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« Congressional Follies | Main | Gordon Moore and His 'Law,' 40 Years Later »

April 16, 2005


Kim Helliwell

If you read the whole article, you realize that the quote above isn't the half of it. What an arrogant twit!

rick gregory

Oh, I don't know... because HIS OWN COMPANY's commercial promote the idea that their network works everywhere?? Idiot...


Either he's an idiot to say those things or some of it was taken out of context. We work in the wireless industry and these companies plan their networks by where people live, work, play and drive. Knowing what I know, I'd have to say this is some sort of hatchet job.

As for the "competition" of a city wi-fi network, sure he doesn't like it. The competitor sets many of the rules! Why would companies invest the best in a SF network when the investment is constantly at increased risk? The answer is they'll invest somewhat less than they normally would to hedge their bets. Then both networks will be less than par.

For those that say that the government network will be just as good, I doubt the government will have the staying power and will do timely investments over the long haul.


Why should companies 'invest the best' if they have no competition whatsoever? Without competition, there's no reason to go beyond the minimum it takes to get people to sign up for service. It's not like Verizon doesn't have anything else to do with its money but spend it in SF (There's always BOS, or NYC, or MiddleOfNowhereVille). At least a local provider (whether it be a small company, a residents' club, or municipality) would have more reason to plow more money into local infrastructure.

And what do you mean about 'staying power'? Is the town going to go away in the next 10 years? And why should we expect that Verizon will make more timely investments in our local network? And what does it matter either way? It's not like private enterprise suffers unduly in the presence of inferior competition if it can provide better service. Regardless of whether or not municipalities construct wireless networks, Verizon isn't going to take its ball and go home --it needs to make money. It'll find something that it actually *is* in a better position than the municipality to provide.

Allowing companies to legislate their competitors away is the least free-market solution I can think of. Monopolies are bad news. Compare wireless phones sold by Verizon to those sold in other countries. Compare in particular their wireless phones with Bluetooth, which Verizon crippled so as to prevent users from transferring files from their PCs to their phones, because they preferred to force you to upload said files to their servers, and pay for the airtime and extra service fees to download them to your phone. Verizon certainly isn't interested in whats best in terms of service for the consumer. Why should we allow them a greater monopoly?

Jim M

I guess that's why the "can you hear me" guy is always on the road.

Alex Krupp

I think there are actually some good reasons why private companies are better to provide wireless. How long until every major city has free municipal wireless, and then laws are passed to prevent certain 'objectionable' websites from being accessed over the municipal wifi, which is a monopoly. If the government provides free internet than you can bet that all of your browsing habits and emails will be monitored for potential crimes and terrorist activities.

The major argument for the gov providing free wifi is that it will bridge the 'digital divide'. This is by and large a load of bullshit. In one of his last speaches, Isaac Asimov predicted a future where everyone would have the equivalent of the library of congress on their desktops, and how good it would be because we would have an uber educated society. Well guess what, most kids basically has the equivalent of the library of congress on their desktops and if anything society is dumber than ever before.

not a Yank

To all you who complain about Verison's performance. Why wait for the City of San Francisco to set up a municipal WiFi network? Shut your mouth, get off your ass and build your own.

There are plenty of links on how to build a Wireless ISP. Here is a list of companies that make Wireless Mesh network equipment

Defacto Wireless
Locust World
Mesh Networks

Those just come to the top of my mind I am sure there are others who make similar equipment

You can also download the software from the University of Illinois at Urbana. Google community networks.

No takers? As they say up in Alberta and down in Texas, you all are all hat and no cattle.

Alex Krupp

I'd like to add that I didn't mean to defend Verizon or the CEO as a whole in my above post. To me the Verizon store is like the DMV but with obnoxious cellphones ringing every thirty seconds. Every time I go there I want to throw my phone through the huge plateglass window. I went in there last week because I bought a phone with 110 hours standby, where the battery was lasting less than 48 without talking on it or pressing any buttons. The lying bastards actually told me that the standby time was measured with the phone turned off!

Another time I went to have my phone replaced because it was broken and it said "change battery" on it. They told me that I just needed to charge the battery and that it wasn't actually broken. So I said, "so what you are saying is that the phone is saying change battery when it should say charge battery, and the phone isn't actually broken?" And they said yes, so I said, "Well that means the phone is broken then!" And then they basically kicked me out of the store.

