Nueva Orleans desplegará una red WiFi gratis para salir de la crisis tras Katrina
Atraer nuevas inversiones a una ciudad devastada por una catástrofe natural no parece tarea fácil, pero Nueva Orleans está dispuesta a intentarlo. C. Ray Nagin, alcalde de la ciudad estadounidense devastada por los huracanes Katrina y Rita, promueve el establecimiento de una red WiFi pública y gratis para todos en la ciudad, informa Washington Post.
29 de noviembre de 2005. MADRID.- ELMUNDO.ES

No es la primera ciudad estadounidense que pretende una conectividad en cualquier lugar, de hecho, Filadelfia cuenta con una iniciativa similar, aunque es de pago. En el caso de Nueva Orleans, el despliegue de la red comenzará en el distrito financiero y en el Barrio Francés, para ir expandiéndose poco a poco a otros lugares de la ciudad sureña.

El principal problema al que se enfrenta esta iniciativa son las quejas de los operadores de telefonía y cable (como también sucedió en Filadelfia), que ven competencia desleal en el despliegue de redes inalámbricas gratuitas públicas.

De momento, y según los planes de la alcaldía, la red a desplegar soportará velocidades de transmisión de hasta 512 Kbps para garantizar la estabilidad del sistema, y los equipos utilizados provienen en gran medida de donaciones de varias empresas tecnológicas.


New Orleans's New Connection
City-Owned WiFi System To Be Announced Today

By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 29, 2005; D01

Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans will deploy the nation's first municipally owned wireless Internet system that will be free for all users, part of an effort to jump-start recovery by making living and doing business in the city as attractive as possible.

The system, which Mayor C. Ray Nagin is scheduled to announce at a news conference today, also will be used by law enforcement and for an array of city government functions, such as speeding approval of building permits.

Much of the equipment to run the network was donated by companies, but New Orleans will own it and operate all its components at the outset. The system, which uses devices mounted on streetlights to beam out fast Internet connections for wireless-enabled computers, is scheduled to be operational today in the central business district and the French Quarter and to be expanded over time.

"Now, with a single step, city departments, businesses and private citizens can access a tool that will help speed the rebuilding of New Orleans as a better, safer and stronger city," Nagin said in a statement. "This is how technology fuels collaboration, allowing our best ideas to come together so we can speak with one voice."

But the move probably will stir an already roiling national debate over whether it makes sense for localities to launch their own systems.

Cities around the country are studying or have deployed "wireless fidelity," or WiFi, networks, because they often provide more affordable Internet access than private carriers and can help bridge the digital divide in low-income areas or because high-speed Internet access is not provided by either telephone or cable companies.

Telephone and cable companies oppose the moves as unfair, taxpayer-funded competition and have successfully lobbied several states to prohibit or restrict the networks.

Louisiana is one of those states, prohibiting any locality from offering Internet connection speeds of more than 144 kilobits per second, about twice the speed of dial-up but one-tenth to one-twentieth of what is typically provided via digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable-modem services.

The New Orleans system will feature 512-kilobit-per-second speed, which city officials said is the most the network can handle efficiently at first. Because the city is under a state of emergency, it can skirt existing law.

Eventually, city officials said, they expect to outsource operation of the commercial side of the network to a private company, as municipalities such as Philadelphia are doing. Philadelphia charges users a monthly fee.

But they have little patience for what they see as efforts by telecommunications companies to restrict their ability to determine their own Internet future. For them, moving to a permanent wireless system is a matter of survival for a city whose future remains uncertain.

"My number-one job is to restimulate the economy," said Greg Meffert, a deputy mayor, the city's chief technology officer and a former tech company entrepreneur. The system, he said, "is going to be the backbone of a brand new, never fully tried set of technology visions" to help distinguish New Orleans from other large cities.

Already, WiFi communications for government services are helping the city speed its recovery. The biggest benefit, Meffert said, has been enabling building inspectors to quickly process paperwork for reconstruction permits without having to travel back and forth to city offices.

Moreover, Meffert said the hurricane provided valuable lessons on the ability of traditional, wired telecommunications systems to withstand natural disasters.

"I know what failed," Meffert said. "Staying with the status quo would be the single most reckless thing I could do. . . . If I put it back the same way that it was, people should fire me before I finish."

City officials said they will battle to overturn the 144-kilobit speed limitation that will take effect when the state of emergency is over.

"It's the blessing of this tragedy," Meffert said. "It's harder to win the been-here-forever vendor argument. Either we do this, or we die."

Chris Drake, operations manager for New Orleans, said the system also proves invaluable for law enforcement. Although first responders will still communicate over a radio-band network, background data checks and other police functions can be done on the WiFi network, relieving pressure on the radio system.

Before the hurricane, city government already had moved to a voice-over-Internet system to save money. And it had deployed a new-generation, wireless "mesh" network for anti-crime surveillance cameras in parts of the city.

