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Profs Bring TV Spectrum Free Wi-Fi To Houston Area 82

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the do-professors-even-teach-any-more dept.
eldavojohn writes "Funded by the NSF, Rice University professors and students are bringing a prototype Wi-Fi system for free to Pecan Park in Houston. Part of the Technology For All initiative (TFA), this effort requires a heavily customized system that utilizes TV-band white spaces in the neighborhood. The team has a 60-foot-tall antenna and will be building several custom devices to give to a few dozen customers that tap into the five empty TV channels available (~30MHz of spectrum). The customization means that standards have yet to be hammered out (the 'WhiteFi' standard is mentioned) but the grant application calls on these professors and students to 'serve as researchers, the wireless network service provider, the network equipment and protocol designers, and community-technology educators and advocates.' Exciting possibilities for a future with less expensive internet connections."
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Profs Bring TV Spectrum Free Wi-Fi To Houston Area

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  • Never. More accessible, perhaps. The cost has been set. Technology does not decrease the price point to the consumer it only changes the service/goods offered at that price point. Get used to paying a fairly hefty price in the US. Does anyone seriously believe the people making a good profit from this are going to lower their earnings? Dream on.
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:40AM (#33860396)

      If a new player enters the market the current players might not have any choice but to lower their profit margins. Maybe if someone were to set up a free municipal wireless system using newly opened and freely available wireless spectrum for instance?

      • by kabloom (755503)

        I haven't seen prices drop yet with new commercial options like WiMax.

        • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:52AM (#33860514) Homepage Journal

          I don't know if wireless really competes against wires, cables or fiber optic, it probably is true for this project too. Going from wired to wireless for the "last mile" is a trade in different solutions that also trades very different sets of problems.

          • >>>I don't know if wireless really competes against wires, cables or fiber optic

            Well I know at least one friend who is considering switching to wireless, because it's faster than the dialup he has now. So yeah it does sometimes compete with wired internet especially in rural areas (which is why the FCC pushed for these TV Band/whitespace Devices).

            Two random thoughts:

            - Five empty channels will no onger be empty if the FCC follows its plan to remove TV stations from channels 30-to-51 and "repack" th

        • WiMax is irrelevant because the SAME players are making the offerings.

          a NEW player could set up a wireless infrastructure in any city for a few dollars per citizen covered.

          • Then why not come up with a business plan and do it? If it's really that cheap, you should be able to wipe out the competition and make a handsome profit while providing people with a good product at a better price.

            Except that you obviously have very little or no knowledge about large scale wireless infrastructure, otherwise you wouldn't make that sort of absurd claim.

      • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday October 11, 2010 @12:19PM (#33860786)
        Maybe if someone were to set up a free municipal wireless system...

        The "free municipal systems" aren't really free, you know, they just spread the cost to everyone, even those who have no interest in getting "the internet" and those who already pay for their services. Yes, this is a great deal for those who don't want to pay for their own service, until you consider all the other things that people have the government provide "for free" that they don't want to use.

        They also handily remove any real responsibility for service from anyone. Can't pick up the signal? Well, if you're on DSL or cable, nobody can use the excuse "you're in a dead spot, too bad."

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          The "free municipal systems" aren't really free, you know, they just spread the cost to everyone, even those who have no interest in getting "the internet" and those who already pay for their services. Yes, this is a great deal for those who don't want to pay for their own service, until you consider all the other things that people have the government provide "for free" that they don't want to use.

          You mean like fire service [msn.com]?

          • by Obfuscant (592200)
            You mean like fire service?

            No, I mean like the crap that people think the government ought to give them for free and aren't smart enough to know they're paying more in taxes because of it. Like free bus service. Like free sidewalk maintenance. Like free internet. Like free cheese. Like free health care. Like ... well, I made my point.

