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RE: [RFI] Rural Technology

To: "'Pete Smith'" <n4zr@contesting.com>, <rfi@contesting.com>
Subject: RE: [RFI] Rural Technology
From: "Dave Bernstein" <dave.bernstein@comcast.net>
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2004 16:13:47 -0400
List-post: <mailto:rfi@contesting.com>
Excellent article; thanks Pete!

In a recent PC week column, John Dvorak briefly discussed the use of 802.11
equipment for long-distance connectivity. Dvorak said that most consumer
802.11b transmitters run 33 mw, mentioned that SMC's 200mw PCMCIA card
claims a half-mile range with "no special antenna", and asserted that the
FCC permits up to 1W.

I wonder what sort of range one could achieve with 1W and a tower-mounted
omnidirectional antenna. 

(Yes, I know part-97 allows hams to run higher power, but this would
preclude commercial applications).


       Dave, AA6YQ

-----Original Message-----
From: rfi-bounces@contesting.com [mailto:rfi-bounces@contesting.com] On
Behalf Of Pete Smith
Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 2:49 PM
To: rfi@contesting.com
Subject: [RFI] Fwd: [OJ] Rural Technology

Here's an interesting variation -- a utility company investing in 
large-area wiFi for rural Internet.  The economic numbers cited are an 
amazing contrast with what it would probably cost for infrastructure to do 
the same job with BPL.