The broader WiFi system is an expansion of that network, using equipment from Silicon Valley-based Tropos Networks Inc.

The system uses shoebox-sized devices mounted on streetlight posts to provide the wireless coverage. Some of the devices also beam the signal to existing fiber-optic trunk lines that connect the city to the Internet backbone. About 20 to 25 units are necessary to cover one square mile.

After the hurricane, Tropos donated 50 more units to the city and Intel Corp. paid for an additional 50 units, bringing the total in the city to roughly 200.

"We donated the equipment because good friends of ours were hit really hard," said Ellen Kirk, Tropos vice president for marketing.

Devices also were installed to serve specific locations, such as disaster shelters and cruise ships housing displaced residents.

She said the only previously deployed units damaged during the hurricane were those in which the light pole was knocked down. Backup power quickly restored all the other devices to service.

Paul Butcher, Intel's marketing manager for state and local governments, said the future of communication is wireless.

"The language has changed from two years ago," he said. "The value is in the mobile worker."

New Orleans to enjoy free Wi-Fi access
Wireless hope amid the carnage
By Lester Haines
Published Thursday 1st September 2005 10:37 GMT
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There is some welcome relief today for those people left wading through the remains of New Orleans - T-Mobile has announced it will offer free Wi-Fi access across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama until the end of the week, and "possibly beyond that if the situation warrants it".

That's how eWeek.com puts it, under the deliciously inappropriate headline "T-Mobile Opens Wireless Floodgates in New Orleans". T-Mobile hotspots can be found in locations including Borders, FedEx/Kinko's, Starbucks, Hyatt Hotels, Red Roof Inn motels, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways. Those wishing to avail themselves of T-Mobile's generous offer are pointed in the direction of the listings for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

T-Mobile said in a statement: "The free service is intended for those who have been displaced from their homes or are seeking refuge from the hurricane," adding: "This free offer for the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama is for Wi-Fi service only, not T-Mobile voice services. There will be no charge for T-Mobile HotSpot service, at these locations, through the end of day Friday, September 2, 2005. The situation will be re-evaluated at that time to determine if the free service will continue."

While we're not entirely convinced that the company has actually been watching the TV footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - and let's be honest, swimming to the nearest Starbucks to enjoy a double mocha chocka latte decaf while, ahem, surfing the web as the Louisiana National Guard battle gamely to protect the store's blueberry muffins from looters - the company can at least be applauded for the gesture.

Sadly, not everyone is as public-spirited. The Katrina disaster has brought the usual scum floating to the surface, in the form of fake charity email appeals and the time-honoured sale of catastrophe-related urls.

The Boston Globe reports that within the last day, a rash of websites - including, according to the paper, Katrinahelp.com, katrinadonations.com and katrinarelief.com - has broken out on the net promising to forward donated cash to relief workers. The paper notes there is no way of knowing whether the money - collected via PayPal - ever reaches the intended recipients.

Actually, all three websites are basically the same, declaring: "WE've found that www.KatrinaHelp.info is a good site to share YOUR good fortune with Katrina's victims. Contact us HERE to find out How YOU can add your link to this website." Leave any of them open, and after a while they redirect to a parking page with the obligatory ads - a low-grade scam to grub up a few bucks. Possibly more sinister are the mailto: links on the sites. Once you've thrown over an email to see how you can help, the reply may end up costing you more than you expected. Federal Trade Commission spokeswoman, Claudia Bourne-Farrell "cautioned consumers never to click on any link in an e-mail solicitation because consumers may end up at a phony site that looks real but is only a setup by identity thieves to get confidential information".

The FBI, meanwhile, says it is investigating "a handful of reports of fraudsters using e-mail and websites to impersonate legitimate fund-raising and relief organizations related to the hurricane". Spokesman Paul Bresson warned: "People who want to make a donation or contribute to a cause should actively seek out reputable organizations and then contact them by telephone or by typing their web address into a web browser. The important point is that they initiate this contact on their own."

And while the Feds deal with the scammers, eBay is tackling the usual chancers who have been trying to flog what they reckon will be choice Katrina urls, including katrinaourtsunami.com and ourtsunami2005.com. The vendor of the latter - asking $15k for the domain - promised to forward half of the proceeds to the American Red Cross. eBay, however, pulled the plug because althought it "allows sellers to dedicate a portion of their profits to charities, [the company] requires the seller to either sign up for eBay's own giving program or obtain permission from the charity first".

The Red Cross confirmed to the Boston Globe that no such permission had been granted, and the axe duly fell.

On a brighter note, employees who had been ordered at gunpoint to attend the now-not-forthcoming HP Technology Forum - scheduled for 12-15 September in New Orleans - are now excused duty until the Autumn.

According to HP's update, the company is "working diligently to determine a time in the fall when we can host the conference" and will "automatically cancel all existing hotel reservations in New Orleans that were booked through the conference website, without penalty". It's also "working with the major airline carriers to transfer any non-refundable airline tickets to the rescheduled conference".