Orange WiFi?

In a Progress article about poor mobile phone service in Orange County, Kate Andrews writes:

[Orange Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark] Johnson has hopes that a countywide broadband wireless project, for which a timeline has not been set, will help provide better coverage with additional towers.

Can anybody up the road from me in Orange provide any further information about this? Is the county considering blanketing the area in WiFi? Free or at a cost? Is there high-speed service in Orange at all, or is the municipal government doing this because there’s neither broadband availability nor likelihood of it anytime soon?

So many questions…

10 thoughts on “Orange WiFi?”

  1. The article didn’t say anything about Wi-Fi. Besides, adding Wi-Fi doesn’t do anything for most of Orange County, its too large and rural for that to make any sense.

    Placing Wi-Fi in the TOWN of Orange is doable. Though what is the advantage of that unless the town can use it to attract tax paying businesses or customers for those businesses. In that case, why would the town do it if the businesses can do it themselves?

    Btw, I oppose the efforts by the phone monopolies to prevent communities from creating their own wireless networks. I just don’t see a big advantage yet for a town to do so.

  2. The article does say broadband wireless. However, that isn’t likely Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is too short range. Maybe the WiMax technologies if they pan out or maybe they just mean better cell coverage with whatever cell provider’s data plan.

    What they need is simply a few more cell towers. This will help cell phone coverage more than data systems that aren’t in current use with cell phones.

  3. I use “WiFi” as a shorthand — 802.11a/b/g would surely be too short range for broadcast, as you point out. (Though a mesh network would like do the trick pretty nicely, it would probably require too high a rate of usage to be realistic.)

    If I knew that there was high-speed internet access in towns like Orange or Gordonsville, I’d seriously consider living there.

  4. But the problem the article discusses is having voice coverage in rural areas. 802.11a/b/g is a terrible solution for that because of the short range. Besides few phones have Wi-Fi and the handoff while driving between access points will fail. Can you imagine having access points every 300 yards along Rt 609 (windy, hilly, narrow road)?

    They could do this in Orange, but then again, if DSL is available there, you can purchase it yourself and place your own wireless router on it. I don’t think free internet is enough of a draw to get people to move to a different town.

  5. I’m with you — I don’t get what WiFi had to do with mobile phone service. Though I look forward to the day when mobile phones can freely move onto WiFi access points, we’re sure not there yet. Still, I remain interested in finding out more about this proposal, such as it is.

  6. But to contradict what I said about Wi-Fi… from internetweek ezine:

    Wi-Fi Installation Covers Entire Native American Reservation
    All it took was a wireless demonstration utilizing a base station
    configuration that provided Wi-Fi coverage over 13 miles to prompt
    the Coeur d’Alene tribe to install broadband Internet access to cover
    the tribe’s entire reservation in Idaho.

  7. People are really doing some crazy thing with new antennae. The trick, though, is that only solves the downstream for the end user. It’s not exactly standard hardware for a home router to be able to send that signal back 13 miles.

    Landscape has a lot to do with it, too. If there’s a few great hilltops in otherwise-flat territory (as I imagine is the case in the Utah country where the Coeur d’Alene live), it’s much easier than the evenly-hilly terrain of much of Orange.

  8. Coeur d’Alene are in Idaho, but yes its flat there. Tree cover also affects propagation as well as density of users.

    I suspect this is not actually 802.11g like the article says though. It mentions the routers are high-powered and that would violate the license free use of those frequencies. The attennas that people use for the long haul Wi-Fi are highly directional which means they work if well aligned, but not for widely dispersed broadcast.

    Being that this article is a PR piece, it may not be exactly accurate…

  9. Wifi has incredible range with inexpensive antennas. I personally set up a link from crozet to cville (20+ miles) with 802.11b once. These days 802.11g has even MORE range.

    Sure, its a problem if you’re zipping down the road at 60mph. But if you want to wire your house up it would work like gangbusters. The limiting factor is going to be geography and antenna height, not signal strength.

  10. but were both antennas directional? If they both are, you can get fantastic range if it is unobstructed. However to have a wide area broadcast, the ‘network’ antenna must be omni-directional (not a Yagi, or the pringlecan design)

    If I am north of Crozet and not in C’ville, I can’t pick up your station at all, probably not even if I pointed a highly directional antenna at the correct location.

    Signal strength does matter.

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