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August 27, 2005

Cleveland Wireless Solutions: Calling on Mobile IP solutions for Public Transportation

In 1955, Cleveland became the first city in the nation to introduce light rail service from its suburbs to downtown. Today, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is embarking on a major 21st century renovation of one its major downtown arteries, namely the silver line’s $200m Euclid Corridor Project. In a recent major announcement University Circle and the Greater Cleveland Partnership announced more than $20m of transportation related improvements for the university circle area. What possible convergence exists between Cleveland’s Digital City initiative under the leadership of OneCleveland’s community partnership model and the exciting developments in our community’s transportation eco-system.

In a recent blog entry I tried to lay out the case for a metropolitan strategy for wireless in Cleveland. As is the case in the blogshere, the blog was hyperlinked to other blogs and web sites all over the world. In its own small way this blog entry has caused quite the ripple. I’ve had more feedback on this entry with hundreds of emails responding, mostly positively, to my line argument. In short, I argued that notwithstanding the hype, there is no evidence of (private) commercial plans to roll out infrastructure for pervasive and publicly accessible wi-fi in the muni space. The only strategy, I argued, that stands a chance in the near term are variations on OneCleveland’s community model. Major public institutions represent the anchors of a public sector roll out of pervasive and public wi-fi services connected to publicly-owned ultra broadband infrastructure. I have written at length (with Priya Junnar) about the role of universities in helping to reshape the landscape of the urban environment in the 21st century. I also argued in the metropolitan strategy for wireless in Cleveland that the best strategy is a pragmatic strategies that is based on a layered approach to wireless services. In other words, from my point of view, there is no practical value to embracing a wimax or bust strategy or for that matter a wi-fi or nothing else strategy.

Let me provide an example in the area of mobile ip solutions for public transportation. I have been advocating for more than 2 years that Cleveland model for the nation the enterprise deployment of wireless services on its public and private transportation systems. The drivers for such an enterprise roll out are probably obvious; public safety, interactive EMS support, incentives to bring more riders back to the RTA, attracting a new customer base, supporting new programming and services on the RTA through collaboration with content providers like the Cuyahoga and Cleveland public libraries, ideastream, and the region’s museums, education, and public health institutions. And finally, all the new services being delivered on the RTA and CircleLink could well turn into new business service line offerings for entrepreneurial Clevelanders entering the wireless product and services market. Enlightened leaders at the GCRTA, under the capable leadership of Hamid Manteghi have always been supportive. Euclid Corridor project leader Mike Shipper has been equally supportive. University Circle’s CircleLink transportation system has always been interested. In fact, Hamid and I presented a public call for such an engagement in Los Angeles two years ago. Here we are with nearly $250m to rebuild two key axis (Euclid and University Circle) in the City and so far we have no strategy for bringing our transportation systems into an alignment and converged with our wireless strategy for our digital city strategy.

We have been dialogue with senior Cisco officials. Mobile IP solutions are now available for public safety vehicles but so far, nothing that scales and moves forward for light rail and public buses. We’ve looked at point mesh solutions like Firetide for our University CircleLink bus service. The infrastructure overbuild requirements did not work for Case Western Reserve University and OneCleveland (www.onecleveland.org). While there are some promising Wi-Fi solutions from north east Ohio RF specialists like Brian Casto’s ICI MIPTAC, I think the more obvious solution for the next two or three years is the pragmatic solution to work with enlightened wi-fi and mobile cellular carriers to device a solution that demonstrates that wi-fi and cellular can be complimentary infrastructures in the wireless space in the area of public transportation.

I think both the GCRTA, CircleLink, and perhaps major point of entry transportation service providers like Hopkins Airport, stand prepared to prototype the rollout a solution that provides for a wi-fi LAN inside the bus or light rail vehicle, thus providing wireless access to all passengers with wireless devices. Rather than looking for wireless device and wi-fi infrastructure to connect the vehicle fleet to backhaul IP infrastructure as they speed along the highways and major corridors in Cleveland, let’s work with a mobile carrier like Verizon, Alltel, Sprint or Cingular to link the wi-fi LAN inside the buses and Rapid Light Rail to their mobile infrastructure and on to the public internet.

