Another Muni WiFi Network Gets An Early Thumbs Down

from the good-idea-bad-execution dept

Earlier this month, the city of Corpus Christi, Texas launched its municipal WiFi network, which its vendor said was the largest of its kind, covering more than 100 square miles. However, like some other muni WiFi projects, early reviews don’t sound too encouraging — complaints echoed earlier this month in Portland as well. It’s the same sort of thing early users in other cities have reported: weak signal strength, low speeds and difficulty connecting. Many of these problems occur when people try to use the services indoors (as one does), highlighting one of the drawbacks of using WiFi for this type of application: it doesn’t penetrate buildings well, particularly when the router’s at some distance away. Many of the network vendors say users need to buy repeaters to overcome this, something that takes away some of the “free” aspect of these networks, as well as something that takes away from their attraction to visitors. While we remain bullish on the general idea of municipal broadband, it’s still not clear at all that WiFi is the best way to deliver it. Many of the muni WiFi “success stories” raise as many questions as they answer, and the truth of how well these networks are working remains pretty muddy. Again, municipal broadband is an idea with a lot of merit, but it looks like a lot of muni-WiFi rollouts are based on the wrong reasons, and are possibly just using the wrong technology.

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Jacomo says:

Metro Area Wireless Mesh Nets are the way to go

We will hear a great deal more about these poorly designed Mesh Networks being deployed and operated Nationwide for the following reasons:
1. Wrong Technology selected and deployed. One and Two Radios Mesh products will not provide the big pipes and performance demanded by the users-we are no longer just providing Email checks but users are demanding and downloading Videos/Audio and P2P links-These networks will continue to have congestion problems. Adding more Nodes/AP to a network (the latest spin by the likes of Cisco & Tropos) or adding another Canopy Gateway (every 3 nodes) is a band-aid that will eventually bring these providers back to the Muni with their hands out.
So much for free much less fee based networks.
2. The Wireless Mesh Networks are primarily an Outdoor access network providing very high speed access to users in well defined sectors with select indoor coverage options.
Not a universal coverage network promised by many (Free is best) to their Muni to win the RFP. In addition if these networks were to provide indoor coverage as well as outdoor the demand on each of these Nodes/AP will increase dramatically as the fixed users begin demanding real Broadband Links (2-6 Mbps) and precedence.
Wait until VoiceIP amd P2P gaming and audio exchanges begin flooding these outdoor networks.
The providers will need these commercial fixed users accessing the Wireless Mesh if they are to be profitable-free ad supported networks will not hack it-one needs real revenue $$$ to build and maintain these new networks.
The eventual winners here will be those providers and vendors who develop and deploy a mutiple (3-6 Radio) mesh technologies that will be able to cover the demands mentioned above and be upgradable in the field to bring these new Radios/Spectrum:4.9Ghz Public Safety, new 802.11n based 2.4 & 5Ghz radios and support WiMAX Mobile to the markets.

2007 prediction:
1. We will see more of these 1 & 2 Radio networks fail and or Muni begin stepping in to save these networks.
2. The Sprints, Verizon Wireless and Cingular will soon exploit the failure of these poorly designed Wireless Mesh networks in their positioning of their new Narrowband (400-700Kbps) data and cell voice services.
3. Those Service providers and Muni who take a serious look at the above limitations in technology and design and place the emphasis on selecting the right technology and or the Munis making the service provider provide a Performance Bond that guarantees their work will be able to deliver a true broadband Metro Area Wireless Network for their employees and their residence.

4. We will see a major convergence of WiFi(Mesh)/WiMAX (Fixed and Mobile) and Cellular networks allowing subscribers with Dual Mode Handhelds to finally be able to work (FMC) within each of the above networks this coming year and eventually (2008) be able to roam within and between these diverse networks with solid handoffs.


Eileen says:

new orleans muniwifi

I recently visited the otherwise lovely and nicely recovering city of new orleans for a football game. I needed to locate a friend’s hotel, so I thought I would just pull over and use the muni wifi I had heard about. Unfortunately, it’s apparently only free for residents (with a lengthy application form) and you have to pay if you are a visitor! This is about as useless as those exorbitantly priced “day passes” they sell in airports. Maybe if I were made of money I wouldn’t mind, but I already pay $40/mo for DSL, and I’m not about to hand out cash for something I can call my mom to look up for me (or to alleviate boredom for a half hour waiting for a plane). Do people really pay for this crap?

