Sunday, July 01, 2007

Free WiFi In Rockville

Free Broadband For Someone

Last week, AEPCO, (Advanced Engineering and Planning Corporation, Inc., of Gaithersburg, MD) agreed to provide free WiFi to the new town center of Rockville. If you haven't visited the location, you must. For a mix of shopping and culture, it's quite pretty. Although it doesn't measure up to the walking districts of towns and cities throughout Europe, it's a huge step up for anything that Rockville has had in the past. And kudos to putting the library right in the center. (But I will add my voice to those against naming it after a politician.)

No map has been made available, but the vague description suggests that the WiFi footprint will be similar to what is already available in Silver Spring. Here is the announcement from the city of Rockville.

Eventually, AEPCO plans to install WiFi service elsewhere in Rockville (perhaps even throughout) but residents will have to pay for the expanded service area. No prices have been made available. The announcement also notes "will allow for paid subscriptions for residents and businesses that want to have a higher bandwidth and a higher quality of service for indoor areas within Town Square." So, it will be a low-bandwidth connection. And users will need to re-authenticate (the announcement mentions an initial splash screen with advertising) periodically, making lengthy connections (e.g., substantial downloads) unlikely with the free service.

But for Rockville residents, this is a good thing. Not only does it make the town center more attractive but it suggests that there will be competition for internet service in Rockville. But before we start celebrating, note the time schedule: AEPCO has indicated that citywide expansion could occur within 24 months after service begins in Town Square. Within? Why does that sound like speeds up to 5Mb!

Free Broadband For Everyone

I live next to Glen Echo, the smallest town in Montgomery County (population: 221). It's a cozy place (how many towns have their own 86-year old carousel and Wurlitzer band organ?) and I frequently bike through it and always enjoy reading their newspaper, the Echo.

The current edition of the Echo has a curious item - the town was recently approached by the Coalition for Free Broadband and asked to write a letter to the FCC supporting the Coalition's proposal - that a nationwide network be established for free wireless internet access. The company behind this, M2Z Networks, claims that with 20MHz of currently-unused spectrum, they can offer "fast, free and family friendly broadband to 95 percent of the US population within ten years and pay 5% of gross revenues from its subscription services [insert lots of handwaving here].

M2Z has an application for the spectrum pending before the FCC and are looking for support. To my surprise, the Echo article says that "the Montgomery County Council and County Executive have agreed to support the Coalition's proposal."

Anyone know any more about this?


Anonymous said...

"But for Rockville residents, this is a good thing. Not only does it make the town center more attractive but it suggests that there will be competition for internet service in Rockville"

I don't think there will be competition in Rockville for a long time. I asked Phyllis Marcuccio about FIOS on the 4th and she is so anti Verizon I could not belive what she told me. She said the reason they will not allow Verizon to install FIOS in the city is because: "They (Verizon) are causing great amounts of damage to peoples property in other parts of the area and the council would not let them do that to the taxpayers in Rockville."

pauls said...

Your comment makes a lot of sense. If you look at the Verizon construction schedule site, it has come to a complete halt with Montgomery County. In June they even droppped Mont Co from its update. This is very frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Verizon continues to roll-out its fiber-optic network. We're just a little behind on updating the Website regarding the construction schedule. We'll remedy that ASAP.

Anonymous said...

Phyllis Marcuccio's comment doesn't make sense to me. Unless I'm mistaken, the "damage" being caused is usually due to digging up driveways and byways in order to trench in the fiber cables in newer neighborhoods with underground utilities (no overhead utility poles). Rockville is predominantly comprised of older neighborhoods with overhead lines, isn't it? There's very little risk of damage with overhead lines and they go up quickly and neatly. When I hear comments like hers, the word that immediately comes to mind is "kickbacks" (or moron...) Why else would someone protect a Comcast monopoly?

As for M2Z's free wireless internet... I think it's doomed. Most urban/suburban folks have access to HSI via cable (or FIOS) or DSL, or satellite... Sure, it's not free, but how many people will fork out cash to buy a non-standard wireless adapter for shoddy, low bit rate (sub-DSL) free service? I say shoddy, because running at 2155MHz, there will have to be lots of access points deployed and this will be expensive to build out (ie thin coverage). Ricochet tried about 10 years ago and failed with subscription wireless service (twice, as I recall). They couldn't keep it running with the revenue generated. IMHO, M2Z is going to have much less revenue trying to get advertisers to pony up $$'s to reach a small subscriber base. Yeah, free wireless on your laptop would be nice, but still, most people will simply search out a wi-fi hotspot for their STANDARD wi-fi wireless adapter, rather than spending for a non-standard dongle adapter for M2Z. OR, they'll buy add-on service through their cellphone provider. Speaking of which, if M2Z doesn't move fast, they'll be beaten out by cellphone internet service. (Again, IMHO,) it's just a matter of time before internet access via your cellular network is free or at least nearly free.