I arrive at Cleveland Hopkins airport. The ride to the rental car station is -- how should I put it diplomatically -- it’s a long way away. If I could open up my notebook and catch up on email, I’d probably be a happier camper. Alternatively, I jump on the RTA red line and head downtown. Wouldn’t it be a great way to attract business riders if the RTA red line (green, blue and now silver) would all be wirelessly enabled. Students and visitors to University Circle would have no problem figuring out how to use wireless access as they ride CircleLink.

OneCleveland and the RTA could either sign a strategic partnership to deliver this solution or we could go out to public tender through an RFP. I have tried to advance this solution with some of the obvious players in the region. I have gotten use to the blank stares or courteous nods and usually a comment like, ‘no solution like this is in our portfolio.’ Of course, there is no such offering. That’s why we are approaching them to be part of the answer in developing a solution here in Cleveland’s Digital City. Well, just last week, Junxion president David Hsiao released the long rumored version 1.1. release of a transportable wireless LAN out in Seattle.

junxion box v11.jpg

The Junxion box is a connectivity bridge between cellular data services and client wireless devices like notebooks, tablets, and pdas. It works very much in the way I describe above.

junxion box model.jpg

Junxion has been on the market with point solutions for about 3 months. You can read about the point solutions http://www.junxion.com/news/testimonials.html through some of their initial prototyping and prospective customers. This disruptive technology solution can be deployed across Cleveland’s digital city effort.

As I have suggested in previous entries, we need to find enlightened business leadership among all the infrastructure layers in our region and “violently agree” not to overbuild infrastructure in order to successfully deploy a sustainable wireless infrastructure. Why don’t we see which of the mobile carriers in town is prepared to put together an enterprise package together to allow us to roll out this service to all of the GCRTA Rapid and Buses along with the University CircleLink and the Hopkins Airport Bus service. I’m sure David Hsiao would be only too interested in a conversation in joining in Cleveland’s well publicized digital city initiative with Intel, Cisco, IBM and others. According to David, both Cingular and Sprint are carrier partners. The little green box that is Junxion is fitted with a standard Cingular or Sprint PC Card modem (Verizon and Alltel solutions also exist) and then easily placed in the public transportation vehicle.

Friends, colleagues, and associated regularly ask what’s next in OneCleveland and the Digital City. I don’t hold any special insights in response to this line inquiry. However, in my view, it is important to remain committed to bringing everyone under the tent and create win-win solutions. A layered approach to wireless services is both pragmatic and the most prudent approach at this juncture. At the same time as we challenge Sprint, Verizon, Cingular, and Alltel to step up and be part of the solution here in Cleveland with innovative technologies like Junxion, we also need to be planning for the next set of developments. The only thing constant in the digital city is change itself. It’s as much an attitude as anything else.

Lev Gonick, Cleveland, Ohio August 27, 2005

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August 20, 2005

OneCleveland: A Model for Broadband Community Networks – No Apologies Required.

Broadband community networks are all the rage across the country and around the world. For more than three years, Case Western Reserve University and our community partners have been working together in collaboration to build on the strengths of our community to evolve a model of leveraging advanced, ultra broadband technologies to provoke and inspire new applications and services to address community priorities. Intel’s recognition of OneCleveland leadership in its world wide digital communities initiative is the most recent, and among the most high profile, recognition of our efforts so far.

Our partnership model extends now both well beyond the city borders of Cleveland and into the Northeast Ohio region and embraces provocative new collaborations across and between clusters including research, education, healthcare research, healthcare services, museums, libraries, public broadcasting, government services, and other public agencies.

Later this fall, the Haas Charitable Trust will be issuing a major whitepaper on the future of broadband community networks in the United States. Its major conclusion is that “each community that thinks it might benefit by having a broadband community network needs a “hub”, or convening organization, around which it can create and operate such a network. If this is to work, it will almost certainly need to be based on an alliance of community interests composed of higher education institutions, healthcare, local government, public schools, social services, public broadcasting, [and] cultural organizations. OneCleveland provides a very good model.”

The report goes on to develop an extensive case study of what makes the OneCleveland effort “the” model in the nation for community broadband networking. “… [N]o other community may merit the “model” label that clearly belongs to Cleveland…”

Here are some excerpts of the forthcoming study. Read it Cleveland/Northeast Ohio and remember, there are no apologies required. Thanks to Richard Somerset-Ward for permission to share this brief excerpt.

[From Broadband Community Networks: Building the Digital Commons, A Report for The Haas Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, PA]

Cleveland may seem an unlikely place to propose as a model, but a number of circumstances have come together there to make it a virtual laboratory for anyone interested in the potential of community broadband.

