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Bill Calls For Wi-Fi Base Stations In All Federal Buildings 196

Posted by timothy
from the other-people's-money dept.
GovTechGuy submits this from Hillicon Valley: "Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced legislation on Friday that would require all public federal buildings to install WiFi base stations in order to free up cell phone networks. The Federal Wi-Net Act would mandate the installation of small WiFi base stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings in order to increase wireless coverage and free up mobile networks. The bill would require all new buildings under construction to comply and all older buildings to be retrofitted by 2014. It also orders $15 million from the Federal Buildings Fund be allocated to fund the installations."
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Bill Calls For Wi-Fi Base Stations In All Federal Buildings

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  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @10:32AM (#34443164)

    We don't have the cash for this let the cell phone companies pay for it.

    • Privatize the cafeterias to Starbucks and Caribou. Instant wifi and revenue!
      • by alen (225700)

        except you want the signal to be out in the street

    • WiFileaks.org ?

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        WiFileaks.org ?

        Just how exactly, could this go wrong? Considering past performance, the Congress (the opposite of progress) and the Senate (much like the one in ancient Rome) have little understanding of the bills they pass, unless there's something in it for them or their constituents ($$$, not the voting kind).

    • by Kizeh (71312)
      That's actually kind of what the bill says, to my reading: http://www.scribd.com/doc/44617300/Federal-Wi-Net-Act [scribd.com]
      • Actually, the Government will pay for this. The money will come out of the "Federal Buildings Fund". It is collected from "rent" the GSA is paid by Federal Agencies that use federal facilities.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      We don't have the cash for this let the cell phone companies pay for it.

      By which, you mean, the consumer will pay for it.

      ANY costs assigned to the cell carriers will be directly (or even inflatedly) passed onto the consumer. Period. Heck, if you asked them, they would admit as much.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        No, the telcos don't have to pass the cost to the consumer. They can pay for it out of their profits, which are huge. If there's a problem with that, it's in the protections they have in a cartel, where they don't have to compete with each other. Which is probably the most essential reform that Congress should pass, and this kind of development forces that issue into the open.

        The idea that all costs to business are simply transferred 100% to the business' customers, ignoring the source of funds in profits,

      • by cgenman (325138)

        ANY costs assigned to the cell carriers will be directly (or even inflatedly) passed onto the consumer. Period.

        That's not really how markets work. Cell carriers will charge whatever they think will get them maximum profits. Input costs... the cost of doing business... only have an indirect effect upon output charges.

        They charge as much as they think they can get away with. If their price structure is flexible enough to "pass the costs on," then they weren't charging enough to begin with.

        And of course cel

    • We should go all the way, make a Federal law requiring counties and municipalities to deploy and operate a unified public WiFi network with complete coverage wherever the public access density exceeds some small number of people (the number in which at least 10 people an hour are statistically likely to be present). The Feds should back that mandate by hosting WiFi and Internet interconnect infrastructure in any Federal building at Federal cost, as designed by the municipality/county. And pay for the entire

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        oh cool do you or the Senators realize 1 ap will support around 10 active connections - this is the rule of thumb cisco uses for designing wifi networks - and that's standard network traffic not viop traffic which has more stringent reuirements.

        You will also have to run more lines into the building as you not going to want these access points on the internal network.
    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      Anyway, I guess it will last only for 3 strikes according to their own ACTA law.

    • We don't have the cash for this let the cell phone companies pay for it.

      Pay for it out of the reduced market-clearing prices for higher-limit data plans and data overage charges that result from more access to WiFi?

  • Bah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 04, 2010 @10:35AM (#34443178)

    LOL.....Poor mobile phone providers....Waste tax payers money building out a completely useless wireless network so they do t need to upgrade their own networks.

    If your public servants need a wireless network to do their job, install a wireless network, dont mandate it in legislation!

    • by gnapster (1401889)
      Cut 'em some slack. These are senators... legislation is the only way they know to get things done!
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Legislation is the only way Senators have to get things done. It's the only power they actually have (except sleazy intimidation tactics that are backed up by threats of legislation).