Bill Adams (profile) says:

Corpus Christi WIFI

I’ve used the CCTexas Wifi. If you’re sitting in just the right spot, you can get a decent connection, but move one cushion either way, and you’re dropped. And that’s assuming you know to start by going to the city web site to accept the usage agreement. Later, they plan to charge up to 30 bucks a month and seem to think folks will do this rather than have cable or DSL. It started as a project to be able to read water meters without humans walking the neigborhood, but some consultant sold them a bill of goods.

bodhiguy says:

Folks. This is simply a matter of using the wrong radios, with underpowered amps, and not measuring downtilt and fresnel zone effectively. Above all however, it sure would help if manufacturers would make 900MHZ PCMCIA cards. 2.4 GHZ does not do well with obstructions such as walls, windows, doors, and above all microwave ovens. Who was the brain surgeon who thought using the “garbage bands” namely 2.4GHZ, the same frequency that microwave ovens use, would be a good idea ? Doh ! Really folks, this can be done and done well, it just takes some planning and trust from the guys with the purse strings. Believe me, I’ve done it and done it well. Want to know how to do it yourself or need help, contact me offline at ryanthemurietagroupcom

Best to all in the new year.

ex-wisp admin says:

hobbiest network connection

Bodhiguy is full of stuff! Starting with underpowered amps … He may be able to illegally amplify his signal in the middle of nowhere, but the FCC will take notice of a public wifi sponsored by a municipality. Going to pretend he never mentioned down tilt … Fresnel zone applies to point to point radio shots, what we are discussing here are point to multi-point connections… It’s true that 900MHz is more line of sight tolerant than 2.4GHz, such a shame that the transferable bandwidth is so low. Bodhiguy should make friends with someone owning a spectrum analyzer, this way he would learn that the 900MHz spectrum is just as crowded(more so, in some areas).
I know … lets start using the ultra low frequencies that subs communicate with from under the ocean. Or better yet, perhaps packet by carrier pigeon!
The bottom line is that wireless networking sucks to date for muni-hotspot applications. It may someday get there, but not by switching out radios using saturated lower band frequencies. For optimum performance it would also be nice to find an area devoid of weather 😉

Myself (user link) says:

Been there, done that.

900MHz worked just fine for Metricom’s Ricochet network, still does in some areas. They’re getting ~200kbps per user and have plenty of capacity for hundreds of active users per square mile, which is better than most muni wifi offerings achieve in practice.

Spectrum is only half of it, geographic frequency reuse is the other part of the equation. The smaller your cells are, the more data you can move.

Tommy Jefferson says:

Oh great. More welfare.

With a 9 Trillion dollar National Debt, the United States needs to stop putting silliness like this on its national credit card.

If there is a need for city-wide WiFi, a private concern will provide it cheaper and better than any local government program.

Perhaps municipalities should also provide free gasoline. That would stimulate commerce for local merchants.

Lucas McDonnell (user link) says:

The thing about free muni wifi is...

…it’s rarely, if ever, permanently and openly free. While it’s often billed as offering very democratic, costless web access, the opposite usually ends up being true.

Toronto’s plan for muni wifi is a classic example of this. Much like Bill Adams’ statement above, it started out with a plan to read electricity meters. They have offered a service that was free for 6 months, and that they now say will be ‘competitively priced’.

While it is wireless, and whether you agree or disagree with the politics of the matter, it really is just another offering from another ISP.

I don’t know of a place that has completely free, open muni wifi access (although I’m not saying that one doesn’t exist). Does anyone else know of anywhere that does?

Rick says:

Corpus Christi Wi-Fried

I don’t understand the Corpus Christi Wi-Fi. I have a Wireless-N card with a desktop antenna (Linksys WMP300N).

I installed the software, installed the card and connect to cctex. hit ok for their user agreement and I was doing a Windows Update at 5mb/sec and I thought WOW! About 15 minutes into the update it went dead. The Linksys Wireless Monitor indicates I am connected with a very good signal. But NOTHING HAPPENS! I even disabled the firewall to see if there was a conflict but cctex was DOA. Strong signal good connection but no packets from the network.