To begin with, it has an honorable history in community building and firm foundations on which to base it – the Rockefeller legacy of superb cultural and scientific institutions on University Circle; a major university, Case Western Reserve, at the center of a lively group of higher education schools; a leadership position in medical research, including cardio-vascular and other diseases at the Cleveland Clinic; the best public broadcasting organization in the nation, bar none; a relatively wealthy and far-seeing community foundation; an outstanding local newspaper; the largest theater development in America outside Broadway; and a generous network of faiths, religions and voluntary bodies.

In the last two decades of the twentieth century it might be said that Cleveland rose from its bed of rust and gave itself new life, epitomized by a lakeside development that includes the port, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a new stadium for the Browns. The State of Ohio endowed it with rivers of fiber optic cable and gave it access to superior agencies like the Ohio SchoolNet, the Ohio Academic Research Network and, more recently, Governor Taft’s Third Frontier Initiative, which is designed to provide advanced networking services to enhance research, education and economic development throughout the state. Beginning in 1986, Cleveland built one of the first and largest FreeNets in the nation, and it has now solidified its technological ambitions in an organization called OneCleveland.

OneCleveland is a nonprofit provider of community-based ultra high-speed broadband to educational, governmental, research, cultural and healthcare organizations. It is about to extend its services into Northeast Ohio as a whole, including the cities of Akron and Youngstown.

The clients are nonprofits, research, cultural and educational institutions of all kinds, as well as government agencies. The founding partners were Case Western Reserve University (for whom Lev Gonick, the university’s chief information officer, took the lead), Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University, the City of Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, the Municipal School District, ideastream (which is the name of the local public broadcaster), Cuyahoga County Public Library, and NorTech. Many others have joined, including the Clinic, the Museum of Art, the Institute of Art, the Institute of Music, the Orchestra, Cleveland Public Art (a nonprofit devoted to creating public art), Western Reserve Historical Society and MetroHealth Medical Center.

Through these partner/members, OneCleveland serves individuals at one remove – that is, people subscribing to the member organizations, or working with them, or making use of them, receive the benefit of OneCleveland’s super connectivity. The ultra broadband network has mostly been created by lighting up dark fiber that covered a remarkable amount of the city of Cleveland and its suburbs. Most of the fiber was donated by its owners, and a lot of the backbone equipment used to operate the network was given by Cisco Systems. Global Crossing’s core router in downtown Cleveland provides the principal link to the Internet.

So here is a state-of-the-art facility, and it is available to a specific community that has both history and identity – though its identity, once quite tangible, might be said to be in the early stages of refurbishment. Unlike many American cities, Cleveland is also blessed with a first-rate public broadcasting organization that has its eye firmly on the future. To this end, WVIZ-TV and WCPN Radio joined forces in 2001 to create a brand new “multimedia public service organization” called ideastream. The clearly stated objective of its leaders, Jerry Wareham and Kit Jensen, was to place ideastream, its digital facilities, its content expertise and its local know-how, at the service of the community as a whole, working in partnership with other community organizations. At the same time, it would extend its media expertise way beyond radio and television into broadband and online technologies of all kinds.

In another very visible and statement-making partnership, ideastream has teamed up with the Playhouse Square Foundation, which operates six restored and historic theaters in downtown Cleveland, to create a magnificent new digital headquarters, The Idea Center, with street-front transparency – “a distributor of ideas partnering with a content provider”, as the fundraising brochure put it. Playhouse Square will use the building to hold workshops for a steady stream of visiting students and teachers and to create educational programming that already serves 50,000 children a year. Ideastream will use it as the physical center of an increasingly virtual operation. The building, for which close to $30 million was raised, will contain civic space – and endless opportunities. Above all, it is designed to be a place where innovative partnerships between all parts of the community – business, government, education, nonprofits – will be fostered and developed.

So Cleveland is fertile territory for broadband networking. But connectivity, on its own, means relatively little. The next question is: What do they use it for? In this respect, Cleveland is still at the beginning of the adventure, but casual visitors to the Museum of Art or the Institute of Music – or the schools and colleges – may begin to discern some answers. At the museum they may happen across a poetry slamming competition made possible by the ultra broadband connection between the Cuyahoga public libraries and the museum; they may be able to join a live interactive link-up with Bob Ballard as one of his deep water vehicles floats through the ruins of the Titanic; or they may be able to watch the museum’s expert conservators hold a high-powered consultation with their colleagues at the Louvre in Paris to determine the best way of cleaning priceless pottery of antiquity. At the Institute of Music they may be able to catch an interactive video connection with a local classroom where music is being used as an inter-disciplinary teaching aid for a lesson in math or physics or chemistry (the Institute does more than 500 of them a year). And not far away they may find some of the Institute’s own students taking part in an interactive masterclass by Glen Dicterow, concert master of the New York Philharmonic.

