Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hydro to Make Toronto Wireless

The news is filled with the story about Toronto Hydro's plans to turn Toronto into one enormous WiFi hotspot. I don't believe in coincidences, but this news comes right after I decide to install a wireless network and discover something interesting. All these years I've lived here and never knew I was in the midst of a wireless combat zone. When I went to do "site survey" to find my wireless network, a whole list popped up. Which network was mine? Back to my main computer to change the default SSID to something other than "default" -- too many defaults to choose from, although there were some other interestingly named ones, a couple of which were unsecured. Who's savvy enough to install a WiFi in their home, but dumb enough not to know to encrypt the thing? Or are they wanting to do a public service, sort of an advance guard to Toronto Hydro's plans, and make the Internet available to any passing person? Anyway, this experience puts paid to the criticism that a city-wide WiFi would blanket us in radiation. Unbeknownst to us, with all these home WiFis, we already are.

The funniest criticism of Hydro's plans in The Toronto Star article (by Tyler Hamilton) has to be from Michael Lee, chief strategy officer for Toronto-based Rogers Communications Inc.:
""Running a network to deliver electricity and running a network to deliver Internet protocol to customers are really two different things," Lee said. The cost of building a WiFi network may seem "tantalizingly low," but the ongoing billing, marketing, maintenance and customer support costs are often underestimated."
Hydro doesn't know how to bill? News to me. Now they may have trouble with the maintenance thing as it won't be cost-effective to send 20 guys out to change the WiFi equivalent of a bulb, but I'm sure having competition will teach them...just as it'll teach Bell and Rogers' to amend their shockingly overpriced Internet services. In the meantime, I'll stick with my affordable little ISP.

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