My Tea Leaves Weren’t Completely Off

Three years ago (almost to the day) I declared that Apple’s relationship with AT&T was a hedge on Apple’s part – a way to get the iPhone to market while nationwide unlicensed spectrum becomes more stable.

While we have yet to see the large-scale benefits of our unlicensed spectrum, I’m relieved to read that – according to Wired – my tea leaves were correct.

“Jobs wanted to replace carriers completely instead using the unlicensed spectrum that Wi-Fi operates on for his phone.” – Christina Bonnington, Wired Gadget Lab

I’ve still a long bet on WiFi and unlicensed spectrum as our primary telephony channel.

Today, I see Republic Wireless‘s $19/mn unlimited everything plan as the major drive in mobile WiFi-telephony.

My Long Bet Against Mobile Carriers: Update 1

Late last year, I extended my T-Mobile contract 2 years.

When I signed it, I had a hunch it will be the last time I’m locked into an agreement like that.

Now, I’m confident – so confident that if I was holding any mobile carrier stock, I’d start shorting.

A couple weeks back, we got a great deal on a 5-day trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We booked it, made arrangements for the kids and packed out bags.

I left the laptop and my Nokia at home – taking my iPod Touch and the Kindle.

Wifi was everywhere – in the airports, Starbucks, probably more places as well – all along the way. While the hotel was only confident of their wifi covering their lobby, coverage was fine in our room.

I was able to check email, Twitter, Cullect, and we used Skype to talk with everyone back home. All on the iPod Touch all over the hotel’s wifi.

When we returned home this weekend, my Nokia greeted me with.

0 messages
0 missed calls

Planting Flowers for a Walled Garden

Peter Fleck is asking about content guidelines for Minneapolis’ wireless portal. My initial thoughts…..

Some of you may know I worked on a similar project (same idea, but in the private sector) back around 2000. All the problems we struggled with then are non-existant now (syndication formats, wireless equipment, etc). Since the U of M’s Wireless Communities conferences, I’ve been thinking about what should be available “for free” within a Muni-WiFi network.

I’d rather the city not play favorites or give the impression of playing favorites, so I recommend – only web-accessible city services (pay parking tickets, check on library books, pay water bills, city council meeting dates, opening hours of public buildings, that kinda stuff. For three reasons:

  1. The wireless network is from the city. There’s a real need to increase the accessibility, usability, and visibility of city services online. This will drive that demand.
  2. There’s no good metric to determine why one private publication should be included and not another (i.e. StarTribune.com vs. NorthEastBeat.com vs. MNstories.com vs. etc). Some worthy publication will always be excluded. Better to excluded everyone than continually argue who gets in. Even if the neighborhood groups get to pick what is presented on their nodes – relevance isn’t geographic. Neighborly gatekeepers are still gatekeepers.
  3. Directing energy at improving electronically delivered city services helps all internet using citizens, not just those using the free portion of wifi network and is therefore a more effective use of tax dollars than managing which private publications are within the portal.

In the comments, Peter clarifies some more of the current vision.

I’m holding my original position. No current online publication provides enough community value to actually belong there. If TCDailyPlanet is in the free zone, than PFHyper.com/blog should be in the free zone. As should newpatriot.org and every other Minneapolis-based blog…..and that’s absurd.

Instead, we should give neighborhood groups the skills and tools to publish new and services directly. Otherwise we’re just giving them the choice of vendors that won’t actually serve them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007 11:33:43 AM

I wasn’t getting the upload speeds I was expecting. Not by a long shot. After troubleshooting the dsl line and the modem itself, the Speakeasy rep and I determined the Linksys WRT54G router was the issue. Upgrading the firmware to v4.21.1 didn’t improve anything. Then, after poking around the router’s admin settings, I found the culprit: Quality of Service (QoS) on Upstream Bandwidth was enabled. Disabling it gave me 2.5x the uploading speeds.

WiFi and Complementary Kid’s Meals are the Same Thing.

Back a few months ago, the family Smith and family Van Buren dined at a Claim Jumpers Restaurant. I’m still impressed, that by default, they came out with a complementary kid’s plate (cheese sticks, tortilla, deli turkey slice).

If you have kids, you understand how brilliant this is. It shows the restaurant actually acknowledges parents travel with their kids (in the same way people generally travel in pairs). What Claim Jumpers also understands is how cheap and easy it is to make that experience less stressful for everyone involved (parents, kids, service staff, and fellow diners) – give the kid something healthy, finger-friendly, and immediately. I don’t remember an explicit charge for the kid’s plates. I’m assuming the buck or two they cost was baked into the menu as a whole.

Perfect. Right where I want it. In fact, my ideal dining experience is to not have to make any explicit decisions, not select from a menu, and still have some idea of the final bill up front.