It does work sometimes – but it is like bursts that come and go for the length of time nobody knows. It’s not being inside that is the problem. If it were, I would not be receiving a good signal. Somehow their servers are messed-up big time!

What really ticks me off is how much this city must have paid for this junky network! Or I guess I should say how much the city is going to stick it to us. I guess they aready are. I think we have the highest utility and electric prices in the United States. (Hey! How does 15-16 cents a kilowatt hour grab you – no kidding – thats what it costs here!)

Of course the magazine Mens Health listed Corpus Christi as the “second dumbest city in the United States.” The leadership is even worse, that’s why we end up with these governemnt waste projects. With the price of this Wi-Fi they could have purchased every man, woman and child a five your subscription to wired broadband.

That’s what I think of Corpus Christi and the Wi-Fi mess here. If they would have waited and used the N standard I doubt they would have the problems they have on G

Rick says:

Corpus Christi Wi-Fi Update

Here is an update on the situation in Corpus Christi… After using (more like trying to use) the Wi-Fi network as configured above, it’s an absolute failure.

Today is a sunny clear day, the network was connect at 11mbs with a strong signal and perhaps 100 packets come through every 10 minutes. On a foggy or rainy day it can zip along at 2mb – 11mb no problem. There is no logic or reason as to when, how or why the network works.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure the network is really finished (or perhaps the contractor told them it’s finished when it’s really not). A casual glance at many locations shows several routers (repeaters) with coiled wires and hanging connectors – connected to nothing.

The other question I have, based on the connection speeds, signal strength and lack of packets – How many points do they have connected into a backbone? If they only have a few in a city of almost 150 square miles it will do nothing but create a giant clog no matter how many routers you have. To me that’s what I see.

Pay $30.00 a month for this? I wouldn’t pay $1.00 for this. It is totally unreliable. When you need to send or receive e-mail, look up something on the web now – who will want to wait until the network gets around to working.

I even read that Earthlink may want to take this over. Good luck on that! They better have about 100,00 customer services representatives to deal with the complaints. If they try to pass it off as “problems with your computer” forget it. This is definitely a packet flow issue across the wireless network. It is either not fully working or poorly designed.

Rick says:

Corpus Christi WiFi RIP

I have another update on the Corpus Christi WiFi system. I was talking with several people at work and they say where they live, in three different parts of Corpus Christi, the CC Network has been dead for almost three days. They can “connect” at high speed with great signals and nothing comes out the other end! One guy even told me he set up under a router and nothing.

What happens is you will connect and then it brings up a “prontonetworks” authentication page where you agree to terms, etc. That doesn’t even come up anymore as I guess prontonetworks is not so “pronto” anymore. It is amazing that prontonetworks would point this out as one of their “success” stories. They must be on a different planet! The people who made this monster are located here:

It is interesting to note that people are calling this Mayor Henry Garrett ‘s boondoggle and the mayor’s folly. Along with this wast of money and some other things I think a lot of people are going to vote against this guy. The way it is working now across the city it is going to take millions of dollars to get this thing to work!

It’s so sad when people get taken like this as the taxpayers foot the bill. Shame on the leaders who approved of this mess! This is a DOA WiFi network.

“Rest in Peace” Corpus Christi WiFi

Jeff says:

Corpus Christi "WiFi"

I’m over at my friend’s house and he told me about this dialog and I couldn’t pass this one up.

I’m a retired engineer and I have an Master’s of Engineering (ME) degree and I have checked out the so-called Corpus Christi “miracle network” from various locations.

First of all, when of the things I checked in communications with the WiFi system. Most areas in Corpus Christi tested adequate for average use. Although one person in a related article in the Houston Chronical stated that the problem was network cards that were unable to communicate TO the router, this theory is false as states of “connection” are through two way negotiations. If you are CONNECTED, especially at 55% and above signal strength, you should expect to get something from the network. Signal and two way communications were not the problem.

The next thing I investigated is if the network was shutting out systems based on a number that is unique to each network card called the MAC address. Networks can identify your network card based on, and trace your computer to any communications on the network, via a MAC.They can also use it to shut you out of the network. I have a special diagnostic tool that can change the MAC of my wireless card – this is NOT software “spoofing” it actually changes the MAC. The network still didn’t work.