        You're not a Senator, so I'd like to hear the way you know for them to get things done that's not legislation.

        • Re:Bah (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gnapster (1401889) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @02:54PM (#34444902)

          Come, now. I was aiming for funny, not insightful. But since you ask..

          Senators are US citizens, just like most people living in the USA. Introducing legislation is one of the special powers that they have as members of the legislative branch of the government, and as such it is more effective for them than for the rest of us. But do you really believe that legislation is the only tool US citizens (legislators or not) have for getting things done? You must feel pretty powerless. :c(

          They could talk to the people in charge of technical infrastructure in federal buildings. Communicate with people in the FCC and Presidential cabinet. I don't know who would be in charge of the oversight and implementation of the installations that they are trying to introduce with this bill, but it seems to me that Congress is probably not the closest Womb of Policy for this particular issue. I have no doubt that if I felt strongly about increasing wireless coverage, I could find out who the important people are, and get in touch. As senators, Snowe and Warner have more ready knowledge of these hierarchies, and the station and name recognition to have their voices heard.

          That said, the article indicates (in the fourth paragraph) that they are not only interested in Wi-Fi coverage in Federal buildings, but "preventing dropped calls that occur indoors and in rural areas due to poor cell phone coverage, while also hopefully boosting wireless network capacity". This sounds much more comprehensive than the summary, which indicates that they are simply focusing on federal buildings. That is a scenario where legislation may be warranted.

          My comment, however, was simply playing off the parent, who was basically asking, "Do we really need a law on the books so that members of Congress don't get dropped calls in the Capitol Building?" If that is all this bill is about, then it seems like these senators would be better-served by walking down the hall and knocking on the door of their helpdesk. Maybe they've already tried that, and now are going over the head of an ornery sysadmin.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Doc Ruby (173196)

            You and I are both powerless to get anything done to the telcos without the government. That is why we have a government. The Senate help desk isn't going to get anything done about dropped calls that are the telcos fault without the government either, which means legislation.

            Indeed, this Senate legislation protects more than just the phonecalls in the Senate. It works to solve a more general problem for all Americans, that happens to also affect the Senate. That kind of universal management is what we want

            • by gnapster (1401889)

              You really need to redirect your venom at the AC which started this thread, not me. They are the one who said that this should not be mandated in legislation. If "public servants need a wireless network to do their job", then this is a dubious application of legislation – but it seems to be about more than that.

              If, indeed, the proposed bill is about solving telecommunications problems for all Americans, then I am 100% for it. The telecommunications infrastructure in the United States badly needs

              • by Doc Ruby (173196)

                This isn't "venom", it's criticism - that is directed at your comment, not at the other post.

                I asked if there are non-legislative ways for Senators to do something, and your response did not show one, as I pointed out, and you haven't amended with one - because you can't. "Not as effective" is such "hyperbole" as to be meaningless: other than legislation, there's nothing senators can do that is effective at all.

                You really should just agree that what you said wasn't legitimate - though getting you to admit i

                • by gnapster (1401889)

                  Hmm. Lots going on here. I think that a disconnect on the discussion's framework is probably at the core. Let's see if we can reign things in.

                  My original reading of the ACs post was of senators as lusers [jargon.net], wielding legislation as a sword to solve mundane technical problems. ("When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.") I thought it to be facetious, and crafted a reply in kind. This may have been foolish, but I did not think it out of place in a Slashdot thread. To be honest, you

                  • by Doc Ruby (173196)

                    That's a very thorough and sincere retraction. I appreciate it. I didn't find your subsequent comments to be radically anti-government, and indeed a reasonably anti-government attitude is one of my pride American traits :). I was a little confused when you said that the government should fix what the telcos have left broken, so I'm not surprised you retracted that original statement. And I'm glad, because I despair of the rising tide of insanely anti-government crapola flying around especially on the Intern

                    • by gnapster (1401889)

                      Whew! I am glad we have found common ground, because I am interested in discussing the telecom problem, too! I was afraid we would remain at cross purposes and never get around to it. ;c)

                      I feel that I am far too timid in participating in debate; I would like to become more active in such discussions, and Slashdot has helped me become braver in this. I think it is because I am able to choose who I argue with, but more so because I can take the time to ponder what I say. I often fear that if I engage in

                    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

                      I think you're doing fine - I'm not usually as willing to retract, especially when I think the person demanding the retraction is posting "venom" at me in return.