None of these examples amounts to a particularly new or innovative use of telecommunications, but when taken together, and multiplied many times over, they begin to demonstrate the power of broadband connections to give access to places and people that were previously off limits, and to add significant value to our understanding and experience. What is now needed – and Cleveland is the perfect place to do it because its institutions have an unusual willingness to partner while still preserving their competitiveness – is some concentrated experimentation in other kinds of content development. In particular, government and community agencies need to set the technologists to work to develop ways in which social services can usefully and economically make use of broadband distribution. Can healthcare, notably the large part of it that involves education, be better disseminated over interactive broadband? Can welfare-to-work (again, the educational elements) be better achieved via broadband? Can employment opportunities, job retraining, services for senior citizens, and hundreds of other services for all parts of the population be efficiently (and humanely) delivered over broadband to people in their homes or at some convenient gathering point?

[end of excerpt]

As always, I will welcome feedback and sharing of this blog entry.

Lev Gonick, Cleveland, OH August 19, 2005

Posted by lsg8 at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

Designing a Metropolitan Strategy for Wireless in Cleveland

For over a year,I have been asked by friends and colleagues across the city, around the region, and all over the country and beyond to put a stake in the ground on the so-called great metropolitan wireless debate. I've resisted for what I thought were appropriate concerns about our local effort. However, with some huge news about to be shared here in Cleveland this week, I think it's time to lay out the argument for what we might look forward to in the build out of a true metropolitan-wide wireless strategy here in Cleveland and as a possible model for the others to consider. This is a long treatment (10 pages) and I apologize in advance to those who are just interested in the bottom line (you'll find it towards the end ;-)

Technology Does Matter

This week, OneCleveland unveils BIG news with its community partners and Intel Corporation. Once again the OneCleveland will be thrust into the limelight as an example of an innovative, community-oriented technology platform for collaboration and economic development.

Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland’s University Circle has served as a launching point for both OneCleveland’s technology platform as well as a model for the collaboration and breakthrough application development. Over the past 18-24 months other powerful community networking partnerships have developed. The result of the innovative community networking model, riding on top of one of the most robust wired networks in the world, has engendered a sense of the possible and even our ability to take these collaborations to the edge of the possible. Even though there are always institutional barriers to collaboration, communities, cities, and associations all over the world marvel at the continuing hard work and outcomes associated with OneCleveland and its partnerships in higher education, research, health care, K-12 education, libraries, museums, public television and radio, regional transportation services, cities, counties, and statewide activities.

The technological foundation of OneCleveland originates in an architecture developed at Case Western Reserve University with a group of strategic technology alliance partners and later modified by OneCleveland and its own strategic technology partnership with Cisco Systems and IBM Global Services. The gigabit optical networking infrastructure of OneCleveland connects all of OneCleveland’s subscribers to each other in what can be thought of as a campus typology. The OneCleveland technical architecture connects our community assets to each other at unprecedented speeds in one of the world’s largest and fastest intranets. The optical gigabit networking infrastructure enables us not only to send email, IM, and surf the web at mind boggling speeds, the network has been designed to provoke and enable application development that take full advantage of the cyberinfrastructure possibilities of the 21st century. We are poised to illustrate health care collaborations leading the nation in the exploration of transportable electronic medical records fully linked to not only the written medical record but to vital information contained in Xrays, MRIs, and soon even more advanced visualization tools. The Cleveland Clinic, Metro Health, Summa Health Care and soon other health care researchers and providers will all be on OneCleveland. At the other end of the spectrum OneCleveland will enable and make possible the development of next generation, advanced and fully immersive gaming and virtual reality environments. Until network infrastructure is as robust and big as OneCleveland (See Figure 1.0), most gaming environments are either standalone, console based experiences or, more recently, highly compromised online experiences with compression algorithms trading off functionality and interactive experiences. With leadership within the City of Cleveland and the emerging gaming development community in Cleveland, Cleveland’s R&D efforts in Cleveland will make possible a whole new generation of gaming and VR environments where network speeds are actually 10 times and more faster than the computer processing units on today’s fastest computers. In the emerging environment the network really will be where intelligence and fun happens.