With signal strength and quality at 75 percent with 11mbs connection speeds the only factors that could cause this, in my opinion, are failures on the side of the pronto network “authentication” server (the thing that signs you onto the network when you agree to the terms), almost total packet loss across the network, design failure or an area outage (unlikely due to the connection and communication speed).

The most likely causes of the failure of the Corpus Christi WiFi are the prontonetworks server or packet loss due to a network failure.

It’s really odd to have this strong of a connection and end up with total network failure. I looked at the connection and reinstalled drivers, etc., etc. and here we were at 75-80% signal communication at 11mbs and getting about 45 packets every 30 minutes and unable to bring up the prontonetworks login screen.

The best way to describe it as if you were to call up your friend on the cell phone and you have a great connection, strong signal, but then neither of you say a word. It’s pointless.

Now then, there are two exceptions to this I found this afternoon: Downtown Corpus Christi and the airport area. But we may be talking 20 square miles at most where the network is effective… To say that this is the largest WiFi network is not reality – the effective and reliable portion of the network is perhaps 20-30 square miles.

I think the network, given 30 days, could manage to grab the bits and bytes necessary to get meter readings. You need to remember, however, that someone casually browsing for an hour has communicated the same about of information as the data from every water and gas meter in Corpus Christi. The amount of information data movement is not comparable – if this was built to read water and gas meters that may very well be all it’s good for.

If Earthlink takes this over, good luck to them. They are going to need to spend some time sorting out the current mess. For now your best bet in the Corpus Christi area is Earthlink, Road Runner, Grande, SBC and a couple of the other DSL providers, then set up your own home WiFi. Unless there’s something I’m missing here you’ll just end up banging your head against the wall with this.

I would really be interested in hearing other peoples experiences with the Corpus Christi WiFi network. It may be helpful to know the nearest cross streets, etc.

One final note – If you know Corpus Christi, then you’ll know that a WiFi should have been the last priority for this city. Water mains frequently break, sewage often spills into the streets after clogs. The roads are an absolute mess. They should have worried about the basic infrastructure of the city before they did something like this. Before taking the city into the 21st century they should have brought the city’s infrastructure into the 20th century.

Dave says:

Corpus WiFi Problems

I have several reports from Corpus Christi – It is really hit or miss depending on day or location. the network often fails to transmit frames in spite of high speed connections. Problems can last minutes, hours or days.

The mayor (who is up for re-election) spent millions of $$$ of taxpayers money for this mess> The problem is, if Earthlink feels that they got the shaft they could sue the city – more taxpayer $$$ down the drain!

From Weber – Doddridge south to Flour Bluff it is a WiFi mess. They say “pardon our dust” – it seems like a dust storm of problems for this system. They also say the system is “self-healing” but I think it is more like self-defeating!

Dave says:

More Information on WiFi

I did some searching on the WiFi situation and it apparently works in some locations. Now the interesting thing is that Earthlink does NOT list Corpus Christi as one of their current or future network locations. Odd considering they are supposed to pass this off in June, four months away.

The good news is that IF they get the network to work the price of $21.95 that they charge at all other WiFi MUNIs would be reasonable. If the City of Corpus Christi tries to run their usual high-price scam and attempts to charge $30.00 it will be a major flop. Here in this city they charge outrageous prices for utilities (twice as much for electricity as other locations in the United States) so anything is possible in their pricing structure given the rip-off nature of this city. But $21.95 would be reasonable and I would hope they would offer it free to low-income homes for students, etc.

In any case, Earthlink would need to get this thing to WORK and then they would need to give customers a “back-up” dial-up account if the WiFi fails.

Here is the Earthlink MUNI WiFi information and pricing and not a word about “coming soon” to Corpus Christi.

The information from Earthlink raises more questions than answers. Maybe they’ve actually seen the overall performance of the network and they are getting cold feet.