                      I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

    • by horatio (127595)
      These are my exact sentiments. I'd say thank you, but you posted AC. This is nothing more than a subsidy to the wireless companies by another name. I have three distinct problems with this, besides it being another colossally stupid waste of tax payer dollars.
      • How much coverage would federal buildings really provide, and how much EDGE/3G/4G traffic would be relieved in reality? Certainly not the vaunted "poor and underserved" the elites are always bitching at it about and supposedly taxing us more to g
      • by walshy007 (906710)

        How much coverage would federal buildings really provide, and how much EDGE/3G/4G traffic would be relieved in reality?

        Data costs over 3g are outrageous, the only things with higher data costs are satellite and SMS. After the initial hardware expendature having faster more reliable internet/lan access is a good thing.

        I'm sorry, but aren't we in the opening stages of one of the largest know breaches of confidential government documents? How dull do you have to be to make it easier for this to happen again? That doesn't speak to the current state of ease with which such a breach could happen, but only that with a public wifi hotspot in easy reach, you suddenly have an external network in range.

        Secret documents aren't accessible to public networks nor this network. Any such classified information is generally only accessible via computers that are designated for access to such materials and have much higher security requirements than regular machines.

        Nothing will stop a breech of protocols, if you get

  • by olsmeister (1488789) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @10:35AM (#34443180)
    So nice of our gubernment to take some of the load off of those congested cellular networks. Phew.
    • by Locutus (9039)
      cept it is a sinister plan to control and monitor workers data connections. bwwwaaaaaaaa

      LoB
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jrono (470199) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @10:39AM (#34443202)
    The government doesn't need to be wasting money on stuff like this right now... Not only do the wifi base stations cost money, there are also the reoccurring Internet connection costs and general maintenance costs. Or is this supposed to be some sort of telecom bailout? Besides who wants to use an Internet connection directly controlled by the feds?
    • by Suki I (1546431)
      Exactly and that fits into my suggestion above [slashdot.org]. I prefer Starbucks lack of WiFi censorship over Caribou's blocking of certain sites they deem inappropriate.
    • by iceperson (582205)
      I dunno. This sounds like building infrastructure, which is actually one of the jobs of government. Certainly there are better things they could do with the money, but I'd say this falls more in line with things government should be doing than things like bailing out banks or most social programs...
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @11:39AM (#34443480) Homepage Journal

      Absolutely. This isn't even stimulus-worthy, Wifi base stations require virtually no American labor.

      It also promotes the lie that the cellular networks are congested due to lack of resources. In reality, AT&T and Verizon, to name but two, are sitting on unused AWS spectrum in virtually the entire country, that they've made a policy decision to buy but as yet not deploy anything to. There are also several companies sitting on spectrum in the 2GHz to 4GHz bands, supposedly to roll-out TDD variants of WiMAX and UMTS-TDD, but who've not had the funds to actually set the things up.

      There is, believe it or not, a spectrum *glut* by any sane measurement of spectrum usage at the moment, and as spectrum efficiency improves year by year, with technologies from HSPA+ to LTE improving available bandwidth per MHz exponentially, the old arguments for treating wireless services as inherently more expensive than wired are fast falling away.

    • by chill (34294)

      Many, if not most, public government buildings already have guest-access Internet ports. Some are wifi, some are wired. That means the connection and most maintenance costs are already provided for.

      As for who would use it...any public person who has to do business with the gov't and needs internet access. Don't like the idea of a gov't run connection? Set up a VPN and tunnel.

      -me
      (a gov't employee, speaking from personal experience)

    • Or is this supposed to be some sort of telecom bailout?

      I fail to see how you can bailout a business by providing an alternative to their services (metered mobile data.)