Esme Vos

No wonder mobile phone service is so lousy in the United States - mobile phone companies hire people like Seidenberg. I have perfect cell phone connectivity in our house in Amsterdam - from the attic to the basement. I have never had a problem with getting reception in 17th century buildings in Europe (yes, the ones with thick stone walls). And there is excellent coverage on the remote coast of Cabo de Gata-Nijar in Spain, miles away from any urban center.

Try getting a cell phone connection via T-Mobile at the beach near Capitola. When I asked my Santa Cruz friends if I should have gotten a Verizon account instead, they told me that was also futile although Verizon has slightly better coverage in Northern Cal.

Here in our temporary San Francisco apartment (in the Castro near Duboce Park), I have to stand at the window to get a mobile phone signal. And this apartment has thin walls!

Are people here so used to lousy phone service that this is considered normal - not getting mobile phone service inside a San Francisco apartment? Or along the beach in Capitola which is not far from Silicon Valley? No wonder Verizon and other mobile phone companies don't improve their service - either the CEOs are complacent or the people are, or both.


Mike, how does Verizon have a monopoly? Actually, the worst monopoly will be if the government gets a hold of the service too deeply.

You also said that Verizon will "find something that it actually *is* in a better position than the municipality to provide." Yes, but it might not be in SF. If the laws are open enough for the perceived reward to be greater than the perceived risk, then they might. If the perceived reward is to be less than the perceived risk, then they'll put their capital in more friendly locales (from a geographic point of view) or in other technologies.

Also, when I said "staying power", I meant will the SF have the staying power to make the long term investments? (I guess that's what I wrote.) I think one of the flaws in a justification of a muni owned system is the assumption that some people view the technology behind the service to be static. In other words, once the SF city council passes spending for X amount of dollars and allocates some maintenance money, will they be so inclined to keep spending to improve it? And what will they do when newer technologies come along that threaten their new "techno-baby." Don't forget, besides money for technology, money will be setup for a mini-bureaucracy - and we all know (or we all should know) what bureaucracies do: they do whatever it takes to maintain the bureaucracy. So, over time, as the gov't gets into this business, private businesses will be less inclined to invest - unless they are politically connected. Let me just be clear, these problems will appear if the government gets pretty deep into this stuff. If they employ bullying tactics against companies, then the problems will appear. (And don't call the government competition to the Verizon's, Cingular's, Boingo's, etc., It can be worse because the ghovernment makes the rules and enforces the rules. As we know, rules are interpreted differently for different people every day.)

Esme Vos, one comment: you're complaining about cell service in SF. I'm not an expert, but could zoning rules play a big part in a lack of towers and antennas?

Daniel Conover

One of the most daunting questions in American life today is "How did so many dumb people get so much money?"


I've had cell phone contracts with Verizon and Sprint, among others, and the excuse for poor coverage is generally "architectual impediments" or "geographic anomalies." Since I'm sure no business would lie to me, the fact that my phone doesn't work on the front steps of the state capitol, on the freeway in the middle of the largest city in the state and on my back deck must be because of some invisible mountain or WTC-size buildings. These are not fringe areas...they're in the middle of major commercial areas and dead center in the coverage map.

My complaints are always met with the customer-sensitive rejoinder, "That's the way things work."

I wish Seiderberg was an anomaly...he's just more publicly arrogant than most big-buck CEOs.


Well Alex, given the past behavior of large corporations, I'd rather have a free WiFi network that was government run, and over which I have some control through my vote, than a free network run by a large corporation over which I have no effective control. Sure, I can influence the corporation with my 3 shares of stock, or band together with others so I have a tiny minority of the stock; that'll surely make them listen to me instead of bigwigs who can make them or break them -- defintiely.

Where's the massive advantge if it's a private network? No spying? sure, tell me another one. You really believe a large corporation would not work with a government that wanted to spy on its citizens? They knuckle under to relatively powerless groups like the RIAA; yet they'd stand up to the feds? Not on this planet.

But with private networks you have a choice, right? is that the argument? But you have that choice with private networks and a city-owned network; why assume it must be an effective monopoly when a government when with various networks, such as cable and phones, we've seen again and again that effective monopolies are run in our cities by large corporations? Why can't a city create a free network and also allow others to create networks? There's even more incentive for them to do so than for corporations, since it takes a load off their network; while the corporation, by its nature, must attempt to make some profit from the network, and this, by the nature of a corporation, means eliminating competition.