Dave says:

Houston Chronicle and WiFi

Mr. Grant,

Just saw your post about WiFi in Corpus Christi. Although the deadline for you is passed, you really need to:

1. Visit Corpus Christi
2. Bring your laptop
3. Check out the poor network performance yourself.
4. Interview the mayor of Corpus Christi about the system and the expense to taxpayers
5. Talk to the people at Prontonetworks
5. Talk to Earthlink and ask why Corpus Christi is not on their “coming soon” list and if they evaluated the network prior to getting involved with the city’s WiFi

I guess you could talk to people who posted, but it would be valuable to experience the Corpus Christi WiFi first-hand. I’ll bet you’d have plenty of questions after your visit! 😉

Sandy says:

How Do I Sign-Up For Wi-Fi?

I think the WiFi here in Corpus Christi works GREAT. I’m using it right now indoors and no problems. The only thing is it dies when there is a lthick fog or heavy rain. I have used it for several months now, so maybe I am lucky to live in an area where it works inside the house.

Here is my question: How do you sign-up with Earthlink for this Service?

About a week ago they had a story on TV that Earthlink would take over the system on April 1st but there is nothing on the Earthlink site with the exception of a press release that says anything about it.

There are some issues that I have with the WiFi if Earthlink does it the way the news said they would. I guess they will give you a modem but you can only connect ONE COMPUTER to the modem. I don’t understand that. Does this mean I will need a modem to use my laptop in public ares or have a seperate $20.00 account for every computer??? That would not be worth it.

One writer talked about a back-up dial-up account. That is a good idea if there is bad weather and you need to use your e-mail.

Anyhow, it works great for me, but maybe I’m just lucky to live in an area where it works.

If anyone has information on how to sign-up or with more information on the Earthlink plan for Corpus Christi, please post it here. Thanks!!!

Sandy says:



The WiFi works for me but I have no clue as to signing on with Earthlink.

Try using a N network card, the ones with the larger external antennas. I use Netgear and there is no problem with XP or the new Vista on my laptop. The small G cards are worthless indoors and the antennas are usually behind the computer in the worst place possible for reception.

I think the hops are possibly from the Pronto company signing people on so I don’t know if it goes from here to their company then back out. I did hear that Earthlink would be adding some equipment so maybe that will help you.

When I watched the TV news they said that a signal amplifier may help you too.

I’m using it no and no problems. Much faster than dialup. If I could only get information from Earthlink! For the price I would get it if I can use it on all the computers in the house and not just one at a time and if I can use a dialup if it doesn’t work.

George Thanby says:

WI-FI and Municipalities

I used a system at an apartment community in Tampa Florida. It was that large company Post Properties and the property name was Rocky Point. I had a conference there and stayed for three weeks. The service they had worked everywhere on the property and I downloaded at 32 megabits! If an apartment community can do it that well, why can’t a city do it? I mean come on, an Apartment complex puts up better systems than cities? WoW! Anyway, I would stay at a Post Property and use their WI-FI services. Thanks for listening.

Sandy says:

WiFi Blocking Ports 465 and Possibly 25

Well, Just when I thought Corpus Christi may have done something right$%@!*

It appears that the WiFi network that worked great before is now blocking the secure socket layer e-mail port on 465. So is it that the city wants to read my e-mail so I cant send it secure???

On port 25 I can connect to the server, but the e-mail can’t be sent. Thanks Corpus Christi! Here I thought this was a positive thing and now you or Earthlink have junked this thing!

What is going on is either the city or Earthlink are blocking secure (encrypted) e-mails sent to a secure server using port 465 SSL and I don’t know what they are doing on 25. I guess they will make it so that ALL MESSAGES will net to be sent IN THE OPEN on a Muni WiFi via the Earthlink mail server. If you have your own domain and e-mail accounts they will need to pass through the Earthlink server “in the open” so, of courser, they can be intercepted and read.

Earthlink & Corpus Christi I thought this was a great idea and that it worked well for me in my location. Cruising the Internet still works great, but without the e-mail, thumbs down from me. This is JUNK!

P.S.: Why do you want people to send their e-mail in the open on a city WiFi? I think this is a real privacy issue!

Dave says:

Earthlink Ports


I know there are problems for me with the WiFi system, but if it works for you then that’s great.

One thing I do know for sure and that is Earthlink DOES NOT block port 465. It does block 25 for spamming reasons and a lot of people get other port options from their web host. No company would do something as to block a SSL port on 465.