Figure 1.0

All of the above description and verbiage is made in order to make a simple point in the context of the so-called great debate over wireless strategies in Cleveland and elsewhere around the nation. The bottom line is that there is no strategy for wireless deployment worth calling “a strategy” with out a well designed, architected and managed wired network foundation.

Wireless Technology Arch of Tomorrow

The great debate on wireless frameworks across the USA is ill-informed and has largely been hijacked by titans on various sides of the so-called debate for narrow and poorly defined self-interested ends. Defensive posturing, illusions of grandeur, poorly thought through business models, scare mongering, and banal hyperbole from industry supported hacks masquerading as analysts are all part of the toxic mix that is creating very little more than noise. There is no doubt that the stakes are high. However, any intelligent public debate needs to start with some sense of the “IT”. What is the so-called great debate about? Supposedly it is about wireless technology.

A quick look at Figure 1.0 above gives us a sense of the tiered bandwidth available for both consumers and public/commercial customers. One important qualification that is important to understand is that some of the bandwidth can be divided into dedicated express lanes for accessing resources and services. This kind of bandwidth is known as “switched” bandwith. Other kinds of bandwidth can only be described as sharing the highway with drivers and cars with blindfolds on and no steering wheels. This kind of bandwidth is not surprisingly known as “shared” bandwidth. The point is that one kind of bandwidth has highly advanced and precise engineering capacity for moving resources and services around (switched) and the other kind of bandwidth is more or less a cacophony of noise with different kinds of requests for services having very little way of being prioritized or segmented between data, voice, or video (for example).

For the past decade, switched networks and electronics that send along intelligent directions to packets trying to move along the network have become the preferred network design. Think about the experience in your wired connection options at home. DSL services are switched services. If you subscribe to a service for 1 Mb/s (take a look at figure 1.0) you are going to get a “pipe” or a “highway lane” that is just about 1 Mb/s. If you subscribe to a shared service like Cable Modem technology, you may subscribe to a 1 Mb/s service but your throughput or the size of the “pipe” or “highway lane” will vary by the consumption patterns of your neighbors. Sometimes you will find yourself with constrained access because your neighbors are downloading music, video, or other internet services. The only way around this “constrained” environment in a shared environment is for your ISP to go out and find a bigger pipe. Indeed, this is what has the core strategy for both shared and switched service providers. Why is this relevant to a discussion about wireless services?

Well, the most important technical insight for wireless services is that to date almost all wireless (wi-fi) services are largely “shared” networks (although some modest channel tuning abilities do exist). In 1998 the standard commercial shared service model was 2 Mb/s. That is, if you opened up your laptop, the connection between your computer and the wireless access point was shared with everyone else seeking access and the total available bandwidth was only 2 Mb/s (minus quite a bit of so-called overhead which really meant that back then we were sharing less than 1.5Mb/s (take a look again at figure 1). In 2001 we took a 5 fold increase in the shared bandwidth with the introduction of 802.11b wi-fi services. Again, all of that bandwidth is shared. As long as folks are just sending email to each other, maybe 15-20 persons could crowd onto the on-ramp and get their messages through. Using the on-ramp for listening to music reduced the available number of users to 5-7 users and if you wanted to watch video you’d be lucky to be able to share the available bandwidth with 2 wireless users. In 2003 we had another 5 fold increase with the introduction of 802.11a/g. We now have 55 Mb/s as pretty much the standard commodity services being deployed around both consumer and commercial/public installations. Again, all shared. By the end of 2006 (only 16 months away), a new standard will be readily available on the market, today known as 802.11n. This bandwidth will begin with another 5 fold increase to 300 Mb/s of sustained wi-fi access and within 30 months will reportedly support 500 Mb/s or half a gigabit per second (again look at the pipe size illustrated in figure 1). Again, given the shared environment, the core technology strategy for wireless has thus far been to find ways of shoving more bandwidth along the available radio frequency.

In my view, any community (or team) working on designing a metropolitan strategy for wireless services needs to be sure that they are planning a service strategy based on where we are going to be in 2007-2008. Failing to plan for a network support 500 Mb/s, with multiple tunable channels is both a poor technology choice and most important as I explore below creates a false set of assumptions that drives a poor set of public policy choices about what options exist for building out the infrastructure for next generation wireless services.