      It would be like the government "bailing out" GM by, instead of investing in GM the way it did, starting up its own auto factory and providing free government-made loaner cars at federal buildings.

  • by soupforare (542403) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @10:39AM (#34443204)
    We're not sniffing every connection and logging every packet, honest!
  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#34443254) Homepage
    Don't worry. By 2016 they'll have figured out that having access points everywhere is a security risk of some sort. The current act will still be in force to require them to be installed, of course, but the We're Scared Of Our Shadows act of 2017 will require that they never have power connected. No problem.
  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @11:01AM (#34443300)
    Over here where I come from, not only do government buildings have free wifi - but so do public areas such as parks or gardens.

    You can just bring a laptop and work there (for as long as your battery lasts at least) or whatever. That way people who don't want/have data plans can still get wireless internet.
  • Since many USGOV buildings and installations have a complete ban on WiFi hotspots since they are insecure.

    Lets let anyone attach to the network!
    • Exactly. It pretty regularly screws us over in the labs since the FAA has a ban on wifi in ALL buildings. Means we simply can't use certain hardware. How are they going to work that out?

  • Not only is this a waste and doesn't make sense, but $15m won't be enough. There isn't a govt network admin who will want this traffic on their network and there isn't a govt security group that will allow it. That means each of these will be a new ISP connection. So does GSA get to do this, or the IT group who in the building at the time?
  • The article mentions Olympia and Mark, but there is no mention of Bill.
  • While WiFi in these areas would be useful for various reasons (welcome to 2000 guys, seriously), mandating it specifically to "free up cell phone networks" is ridiculous. Where I'm from, when you sell someone a product, it's your responsibility to verify that it works. We have these providers spewing ads all over every channel on TV, all over the internet, and constantly telling us deceptive things like "we cover 97% of all Americans." It is not our govt's job to provide cellular telephone service in fed
  • Sample costs:
    Labor $40/hour. 3-5 hours.
    hardware: cat5, mounting brackets, PoE adapters, routers
    travel costs: Maybe $800/trip, one way?
    Electricity: ?
    Management/project oversight: ?
    shipping and handling: ? ...
    I'm going to guess (low, I think) that each install would cost about $5,000. So how many wifi installs can $15 million cover? About 3,000 buildings. How many people thing that in all three branches of the federal government, they only have 3000 buildings?

    • by pease1 (134187)
      You are way low. Figure more like $70-90 per hour for labor (fully loaded) by time you add in the normal government overhead for contracting. If, assuming the native agency that manages the connectivity to the office agrees, you need to budget for a firewall. And a good 40 hours of security configuration and documentation (something in govt called "C&A") at $100+ an hour. Then there are quarterly scans, and re-certification of the security documents (at least every two years). Most the local agenci
  • I'm confused. . . what is the compelling public interest that requires the Federal Government to 'free up cell phone networks'? Why should my taxpayer money be used to offload traffic from the cell phone networks, when people are already paying the cell providers for service? Let the cell providers ensure they have enough coverage and backhaul to fulfill the service they have sold to customers, and if they don't/can't, then haul them into court on breach of contract, false advertising, etc.

    If this move woul

  • This is actually a piss poor summary of the bill. Having contracted on a number of government sites let me say that through no attempts at such, the buildings act as Faraday cages. Anyone who read the bill would have noticed that they're talking about using femtocells to improve reception of cell phones throughout the buildings. Additionally, considering the widespread use of Blackberry devices, this would allow them to continue to the roll out of of VoIP which has been happening (at least in both Dept o
  • To discourage people from accessing WikiLeaks on their cell phones, since it will obviously be blocked on all these Federal Wi-Fi networks. ;)
  • Where's the Bill Gates / Borg icon?
  • 802.11n still suffers from the hidden node problem so they'll be able to support only 30ish users per base station. Even if they use 5ghz and 2 ghz they'll only crack a few hundred users per site. In the mean time they will have exhausted the whole wifi spectrum.

    Maybe it's better if they update WiFi to use a TDMA protocol, make it a free standard and then think about using Wifi to help cell networks.

  • Come ON! A wifi acces point is like...what? 50 bucks?

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