I think there may be or have been a configuration problem on the network. You will need to keep trying and let us know. I would guess there will be many changes the next few days. Earhtlink is not the only company that blocks 25 for spam reasons. If it is true that they are blocking the SSL port that would be a major concern!

Earthlink takes the system over on April 1st and it will be free for a month so maybe they’ll have more info on the site after that time.

Is it just me or does it seem to be a coincidence that the date is April Fools Day?

Sandy says:

Port Blocking

Dave, Than you for the information on Earthlink and port blocking on port 25. The SSL port on 465 has been working without any problems for two days now. I guess I will see if this keeps working.

You may be interested to know that it is now April 2nd and still no information from Eartlink. From the TV news I saw several days ago Earthlink was supposed to get the network on April 1st but I have not seen any change and there is no change when you log into the system or on the cctexas website.

The Internet still works great and e-mail going out on port 465 is going OK for now. If that changes I will post again.

chris says:

Earthlink Wifi Anaheim Network

The Earthlink WiFi network in Anaheim is terrible, the system just does not work for most of the area. Earthlink told me repeatedly that I have service here, but I can only get a -95db signal, their equipment needs a -75db signal to work. The system only works if you can see the a/p on the light pole and have a direct line of sight to it. Most people in Anaheim refuse to use the system because of its high cost and signal problems. Last month the whole city wifi system was down for almost a week and Earthlink’s Indian tech support refused to acknowledge the problem. I am interested in participating in a class action lawsuit in California against Earthlink for their deceptive billing and advertising practices. My prediction is that Earthlink will be in Chapter 11 within the next year for lack of customers.

Dave says:

Earthlink Feather Network "Free Sample" Five Minut


Earthlink started its “free sample” of wifi in Corpus Christi for a 30 day period via the Feather Network.

REALLY GREAT! You need to sign in EVERY FIVE MINUTES to keep your service running. THANKS EARTHLINK!!!

Then there is NO WAY to purchase even a temporary monthly plan on this system.


What a joke… I agree Chris!

George says:

Boycott Earthlink WiFi in Corpus Christi

A friend of mine told me that the turn the signal down on the network when they are not reading meters. This is why you can have a signal on 85-90 one day and 45-50 the next with the exact same weather conditions.

Boycott the WiFi in Corpus Christi until Earthlink keeps the signal up 24-7-365 Shame on you Earthlink!!!

Catherine L. Wesenberg says:

Earthlink WiFi Anaheim

We have never known of a situation where a customer had to call the provider to tell them No to a new service!! We have never known of a situation where the company changed a service to a new program with out the customers consent, after the customer had called to say NO!! NO!! I spent 4 hours on the phone with Earthlink on July 12, 2007 saying NO!! NO!! NO WiFi. On July 19th I received an E Mail from Earthlink, welcoming me to their Anaheim WiFi. Again I was on the phone telling them NO! NO! NO! NO!! NO WiFi!!.
I don’t need their WiFi. I don’t have a lap top. All my computer work is done at home on a PC. Even if I had wanted WiFi it is very doubtful that it would work at my home. My home is at the boundry of the Anaheim WiFi area. I can see the over pass of the 91 & 57 freeway from my back yard, (the Anaheim boundry for WiFi) The houses in this area are constructed with lath & plaster. Our roof is a “Duralite” roof.
I am trying to make contact with the appropriate Orange County District Attorney office. We want Orange County District Attorney office to investigate the Anaheim City Council & Earthlink. If any one knows of the right Orange County District Attorney’s office to contact regarding the Anaheim WiFi problem, please enlighten the rest of us victims here in Anaheim.
To day, July 25th I received an envelope welcoming me to Anaheim WiFi. Of course this is one more thing I need to do. I had to mark it “Refused”!! “Return to Sender”, & put it out for the mail carrier to take back.

MJ says:

Earthlink - Double-dipping billing

Last month I received my monthly EARTHLINK statement and WOW:: they’ve been billing me $27.95 for over a year for a dial-up connection, but what’s more egregious: they billed me $27.95 TWICE in the same billing period! Yes, they wanted to squeeze me for nearly $56 for 1 period. When I brought it to their attention they did move quick to hand me a deal, i.e. $12 per month. But, I am ticked! They refused to reimburse me for the prior 16 months they overcharged. Has anyone else experience this?
Have a day!

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