73, Pete N4ZR

>Rolling wheat fields are also Wi-Fi country
>Tuesday, September 7, 2004
>Walla Walla County is better known for wheat fields than Wi-Fi. But a 
>small community-owned utility in this agriculture-dependent region has 
>constructed one of the largest wireless Internet networks in rural 
>America, rolling out high-speed connections across about 1,500 square 
>Dayton-based Columbia Energy, a subsidiary of the Columbia Rural 
>Electric Association, built the network for farmers who monitor 
>irrigation equipment in the field and for residential and business 
>customers who have limited access to cable or digital subscriber line 
>"You have some hot spots at Starbucks," Columbia Energy CEO Tom Husted 
>said. "This is one huge hot spot."
>Huge it is. The network is 10 times larger than a proposed citywide 
>Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) network in Philadelphia -- one that media 
>reports last week inaccurately said would be the largest in the world. 
>Covering parts of Walla Walla, Columbia, Franklin, Benton and Umatilla 
>counties, Columbia Energy's 1,500-square-mile Wi-Fi hot spot is bigger 
>than the state of Rhode Island.
>"Wow," said Dianah Neff, chief information officer at the city of 
>Philadelphia when told of Columbia Energy's Wi-Fi system. "Certainly, 
>1,500 square miles is very large."
>About 100 people are on the network, including real estate agent 
>Christy Young, who signed up for the wireless service last month when 
>she moved her business into the former John Deere farm-implement shop 
>in downtown Dayton.
>"We've got some things to learn," Young admits. "But it has been a big 
>help to have it in the building and not have all of the cords."
>Typically located in hotels, airports and other high-traffic areas, 
>Wi-Fi hot spots allow laptop users to read e-mail or surf the Internet 
>without plugging their machines into the wall. Wi-Fi uses unlicensed 
>radio frequencies to carry Internet traffic -- usually at a range of a 
>couple of hundred feet.
>But a new breed of communications equipment is making it possible to 
>transmit the radio waves over extremely long distances at relatively 
>low costs. That combination is making converts of some who believe 
>long-haul Wi-Fi is the answer for rural communities looking to bridge 
>what is often described as "the digital divide."
>Columbia Energy's Husted is a believer. Although the utility has 
>operated a wireless network for the past two years, it was only in 
>recent months that new Wi-Fi equipment was installed that cut the costs 
>of Internet service to a competitive price.
>"Why go wired when you can do it at a fraction of the cost through 
>wireless?" Husted asks.
>The new 1,500-square-mile network is powered by San Francisco-based 
>Vivato Inc., whose antennas and smaller pico cell transmitters send 
>Wi-Fi signals up to 30 miles, and Spokane-based OneEighty Networks, a 
>wireless Internet service provider that manages residential and 
>business accounts. Vivato and OneEighty have some experience when it 
>comes to large-scale wireless networks. They recently helped build the 
>SpokaneHotZone -- a free Wi-Fi network that covers a 100-block area in 
>downtown Spokane.
>Deploying a secure wireless network over hundreds of miles of rolling 
>hills, arid canyons and small towns was much easier than creating a 
>citywide system, said Kevin Ryan, vice president of marketing and 
>business development at Vivato.
>"Usually in these open spaces, there is a lot less interference than 
>there is in the big cities, both in terms of physical impediments like 
>buildings, but also in terms of radio frequency interference," Ryan 
>said. "A rural deployment where you have large open areas is ideally 
>suited for our equipment."
>Vivato, with a 60-person research and development center in Spokane, is 
>looking to join with other regional utilities that might want to bring 
>wireless broadband to rural America.
>"People ask if this is a niche application. The answer is no," Ryan 
>said. "There are thousands of these rural utilities across the U.S. 
>that we think are great opportunities." The company also has been 
>flooded with calls from larger cities looking to roll out Wi-Fi 
>networks as a way to spur economic development.
>Providing Internet service to thinly populated areas has not been an 
>easy task in the past as cable and phone companies bypass small towns 
>because of expensive installation and maintenance costs. As a result, 
>about 75 percent of Americans still do not have access to broadband.
>Wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi and a more powerful version 
>known as WiMax, could change the economics of how people get online.
>It is already happening in parts of the state.
>Stevenson, a town of 1,300 people on the Columbia River, set up a free 
>Wi-Fi network in its business district last fall as a way to help drive 
>tourism. And Maverick Wireless deployed a Wi-Fi network earlier this 
>year in Benton County that covers 40 square miles, with monthly service 
>charges ranging from $24.95 to $59.95. The Redmond company, which also 
>offers Wi-Fi in parts of Poulsbo and Silverdale, plans to have wireless 
>networks running in 140 markets in the next three years.
>"The bottom line is that DSL and cable are not in these communities," 
>said Maverick Wireless founder David Schmelke, who was the former 
>director of wireless data at T-Mobile USA. "They have been secondary 
>telecom markets. But the PUDs (public utility districts) are getting 
>more interested in stepping up and making this happen."
>With seven transmission towers strategically positioned on high points 
>in southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, Columbia Energy's 
>wireless network was built for about $600,000. That's a fraction of 
>what it would have cost to lay fiber-optic cable, Husted said.
>Charter Communications and Qwest do sell high-speed Internet in some 
>parts of southeast Washington, although Husted said the mobility 
>offered through Columbia Energy is a big advantage.
>"For farmers, their office is in the tractor or the combine," he said. 
>"They can take the connectivity with them by being able to control or 
>monitor applications and equipment on the farm." Office workers, 
>students and other users no longer need multiple e-mail addresses, 
>relying instead on one account that they can manage from a laptop 
>anywhere they travel, Husted said.
>The cost of the service ranges from $39.95 per month for 256 kilobits 
>per second to $259.95 per month for 1.5 megabits per second, speeds 
>that are five times to 30 times faster than dial-up connections. 
>Husted, who plans to start marketing the service this month, expects 
>200 more customers by the end of the year.
>Columbia Rural Electric is the largest customer, with utility workers 
>using Wi-Fi-enabled computers to check meters and remotely monitor 
>"We have had a utility truck rolling down the highway, 10 miles from 
>the tower with a laptop and a network card, get 700 kilobits (of 
>connectivity)," Husted boasts.
>Residential and business customers have been pleased.
>Nanette Walkley, owner of a 5,000-acre family farm near Burbank in 
>Walla Walla County, is paying slightly more for the wireless Internet 
>service than she did for a dial-up connection through America Online. 
>The Internet connection is fast, allowing Walkley to get e-mail and 
>view online photographs of farming equipment from nearby auctions.
>"With the old Internet, it was almost faster to drive to the auction," 
>joked Walkley, whose family grows wheat, sweet corn, alfalfa and other 
>crops. Wireless Internet has not changed the way Walkley farms, 
>although she envisions a time in the near future when it will make the 
>operation more efficient.
>Next up will be installation of new wireless equipment, which will 
>allow her to remotely monitor irrigation systems and change water flow 
>to the fields. She hopes to have that in place some time next year.
>"That would be quite a time saver, saving wear and tear on the 
>vehicles," she said.
>AgriNorthwest -- a large farming operation in southeast Washington -- 
>already has been using the wireless network to send e-mail, financial 
>reports and other agricultural information to the company's 
>headquarters in Kennewick.
>"Wind, snow, rain -- and we get a lot of wind out here on Eureka farm 
>-- it goes, it works," said Mark Larsen, technology manager for 
>Next year, the privately held company will use the Wi-Fi network to 
>control irrigation pumps on a more than 10,000-acre potato, corn and 
>wheat farm in Walla Walla County.
>"Wireless is here; it is for real," said Larsen. "An agricultural 
>business can link a site a long ways away. It makes a lot of sense."
>Farmers are not the only ones benefiting.
>Young, the Dayton real estate agent, said she has been impressed with 
>the speed of the service as she gets real estate information and checks 
>stock quotes.
>The wireless network also has come in handy as the four real estate 
>agents set up shop in the new office on Main Street.
>"By going wireless, we have the ability to put an office wherever we 
>want, so the mobility is wonderful," she said.
>Young has yet to access the Internet while showing homes or 
>agricultural property, although she plans to do so once she becomes 
>more comfortable with the service.
>"It will be so nice to show a farmhouse and be able to pull up 
>comparables right there," she said.
>As demand for the service grows, the utility plans to double the 
>coverage area by adding new Wi-Fi base stations.
>The market remains small. After all, Columbia and Walla Walla counties 
>have a combined population of just 59,000 -- a small percentage when 
>compared with the 1.7 million people living in King County.
>Columbia Energy's Husted believes the service will catch on, especially 
>as farmers and industrial users realize the benefits of wireless 
>communications in their daily operations.
>Husted knew the utility would have to build the high-speed wireless 
>network on its own, much as local farmers did 65 years ago when they 
>set up the cooperative to bring electricity to the area.
>"A large investor-owned company was not going to put in the needed 
>infrastructure to allow us to bridge that digital divide here in rural 
>America," Husted said. "If someone was going to do it, it was going to 
>have to be us."
>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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