            I didn't follow the link you provided, but I bet it's the story about the county in Tennessee(?) where they don't have their own fire department and people are expected to p

            • You would advocate letting the trash collect and the sidewalks crumble? You'd advocate shutting down the ER to people who can't pay? You advocate disenfranchising low income families who can't provide for the education of their children through services such as libraries, and municipal internet? You'd advocate permitting the malnourishment of children presently eligible for WIC and other food aid programs? You'd advocate hindering the ability of low income parents to get to and from work, home, and the

              • by Obfuscant (592200)
                You would advocate letting the trash collect and the sidewalks crumble? You'd advocate shutting down the ER to people who can't pay?

                Don't be stupid. I said nothing of the sort.

                • No, actually I think you did...

                  No, I mean like the crap that people think the government ought to give them for free and aren't smart enough to know they're paying more in taxes because of it. Like free bus service. Like free sidewalk maintenance. Like free internet. Like free cheese. Like free health care. Like ... well, I made my point.

                  Since not everyone's income permits them to afford to pay for these services the government shouldn't provide for "free" then quite obviously they wouldn't get the public service. Just because you can afford to purchase an operate a car or buy a block of cheese at the grocery store doesn't mean everyone else can. Just because you have a job that enables you to pay for your health care doesn't mean everyone else does.

                  If you really want to trim the fat in government spending y

                  • by Obfuscant (592200)
                    No, actually I think you did...

                    No, actually I didn't.

                    I said: "Like free sidewalk maintenance." I didn't say "let the sidewalks corrode".

                    In my city, until last week, when a sidewalk falls apart the city comes by and tells the property owner "your sidewalk is broken, fix it." The property owner pays. Last week my city passed a new tax to be used to fix sidewalks. Now it's "free", with "free" used in exactly the context it has been used in here: taxpayer funded. So, you see, the opposite of "free" is NOT "

                    • Weird city you live in. In every city I've lived in, sidewalks are "public," meaning you can't prevent others from using the sidewalk that may cross your property (gotta love that eminent domain). I hope your city isn't the same way, because making someone pay to maintain property you've taken from them is a REALLY dick move, even for the government.

                  • >>>$900B/year DoD budget. Picking on low income people by removing various social services and other public good programs won't go net very much.
                    >>>

                    First off, the DOD is constitutional. The public handouts are not (not in the long list of enumerated US powers). Plus even if you completely dismantled the army, navy, et cetera you'd still have a huge deficit (1500-900 ==600 billion overspending). You need to make additional cuts, and the biggest line item is social security.

                    I don't have a

              • >>>You would advocate letting the trash collect?

                That's exactly what happens in my State. If you don't hire a company to pick-up your trash, then it just lays there and rots. In fact that's what a lot of farmers do - in order to generate fertilizer for crops, or bedding for cows, pigs, etc.
                .

                >>>You'd advocate shutting down the ER to people who can't pay?

                Strawman arguments are Never an effective tactic. Obviously I would not. Instead I would let the medical corporation who owns that hospi

            • >>>the people IN THAT COUNTY get to rule themselves on that matter, and THEY DECIDED not to pay for a fire department out of tax dollars, for whatever reason. Their decision.

              "They have no right to make that decision. Democracy is shit." - current assholes in Congress. And no I'm not trolling; they truly do hate democracy because they want to FORCE us to have a fire department, even if out local or state legislatures decided not to. They don't support self-rule.

          • Yes people who don't want to have fire service should be allowed to "opt out".

            Just the same way I choose not to insure my car (although I still have to insure the other guy's car, in case of accident). I'm tired of people acting as if we "have" to do something. Maybe I live in a shack and don't care if it burns to the ground. I should be allowed to make that choice, if I'm truly Free and not just a serf.

            • by Golddess (1361003)
              And yet they shouldn't be allowed to opt-out of paying for police. [slashdot.org]

              Still wondering [slashdot.org] how that's any different from your argument about why someone should be allowed to opt-out of health care.
              • I don't see any contradiction there. I'm pro-choice on virtually everything (except when your actions physically harm another), and when you take that position, everything becomes obvious:

                - People should be able to CHOOSE for themselves if they want to insure their house or car or selves. Hell I think people should be able to commit suicide if they want - who are you to tell them they can't? I believe in maximum freedom and minimal limitations (whereas you seem to believe in maximum chains and almost no

                • by Golddess (1361003)

                  I don't see any contradiction there.

