World Airwaves out

Brent Finnegan -- July 11th, 2007

At last night’s council meeting, World Airwaves CEO, Mark Bayliss bowed out of the non-exclusive franchise agreement with the city. It was a 25-year contract which began last summer. The city said he should have had it deployed by now, and apparently he wanted more time. The council voted unanimously to terminate the agreement.

Despite the failure of World Airwaves to get the city-wide IPv6 network up, Bayliss called the venture a “success,” saying he was able to use H’burg as a testing site of sorts to work out the bugs. He told council he was able to file a patent for his company because of his experience here.

Responding to a comment about the ill communication between Bayliss and city officials, he said he didn’t want to say too much to city council, for fear of letting his intellectual property secrets leak out. Still, I don’t know why that would have stopped him from answering or returning phone calls.

But hey, World Airwaves is installing wireless networks in Occoquan and Morgan County, and by gum, it put them on the map!

While it’s pretty clear that Harrisonburg will not become the “city of the future” as it was advertised, the city could possibly move forward with another wireless network of some sort. So far, I’m not aware of any city (big or small) that has successfully deployed a city-wide wireless network. Many have tried. To my knowledge, all have failed.

At this point, I believe the best move for the city would be to sign another franchise agreement with someone else to launch numerous hotspots all over the city (as opposed to trying to have the first city-wide cloud) and deploy it using the current v4 technology. That way, they can upgrade to v6 when the rest of the world is ready.

17 Responses to “World Airwaves out”

  1. Josh says:

    I hope Mark Bayliss doesn’t get off the hook this easy. This was a huge embarrassment for the city, businesses and citizens, not to mention a huge negative for the local economy.

    Some interesting municipal wi-fi projects:

    Philadelphia, PA; partnered w/ EarthLink; appears to be up and running
    http://www.wirelessphiladelphia.org/

    Austin, TX; non-profit run; appears to be up and running
    http://austinwirelesscity.org/

    Minneapolis, MN; partnered w/ US Internet; appears to be a work in progress
    http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/wirelessminneapolis/

    Portland, OR; community run; appears to be up and running
    http://www.personaltelco.net/static/index.html

    Tempe, AZ; parnered w/ MobilePro; appears to be up and running
    http://www.tempe.gov/wifi/

    Corpus Christi, TX; partnered w/ EarthLink; appears to be up and running
    http://www.cctexas.com/wifiportal/

    Cleveland, OH; planning/RFP phase
    http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/business_center/RFP/Documents/WIFI.htm

    …and of course Google is planning to blanket San Francisco, CA with wi-fi; I’m not sure the status of that project.

  2. finnegan says:

    Yes, but do any of those cities actually have total wireless coverage (the cloud) like H’burg was supposed to have?

    When I was living in Austin in 2003, they had lots of hotspots (see last paragraph of post) but no “city-wide coverage.”

  3. Josh says:

    Philadelphia, PA: “Free access to the internet will be available in `wireless hot spots’ covering a total of 10 square miles of public parks distributed throughout the City.”

    Minneapolis, MN: “US Internet will fund, build, and manage a wireless network covering all 59 square miles of Minneapolis, providing residents, businesses and visitors with wireless broadband access anywhere in the City.”

    Portland, OR: 100+ nodes; sounds like the Austin access you’ve described.

    Tempe, AZ: “Upon completion of these cities in Dec of 2006, the WAZ wireless network will have a 187 sq mile footprint.”

    Corpus Christi, TX: “The system is currently available in the 147 square mile land area within the city limits of Corpus Christi.”

    Cleveland, OH: “The City is seeking a proposal which provides for perimeter indoor coverage for all residential and commercial buildings within the corporate limits of the City.”

  4. finnegan says:

    I think city-wide, boundary-to-boundary coverage would be great, but to my knowledge no one has been able to pull that off yet. I think the MN plan is still in development.

    The thing that annoys me about what happened here is this guy used the city to get free publicity, get his name out there, use us as Guinea pigs, and not deliver on any of his promises.

  5. Frank J Witt says:

    Plus to make money with the patent. The city needs to try and get some of his future earnings.

  6. Gxeremio says:

    Maybe we should forget about setting up more frequency noise by creating a wifi cloud (which in my house is interrupted by turning on a microwave) and instead think about the future speed needs and install fiber optic cable to each house and business, like Banon, Oregon did. There’s a neat little guide given out to Bandon residents that gives you an idea why this is a big improvement over anything we’ve seen so far.

    Bandon was recently featured in Wired magazine as “America’s Fastest Town.”

  7. Joey Groah says:

    Out of curiosity to some of the above thoughts, can readers of this post see a lot of open/closed Wi-Fi access points? From our office on East Market I’ve got five.

    And Brent, monorail clip = me digging out the monorail episode on DVD.
    “Batman’s a scientist.”

  8. finnegan says:

    Someone with GIS experience should make a map of H’burg with all the different hotspots. Any wardrivers out there?

    In reference to that DNR article: the way I see it, IPv6 is less about attracting new small businesses like Immerge, and more about attracting federal government agencies like the FBI, DHS, CIA, FEMA, etc. IPv6 compatibility, as well as getting out of the nuclear blast radius of DC, is a federal priority.

  9. Justin says:

    The IPv6 network was most definitely meant for larger companies / government groups and from everything I saw, the interest level was high. The plan the city had in place would have worked if World Airwaves was capable of delivering. So it goes.

    In response to Joey’s question I can see 5 open access points from my desk. Three from Dave’s, one from Earth and Tea, and our open access point that we just launched today (shameless plug, I know).

  10. Joey Groah says:

    The wireless network was one of the things we heard a lot about when we moved downtown, along with the One Tech Square dealy. I know having the IPv6 option was an attractive thought.

    I can see The Daily Grind and about four private/office access points, though I haven’t tried to log onto them.

  11. David Miller says:

    Joey

    Is there a way to build a “coalition of the willing” to tie all of our private wireless routers into one group so that we can share access depending upon our location?

  12. Frank J Witt says:

    We offer free wireless, so if you’re ever at the light at Res and Univ…feel free to browse. I don’t know the range but it is always beaming !

  13. Joey Groah says:

    Dave,

    If folks wanted to tell you what was available/get together a map as Brent is suggesting, that would be pretty doable for “the willing”.

    It’s (“it” being constantly using someone else’s access point) one of those things that’s always a little gray to me. My home Wi-Fi is open, but our business Wi-Fi is not. Some businesses keep the Wi-Fi open to attract customers (Old Dominion Coffee/Daily Grind) but if you’re in range you’re in range. If I’m out and find a usable open access point, I use it.

    Justin may have a more informed opinion than me. I know of a few precedents but I’d have to Google some stuff before typing about it.

  14. Justin says:

    I think getting a “coalition of the willing” is very doable. We won’t have a seamless connection so that you could drive through downtown and have internet the whole way.

    Switching from access point to access point can be tricky and making it seamless would require significant teamwork to ensure reliability and security.

    In short, what is most likely is everyone agreeing to open up and share, as well as identify holes in the coverage. For our office we have two access points. One is for our secure internal network and it’s range is pretty nice (haven’t had a chance yet to completely test it but if anyone sees it let me know). Our free access point is a cheaper and smaller model that has a much smaller range. If everyone was willing to invest in small upgrades to infrastructure we could cover a very good portion of downtown.

  15. David Miller says:

    I’m in.

  16. David Troyer says:

    Heard a rumor that the Town of Shenandoah beat Harrisonburg to the IPv6 punch.

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