown St Cloud and it works great. I’m on a Dell laptop with the built in G card and it is just as responsive as my Brighthouse Cable modem. The download speeds are a consistant 4 Mb and uploading is between 500-800 Kbps. I won’t be cancelling my Internet because I need a dedicated line, but I know several of my neighbors are dropping their ISP and using the free wide area connection.

The first time you use the service, you have to sign up for a free account and it saves a cookie on your machine that allows you to use it normally each time. I am very impressed with it thus far. My girlfriend and I take our laptops to the park nearby and surf/email while enjoying being outdoors.

If you read up on the financing of the plan, you’ll see that they are saving 4-6 jobs and using funds from improved utility conservation efforts to pay for the 350K it costs per year to run it.

As far as the whole big brother complaint, they have the same amount of access to your data as any ISP you are using now. There is no difference.

I’m a supporter of it. As someone who makes a living off the Internet, it is very nice that this small town is embracing the technology at hand and giving us the ability to surf anywhere.

Michael (user link) says:

The Weak Link

I would like to shed some light on Muni-Fi for St. Cloud FL… The City is 100% covered. It is covered with very strong signal 4000 Mw. The problem for anyone that is having a connection issue is YOUR equipment. The average wireless card in a laptop or desktop broadcasts back at 30Mw. So as you can see, your equipment is the reason you don’t have good performance. There are all kinds of equipment out there that can help your individual needs. I suggest seeking professional advice to obtain professional results. Sunshine PC Solutions is the City of St. Clouds referred Wireles specialist and can help you get connected!

joe says:

Re: Re: The Weak Link

and to add some more to that when i called sunshine pc they tried to blame it on the wireless system saying it was the transmitter was the problem and there was nothing they can do about that when my friend lives right across form the same transmitter and he gets a good link. SHAME ON YOU YOU RIPE OFF.. PEOPLE DONT LET THEM RIPE YOU OFF

eric says:

dont do banking

do not do any banking or buy any thing online with the cyberspot belive me i found out the hard way some usedmy paypall account to send over $3200 to someone in dublin thru my bank said someone is sniffing the wireless and picking up on peoples passwords if you dont want any body to clean out your bank account DONT DO IT

Logic says:

Saint Cloud Got Ripped

I am a computer tecnition here in saint cloud and i can tell you cyber spot is not set up correctly. you would think an entity like HP whould have done a better job ive even heard rumers of defective routers do to water leaks I have a direct line of site to a node and still get a poor signel. dont get me wrong when its working it works well however it dosent work well all the time and no matter how good of a connection you get i get 75% some times (for a wile atleast)the spped drops below 1 mbps witch makes it inpossabe to get on a secure page like a bank statement or some email adresses the routers are substanderd and shound be half as far away frome eachouther then they are also some application that require port fowerding cant be used

Amy says:

Sunshine PC Solutions

Arrrrr Sunshine PC Solutions are a ripe off and I think something is smelling fishy in ST. Cloud. I’m new to St Cloud. so I went to on of their work shops to find out how to get on the darn thing. Talked to a lady their (comes to find out later she works for or is part owner of the darn company) tells me I need a pep link like the speaker was telling us and go to Sunshine PC Solutions. The guy going over the work shop also told us to go to Sunshine PC Solutions. So I went to them they talked me into getting setup with a (by the time they were done)a $816.00 system that only works half the time when I call them when it stopped working.. guess what they said its not our equipment its cyberspot. and wont even come out to my house without charging me to look at it. but what really makes me mad is the fact that I asked the sales guy at Sunshine PC Solutions if I can use it to pay my bills and look at my bank he said no problem its lying a$$hole someone has taking control of my ebay,paypal,and tried to transfer money out of my bank account with paypal…The guy from the bank said not to use it for banking Oh to add fuel on the fire right on St Clouds web site they are advertising for Sunshine PC Solutions and PC zone for you to purchase the peplink off of them sounds like a conflict of interest to me..

Michael says:

Re: Sunshine PC Solutions


I do not know who you are but we have never sold a Wi-Fi system for $800.00. So please do not misrepresent your facts. To clarify, CyberSpot does not allow peer to peer connectivity therefore someone who is on the network can not “Sniff” your Wi-Fi and get your information. Let me reiterate… This can not be done unless your computer has been compromised with a virus or you do not have “Normal” security measures in place. If someone got your information it is because of these reasons and not Wi-Fi. Your Wi-Fi equipment comes with a 1 year warranty at which at any point you may bring it in to the store to be tested.(Free of Charge) Since I am the owner and I do not know who you are, then I invite you to give me the opportunity to answer your questions and resolve any issues you have with the system.

pat says:

DO NOT DO ANY BUSINESS WITH SUNSHINE PC SOLUTIONS! The owner talked me into buying an expensive Wi-Fi system that has never worked right from the beginning. He refuses to correct the situation and look into the problem. He has taken my hard earned money and ran with it. The preferred vendor, he should be fired with his business being taken away. He’s a very cocky sob who doesnt give a rats behind about his customers. All he cares about is the dollars he can make. I will never do any business with sunshine pc solutions again and I will tell everyone I know, not to go there or they will be out their money too with no recourse. Shame on you!

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