                  Then allow me to point it out to you.

                  So do you also think police coverage should be optional as well?

                  Not the same thing. [...] police protect my person which is obviously far more valuable

                  Did you ever stop to think that maybe I WANT to die, and not buying insurance is a way to make that happen?

                  Do you see it now? Unless you'd like to argue "protect your person" does not include keeping you from being killed.

                  In the case of police I don't see how "opt out" would be workable, anymore than I can decide I'd rather have "Pennsylvania Power & Light" instead of BGE.

                  I wasn't really trying to argue for an opt-in situation for police protection. I was only trying to understand how you could use one argument to try and support one position while using what appears to be the opposite argument to support another position. Had you used the above argument originally, I'd prolly not have given it a second glance. But since

                  • If you keep expecting me to be perfect, then you're a fool.
                    I never claimed to have all the answers.
                    I have *opinions* based upon a Jeffersonian philosophy.

                    Furthermore if you realize the world is not black-and-white, then you'd realize why my views vary depending upon the situation. For example, I am 99.9% in favor of free markets because they let people choose which companies they want to give money to..... or not spend money at all (I don't have cable TV). However there are some cases, like water compani

                    • by Golddess (1361003)
                      I don't expect you to be perfect, but I don't think it's far-fetched for a certain consistency in ones stated beliefs to be expected. I was only trying to understand how you could use one argument to try and support one position while using what appears to be the opposite argument to support another position. You'd clarified what you'd meant nicely and I thank you for it. Probably should have thanked you in the first post, but it slipped my mind.

                      It's pretty obvious you are a pro-big government person, from your previous comments.

                      If you want to be taken seriously, you really need to stop

            • If you read/watch that guy's interviews you'll find that he actually did want the fire fighters to come put out the fire. In fact he had a history of "opting-out" only to ask to fire department to put out his fires. Human's are largely short sighted in nature tend to not want to pay for things that insure them against future catastrophe. Of course, when that inevitable catastrophe happens to them boy do they sure squeal like a stuck pig. "How could the world turn their back on them?" "How could it be s

              • I think the firefighters should have still saved his house (since he asked them to), but then charge him $1500 afterwards. i.e. twenty years of coverage. It would be a way for the government to encourage people to pay upfront rather than after the fact.

              • >>>"why should I pay for that guy's grocery bill? I've got my own to buy."

                Because it's theft. I am the one who worked his ass off to earn the money. It's MINE. Nobody has a right to steal my labor, anymore than my boss can decide "I'm only paying you 20 hours instead of 40." I don't mind having a safety net for hungry & homeless persons, but if someone has a job and money then they should stop wasting it on beer/cigarettes/$150 per month cable tv and buy some fucking food, instead of swipin

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by iammani (1392285)

          Can't pick up the signal? Well, if you're on DSL or cable, nobody can use the excuse "you're in a dead spot, too bad."

          Well not exactly, but the excuse would be that, "Sorry, we dont have a cable running to/through your place and we dont plan on spending money to lay new cable, better luck next time"

          • by Obfuscant (592200)
            Well not exactly, but the excuse would be that, "Sorry, we dont have a cable running to/through your place...

            Exactly how can you be on DSL or cable for networking and have the telco or cable service people tell you, honestly, that "we don't have a cable running to your place"? Gosh, what have I been paying $110 a month for if you don't have a cable running to my place, and how am I getting cable TV and why did you provide me with a cable box if you don't have cable running to my place?

            The point is that I

            • by Thuktun (221615)

              Fire-fighting services are generally not optional mostly because fire isn't something you generally choose whether you want, and fire will spread to adjoining properties and get harder to fight as it does so.

              Pay-as-you go fire-fighting is a fantastic idea, if you like the early Nineteenth Century.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          There is the PBS model. Some people donate, either anonymously or not, and they just send out a DHCP setup wifi signal. The hackers will love it, but it would be really hard to track individuals or computers in this model.

          • The PBS model. I heard the most amazing admission this weekend. OPB begging for money during Prarie Home Companion. The host actually said "this is the best way to show support for nonprofitable programs." I think he meant "nonprofit", but who knows?
    • >>>Technology does not decrease the price point to the consumer it only changes the service/goods offered at that price point.