A Reality Check

Somewhere, in a quiet corner largely invisible in view of all the noise on center stage around metropolitan wireless deployments is an important reality. Today, no commercial telecommunications provider has deployed a wireless (wi-fi) infrastructure across a large metropolitan area. The same can be said of any city or regional authority. Indeed, no such infrastructure exists. Anywhere. There is simply no commercially viable way to deploy adequate infrastructure to make meaningful the hyped suggestion of being the “first” wireless city/region. For all the political noise, the reality is that the economics of deploying such an infrastructure with today’s technology is cost prohibitive. Yes, we can make available the equivalent of a chicken wire network using wi-fi technology and cobble together a network of networks with wi-fi repeaters but these services are narrowly deployed and in support of specific services.

Many traditional wireless carriers (cellular players) in metropolitan areas boast that they have an alternative, available today in which you can insert basically a cell phone into your notebook computer and for only $50-$100/month (or more depending on your minutes plan, plus of course the cell phone PCMCIA device) you can be online anywhere their coverage extends.

Parks, coffee shops, school yards, households, office buildings, ice cream stores, lecture halls, dorms, and even buses and other transportation services can support wireless services around defined geographies but at costs that are largely non-scalable to broader use on a predicable and sustainable manner. Yes, we can hang amplifiers and bridges outside schools yards, and whether we violate FCC regulations for this unlicensed spectrum, the truth is that the shared service model of this wireless model has both geographic limits as well as bandwidth constraints.

So, the bottom line is that though wireless is extremely cool and disruptive to existing business models it is simply not ready for primetime, large scale and pervasiv deployments across significant geographies today in support of broad application uses.

Having said as much, now is exactly the time to begin serious technical work on next generation wireless services, because the bandwidth and the reach of the next generation of access points is going to change everything. I mean everything.

Beyond Mesh and WiMax

There’s a huge marketing, technology, and standards battle brewing between proponents of two new technology strategies. One strategy seeks to connect existing wi-fi infrastructure through a strategy known as mesh which basically attempts to layer a spider web infrastructure on top of existing wireless access points in either a planned (known as infrastructure mode) or in an ad hoc manner (known as .. ad hoc). Of course all of our wireless notebooks and other wireless devices like cameras, projection systems and so forth can all be nodes on an ad hoc wireless infrastructure. The other approach basically argues that wi-fi is really a 50 year old technology (and it is) and that it was never built for enterprise (never mind metropolitan wide) roll out (which is true) and therefore the only rational thing to do is to replace it with a new technology built for the enterprise and metropolitan environment with varying degrees of backwards compatibility. There are a number of competing approaches to the new infrastructure approach. The current leading contender is called Wi-Max. Rationality is a relative thing especially in 2005 and it is hard to find examples where rational planning has actually won without lots of market hype and luck. The stakes are huge for lots of reasons.

One critical dimension is that the wi-fi world works and operates in what the FCC calls an unlicensed spectrum. The FCC has contributed to an explosion in nomadic computing by unregulating a part of the wireless spectrum and allowed wi-fi which has been around for a very long time to finally be enabled without monopoly behavior of network or computer device interests. The downside is that there is lots of potential for interference in the 2.4 and 5.0 GhZ part of the spectrum. Microwaves and wireless handsets interfering with your wireless notebook is only dimension of the unlicensed spectrum. The important thing to know is that use of the unregulated spectrum comes with a sold “as is” warning. It also is a part of the spectrum that no one, not even the powerful telecommunication companies own. So, that’s the trade off. It is even a more important consideration because the new infrastructure proposals like WiMax are very very likely to find themselves predominately located in the regulated part of the spectrum. This is the expressed interest of both the manufacturers of the silica as well as, of course, those who benefit from regulated service offerings. Those would be the folks who sell us monthly or minutes for access to the Internet. There are some important public interest alternatives. For example, OneCleveland is working with the spectrum holders here in Northeast Ohio of what is known as ITFS (instructional television fixed spectrum). It’s a long sorted story but the punch line is that here in Northeast Ohio, public broadcaster WVIZ, ideastream owns that spectrum in the public trust. We are working to develop a public interest Wi-Max solution in the region. Nearly every medium and large size community in the nation has ITFS spectrum available.

