Another problem with Googlink Wifi

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By Tim Redmond

Or maybe I should call it Earthgoo.

Either way, Sasha at Leftinsf has a good summary of the pros and cons of the mayor's plan. I've been following this for a while, and my analsyis (no surprise) has always been based on the notion that the city shouldn't allow a private vendor to build and control such critical infrastrucutre.

But there's another issue here. Sarah Phelan gets into it here. Sasha puts it this way:

The network will be exclusive. Although the network is not an explicit monopoly, it will essentially take up all the bandwidth at the frequency wi-fi uses, so it would be difficult or impossible to have a competing network without using a completely different (and likely more expensive) technology.

Think about this for a second. San Francisco is full of all sorts of little (and not-so-little) wi-fi networks. SFLAN, for example, is building a free wifi service with a rooftop-to-rooftop backbone. Lots of people have smaller wi-fi setups that let them, for example, sit out in their backyards with a laptop and check their email. And if Googlink puts up its private wi-fi cloud, all of those other networks will run into interference.

I'm not an expert on the technical details here, but Tim Pozar, who runs United Layer, is, and here's how he explaned it to me:

"The type of spectrum we're using is interference-prone. There's just not that much space on the spectrum. The number of access points that are required [to set up citywide wi-fi] could mean one every block. That's a lot of radio frequency energy. It will significantly impact others who are trying to use that same part of the spectrum."

If your entire wi-fi network is inside your house or business, it might be okay, since these radio signals degrade quite a bit when they pass through walls. If you use wi-fi outside, or if it connects to anyone else outside, it might not work any more. Same goes for a cordless phone.

The problem, Posar told me, is that federal law pretty much forces you to accept interference on the wi-fi spectrum; there's nothing legally you can do to stop a big operator from stepping on little guys.

the Googlink system won't be that fast -- but if anyone else wants to get into the game and offer something better, it will be nearly impossible.

If the city were controlling this, we could do something about it. But it will all be in the hands of a private corporation.