We need to get rid of the hysteria about government services. Besides, I'd like a service run by someone who doesn't think it's an affront if I actually want to get the service in my home. Wouldn't you?


QrazyQat, you probably are referring to me rather than Alex. Anyways, I think you are missing a big point: you seem to be assuming that there will be one carrier for WiFi and, thus, your "3 shares" are meaningless. Last time I looked, there are plenty of WiFi competitors out there. You can switch at any time.

I would guess that there would be more folks stringing networks but they're on hold because of the threat of a government owned network. Even if you think it's just another competitor, anyone contemplating entering the market is going to think twice about it because of the advantages that government has (no sales taxes, no property taxes, no income taxes, right-of-way benefits). Even if you're nimble, it will be awhile before it's shown that "you" can do better.

What really strikes me, however, is the number of people who think government can do a good job over a loing period of time!
When the government is the only choice, then we usually get crap. Except for the things the government has done since day one (like law enforcement or the military), why in the world would anyone want the government involved in anything high tech???? Even if government isn't the only player in town, they discourage investment and they can "do things" over time to keep their bureaucracy going.

With this logic, the government should be running all sorts of businesses. Why isn't the computer industry regulated? With computers used in all sorts of life safety situations, you would think that there would a cabinet level postion for computing - "Department of Computing". Computers are too vital to be left to the private markets, right?

I think we know from experience and simple observation, that the more involved the government is, the lower the quality. Look at super-regulated Europe. Their unemployment has skyrocketed. If we had Germany's unemployment, we'd have close to 18 million unemployed! In general, the more freedom and corresponding responsibility that a country or group of people have, the more successful they are.
Why don't we let the Post Office run this network? Heck, they've got people on their feet all of the time. They could use the network too!

My advice is to resist government involvement. It sounds nice, but it has never worked. Why bring government into anything high-tech.


you just live in the wrong place. For example Sprint has some excellent coverage in some Colorado Mountain valleys, it just happen to be where their CEO owns a house or where he goes skiing. Not where a lot of customers live, just the right ones.


I guess I wouldn't be optimistic about having the government build wifi networks considering the big scandal about the FBI's computers being hopelessly out of date a year or two ago.

As far as cell phones and houses go: A few years ago I was living in Chicago and moving around a lot. I got a verizon cell phone because it made more sense (I thought) than changing my landline every two months. I was able to take calls anywhere BUT when I was home. It was a neat little ironic reversal, but not much fun... I changed my voice mail message to say "you have reached me at home, which means my phone isn't ringing... please leave a message or try again later when I may be out of the house," or something to that effect. In four different apartments I was never able to get calls inside...


What Seidenberg failed to mention is that subscribers - both individual and business - have options to enable wireless coverage where their cell phones and wireless devices are used most – indoors. No matter how good the outdoor macro network coverage is, indoor coverage is always going to be an issue due to building materials and location - it's just not RF friendly. This issue will become more prevalent especially as more Americans "cut the cord" and go completely wireless. If wireless carriers are counting on this cutting the cord trend to continue, coverage at home will have to be addressed. More than price or functionality, coverage is subscribers want – and they aren’t always getting it.

Despite Seidenberg's comments, carriers like Verizon Wireless ARE working with vendors that specialize in indoor coverage to ensure their customers to have coverage where they use their wireless devices the most – at home and at work. Carriers can’t afford to provide coverage in every home across America, but consumers and enterprises are now realizing there are carrier-approved solutions available that they can purchase to improve their indoor wireless coverage problems and maximize their wireless service plan.


Just think how happy and loyal customers would be if Verizon's growth in spending on customer acquisition matched its network service provisioning. Verizon's money is going to Madison Avenue, not to equipment vendors.

Esme Vos

I am watching the Philadelphia citywide wireless broadband project. The city put out an RFP for a citywide network - no, they are not spending tax dollars and the city will not be an ISP. Anyway, let's see if Verizon bids on this municipal wireless broadband project. I'm keeping tabs on this so that one day I'll be able to post an article on which says: "despite CEO's ridicule of city wireless networks, Verizon bids anyway," or something like that. I am also curious to see if they win any part of the project. SBC bid on the Madison, Wisconsin citywide wireless broadband project and lost out to AOL/Skycable.

peg dash fab

WiFi is a transitional technology. Municipal WiFi nets are doing the companies a favor by absorbing the deployment cost.

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