Offering complementary WiFi is exactly the same. It shows a venue understands the context of my visit (it’s rarely just for access – usually lunch/coffee + access) and they want to make my stay comfortable and less stressful.

Neither of these efforts are hard or expensive (unless forced to be) and the win on the customer side is huge. Conversely, the lack thereof is a strike against.

Star Tribune on Muni WiFi: FUD or Just Wrong?

The Strib’s Steve Alexander is on a Muni-WiFi bashing kick. In Sunday’s Slowdown in the Fast Lane, the angle was how the forthcoming Minneapolis muni-WiFi will make the current cable and DSL offerings look paltry and non-competitive. Oh – and we don’t get the maximum bandwidth out of our current pipes anyway. Really? Muni-WiFi isn’t going to change that.

In fact, I’m not planning to drop my existing offering for the $20/mn muni plan anytime soon. WiFi transfer rates don’t scale well. If anything, the muni plan is a cheap insurance policy – something we can check email on while the main line is uploading podcasts or the weekly backup.

Then today there’s this gem in the sidebar;

“A special wireless modem needed to gain access…”

But that’s it. No information on what “special” means. If it means 802.11b or 802.11g (i.e. what you already have) then yes Bill, that’s just bad reporting.

I expect so much from our dailies. Maybe I’d be happier if I started thinking of them like soap operas – quantity over quality.

Finally – Multiple Speakers in iTunes AirTunes

Spent a few moments over lunch refining my wireless network, while making sure everything worked as expected, I noticed a ‘Multiple Speakers’ option in my iTunes v6.0.5 (20).

About Frigging Time!

When we first set up the Airport Express, I was baffled why I couldn’t have the same music playing in the room with the laptop as the room with the Tivoli.

Thankfully that bug has been fixed – and with enough Airport Expresses, I can fill the neighborhood with podcasts just like the crappy music blaring from Silver Lake Village.

Seriously, it’s a horrid place to make phone calls – despite being outside and away from traffic.

Nathan Stohlmann says this is part of the AirPort Express Firmware 6.3 Update.

Citywide WiFi Needed in the Twin Cities, As Is Symmetrical DSL

I grabbed lunch with Leif Utne earlier this week. As you might expect, it was a pretty intense conversation on podcasting, technology, politics, and the overlap.

First order of business, I’m down with Minneapolis going with a private company to run citywide WiFi network for the two reasons cited in the Strib article:

  1. Startup Costs
    The faster the city is covered in a wifi cloud, the better. There are issues with that position, and this is one of them. Right now, the city doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to launch a network like this tomorrow. I wish it did. Any number of private companies do. Probably even a few local ones could pull it off. Either way, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and all the suburbs on the Met council need citywide wifi. Now. None of them can support it in-house yet. I don’t know how going with a private company prevents continual study into public ownership. Any funds spent on getting to public ownership should be considered research. Plus, only my water bill goes to the city. My other utilities; gas, electric, internet, phone – all companies (private or otherwise). Is that best? Not sure it matters.
  2. Legal Issues

    “Telephone and cable TV companies might sue the city on the grounds that a Minneapolis public network was using tax dollars to improperly compete with them.”

    FUD, I know, but it’s a good point. High speed WiFi (> 2Mbps) competes with every other communications method; telephone, radio, television. Aside from being inevitable, this is a very good thing. Plus, this is an opportunity for telephone and cable TV companies to offer valuable, unique services rather than collecting rent. Oh yea, both the non-profit HourCar.org and the for-profit ZipCar.com are in town. Choices are good things.

    Additionally, I think cable TV companies would be huge supporters of citywide wifi. It should get them off the hook for continual support of public access. (Citizen have their own “channels” on the internet).

All of this leads to the need for symmetrical (same upload speeds as download) service for everyday people. Why? Simple, the growth in media production isn’t from big media companies. It’s from you. The family photos, audio, and video you’re sharing with family and friends. Everyone a producer.

Imagine a telephone where conversations with your mom had a lag, but from a telemarketer was fine. Imagine a CD player that distorted the music you created, but played Top 40 artists just fine. Where is the line drawn on who gets quality service? When is famous, famous enough?

We live in this world today, and will until ISPs stop artificially bottlenecking transfer rates.

Doc Searles has been posting on Net Neutrality and symmetrical broadband for a while now. It’s taken me a little bit wrap my head around it. I wonder if the handicapping of businesses caused by asymmetrical service could be considered a violation of the Commerce clause.

Either way, this is the same issue I describe in TiVo’s Future is in Videoblogs post. Reminding me, TiVo needs to run BitTorrent and allow subscribers to upload video. Without that, yes, they are toast.