Variable wi-fidelity

  • Article by: Steve Alexander , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2008 - 9:17 PM

We took a laptop out for a test drive of Minneapolis' new wireless Internet service and found that it can be pretty uneven -- unless you have a special booster modem.

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doctor2687Apr. 26, 0810:26 PM

I personally am a Minneapolis resident, but am not a customer due to the need for higher speed. Regardless of the problems, you have commend them on actually getting this done. Many cities nationwide(even in the metro area) have tried a similaer partnership, and utterly failed.

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ihatethetribuneApr. 26, 0810:32 PM

What we accept for internet access in this country is absurd. Japan, Germany and Norway, just to name a few, have services that are many times faster than this countries fastest available consumer service. I would love to use the city's service but not until they have achieved some type of saturation. And Comcast couldn't suck more. It's not like the city's service is a reasonable alternative either. I thought monopolies were illegal.

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gahjhbApr. 26, 0811:27 PM

My service has been very spotty. The speed varies from a crawl to what is advertised often within five minutes. I lose service several times a day and must unplug my modem, wait and repower it and wait. Technical assistance keeps saying that the changes they are making will improve things in days. They have been saying that for months. I am frustrated and close to canceling service. I have hung in because I really want this to work, but I suspect I have been seduced by a utopian vision denying a wanting reality.

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digalvinApr. 27, 08 8:24 AM

I couldn't be happier that this system is up and running. BUT the backpedling on initial claims has already started and to call the inconsistency "frustrating" is an understatement. I understand it's a work in progress. I understand there are many, many variables. BUT as a future business owner and current business student, I can't help but think it should have been under-promised not over-sold -- Realistic claims on how long the install would take, what the reception would be like and what connection speeds would be like. A pleasant surprise that the speeds are faster than predicted and solid connectivity would have been like free advertising. Now it's going to be an uphill battle to win back those who have tried it and given up.

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yuckfouApr. 27, 0812:30 PM

I am so sick of people claiming that this Wi Fi network is in place and working. What they all fail to mention is that there is still a SUBSTANTIAL area of the city that is not covered. US Internet calls these "problem areas". When trying to getan answer from USI/the City/whoever, an answer is never forthcoming. When I finally got someone to answer me as to when I would have it - the answer essentially was "we don't know" and "complain to the city council about it". Go out to their website and take a look at their coverage map. These "problem areas" are in very densely populated areas, and contain a very lasrger customer base. Steve: do your research.

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abratterApr. 27, 08 4:26 PM

Expecting a 12-month wait, I waited 20 months before my area of the city was offered USI wireless access. It's been 2 months and I'm disappointed at the speeds and access. When it works, 1 MPBS is good but not great; when it doesn't, it's no better than dial-up or not available at all. The 4/22/08 thunderstorm knocked out the node nearest my home for the better part of a day. Since then, I have been without service for most of 3 days. It's back up now, but speeds are lame. I really want this to work, but can't wait forever.

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kdmccaryApr. 27, 08 6:28 PM

I purchased the 3Mb service and running speed tests pretty well show that speed most of the time. I've been up and running for over two months and overall I'm happy with the service and the price. I have had three outages which have lasted an hour or more each time -- I never experienced those sort of outage times on my Qwest DSL. I expect them to work those issues out. I'm not very impressed when I've taken my laptop to open areas downtown where I get kicked off frequently.

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freewheelerApr. 27, 0810:13 PM

Is anyone at all concerned that the government, in this case the city, could ultimately control your access to the media and information if private enterprise is driven out of business by this? Should that scare us?

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djmeierApr. 28, 08 9:43 AM

The article itself is interesting and the comments are particularly funny as well. From my perspective, as a security and infrastructure consultant, it's surprising to me that people have jumped on board so quickly. If any of those who are disappointed had spent 20 minutes doing some research you would have quickly learned that municipal WiFi is a losing battle. There aren't any major metro areas that have it rolled out with "happy" users. The technology itself was never meant to provide this type of service. Think of it as trying to eat soup with a fork -- frustrating. What USI doesn't tell you is that they can't guarantee service even *with* their "booster modem" because the 802.11 specification doesn't do an authentication check for a deauthentication frame. This means that anyone can disconnect you for as long as they feel like they want or need to. That and since the technology is a shared infrastructure people who are switching to the service from DSL or Cable aren't told that the medium they are about to use is prone to dense usage latency and all kinds of public spectrum overlap and interference. Just wait until the spoofing begins and people start broadcasting the same USI SSID out in public and trick users into giving up their usernames and passwords. All of these things are astoundingly hard to control on a municipal level. As a security consultant I would not recommend this service to anyone in the metro area unless you're savvy with technology and *know* all of the caveats before you delve into it...

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joevoylesApr. 28, 08 3:40 PM

Do you really need to buy their $160 modem for true wireless access? Am I reading this right? I really think it's a bad business plan, and I live in the city. For Mpls to build this new network which requires a special $160 modem in order to use just one wi-fi system makes no sense. It's doomed. Maybe these guys haven't heard of the idea of universal standards. In the real world you can place Macs and PCs side-by-side and surf the web at the same coffee table. I can travel internationally and have access to thousands of wi-fi networks. I already have a built-in wi-fi card. That's what it's for -- wireless internet via wi-fi. If there's a charge to use their network I just enter my credit card. You get a password. Duh. All systems are compatible, except my home town.

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