      Good point. I've spent between 10 and 20 dollars for internet ever since the 80s. The price has not dropped* but the service has improved - it's sped-up from 1k to 750k (for me). Of course if you take into account inflation, the $15 DSL I'm paying now is only $7 in 1985 dollars so that could be considered a drop in price.

      *
      *Unless you count 7 dollar dialup, but who wants

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:42AM (#33860420)

    I don't see how this will lead to any cheaper internet access.

    Is it becuase it's wireless? Here, in Chicago, where Clear wireless has been rolling out WiMax internet service over the last year or so, the wireless service costs just as much as the old cable and DSL options, and neither cable nor DSL have gotten any cheaper. I'm convinced that as long as internet service is provided by large conglomerates, they'll have us paying $50 per month per device that we want to connect to the internet. The internet service that made a price difference was WiFi, which was under control any individual who wanted to set up an access point and share his internet connection -- it doesn't have universal coverage by any measure, but anyone who wants to be generous over a small area can be (e.g. universities or companies or local coffee shops and restaurants), and that has allowed free internet access in many places.

    I'm convinced that WiMax is an attempt by big ISPs to obsolete WiFi, and get their dollar back.

    • by znerk (1162519)

      Perhaps we could use it as a jumping-off point for the mesh network, since the biggest issue with mesh is that no one wants to be the actual "service provider" at the back end.

    • Not cheaper. Just more reach. The theory is that TV channels 21-51 can be used for rural Houston-area citizens stuck on dialup.

      Two random thoughts:
      - Five empty channels will no onger be empty if the FCC follows its plan to remove TV stations from channels 30-to-51 and "repack" them into the remaining 7-29 space. Followed by a 30-51 auction. Whitepsace will then be non-existent (no open channels).

      - I looked at the Houston market, and I don't know where they got 5 empty channels? I only see 1.
      Probably th

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday October 11, 2010 @12:43PM (#33861028)

    A little general to free wifi and not too specific to this particular use of spectrum, but I have a question.

    If those asses at the RIAA, MPAA, and the shadowy organization of government officials seeking to control everything have their way and a 3 strikes law is passed, what's the likelyhood of such legislation affecting things like free wifi? Seems like if this type of thing proliferates and it gets to a point where a significant amount of users just use free wifi, the MAFIAA isn't going to give up and ignore it. I'm assuming these free wifi spots will probably limit P2P file sharing?

  • Any bets on how long they will last, and whether they will get shut down by the TV carriers, Internet providers or Copyright mafia?

  • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Monday October 11, 2010 @01:27PM (#33861538) Homepage

    Let's see the first line of the summary is:

    "Funded by the NSF, Rice University professors and students are bringing a prototype Wi-Fi system for free to Pecan Park in Houston."

    "Free?" You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    I think OPM ("Other People's Money") is what you're looking for.

    • You down with OPP?
      Yeah you know me!

      People use the word "free" a lot, without realizing they actually ARE paying for the service - it's being sucked directly from their paychecks. People can be so goddamn stupid sometimes. "You work don't you? And pay taxes?" Induhvidual: "Yes". "Then it's not free." Induhvidual: "Yes it is! They aren't sending me a bill. That means it's free!"

      Oh god. "The strongest argument against Democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the typical voter." Yes. And that's why

  • Because you're going to need them (along with a lot of $ in campaign contributions for politicians) when the telcos come to sue you, and/or introduce legislation to make your social experiment illegal.
  • The truth is that WiFi (even draft-n) doesn't compare - in terms of speed and stability - to plain old 100BASE-TX. I recently decided to get rid of the wires going to my desktop and now something like copying a few GB file from laptop to desktop is a pain in the ass. That's as far as LAN's are concerned.

    On the other hand, wireless WAN access is good when you have no other options. MikroTik embedded in an directional antenna can give you decent speed over few kilometers. However the connection uptime still
  • "White-Fi"? Really? Do they have the check to Al Sharpton already made out??

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