The important take away message for those interested in designing true metropolitan scale wireless solutions is that both the mesh and wi-max technology architectures intersect with the growing throughput of the wireless spectrum. There is, however, an even more important lesson here. Notwithstanding the hype of both commercial as well as community providers of internet services there are two truths that need to form the foundation of our strategy moving forward. First there really is no free lunch. There is no way to offer free public access to internet services without a thoughtful and integrated business plan that demonstrates an unequivocal commitment to principles of robust design, deployment, support, sustainability and refresh. For example, Google has been very public in its efforts to acquire a national advanced network infrastructure for its service offering. Google could, arguably, develop a business model to “give away” wireless services as a portal to its services portfolio backhauled over its wired network infrastructure. The second truth is simply that no single solution for wireless exists. This is more than the throw away line of the ‘marketplace of ideas.’ As I point out below, the invoking of a tiered approach to wireless build outs for connected communities is critical, even if it is a bit more difficult to explain and operate.

A Framework for Building Wireless Cleveland

The footprint for Wireless Cleveland, once fully built out, could touch more than 3 million persons distributed over more than 2000 square miles in 5 or more counties in Northeast Ohio (See Figure 2.0) below. The more than 1500 assets noted in figure 2.0 represent all the public sector organizations, institutions, and facilities that are eligible to join the OneCleveland initiative. Of course, the build out of such a bold initiative does not and can not happen all at once. However, it is important that we understand the requirements of what we can call the “omega” state, namely the final desired outcome fully supported in a production mode.

Figure 2.0


OneCleveland has fiber or access to fiber touching a large number of these public sector institutions. As already noted above, this is a critical precondition for success. It also helps readers understand one of the big differences between OneCleveland and most of the other community networks around the world. Our community not only owns its own fiber it also has the technical capacity to support the backhaul requirements to support nomadic computing across its footprint.

If we analyze other infrastructure players in the region we can see both the opportunity in front of us as well as the challenge. There are but a handful of other players with vision, mission, need, and capacity to roll out a wireless infrastructure for the region.

One critical set of potential players are the public identities with their needs to communicate across the region. These include EMS, public safety, fire, courts, and government general services. Many of them already have redundant, separate, tax payer paid for infrastructures for data, voice, and video communication. There is little or no reason to advocate for continuing build out of separate infrastructures. These are classic infrastructure builds associated with a culture and a technology paradigm that is entirely 19th and 20th century. Today’s technology, both on the wireline and wireless side can readily accommodate security and privacy requirements across a single infrastructure. The limits to an integrated strategy are no longer technological they are, not surprisingly about leadership, will, and bureaucratic imperatives associated with budget control and change management. A County or regional service provider (like water for example) can design a strategy to connect its various buildings to each other. But Wireless Cleveland is a strategy for connecting a mobile work force to each other and to the community. There is simply no way that a single organization can or should roll out this range of wireless services. There are other content providers who are in a second line of services and these include community players like education, research facilities, museums, libraries and the like. They too have a mission to not only “wire” their facilities but also an opportunity to re-invent and extend their service boundaries through leveraging, but also investing in this layer of transportation services.

A second set of potential collaborators are the commercial infrastructure players. These are the telecommunication companies, cable companies, and regional optical networking infrastructure players. As has already been pointed out, not one of the commercial players like SBC Ohio or Adelphia/Time Warner or even a regional player like First Communications has built out, nor in all likelihood will ever build out, an infrastructure to support a wireless canopy across the region.

Elsewhere across the nation, we see a rush by cities to publish RFPs to light up wireless infrastructure for cities. With a handful of noticeable exceptions such visions of wireless metropolitan areas are destined for failure and very poor public policy. Inappropriate technology choices (plan/design for yesterday), poorly designed business plans (or none at all), and regulatory nightmares are among the variables likely to contribute to what will be some short term headline grabbers and mid-range and long term technology headaches and disarticulated and conflicting public policy goals.

A proposal for a wireless OneCleveland might well call for the design, development, implementation, and management of a three-tier meshed wireless infrastructure supporting next generation wi-fi services delivering 540 Mb/s of throughput and interconnected to our Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure for communication within the region and with gateways to the internet for outbound traffic. We also need to stand firm on the technical principle that we need an integration and rationalization of other wireless communication protocols used across the region including the institutional uses including, but not limited to, those using free space optics (FSO), 800 and 900 MhZ towers, microwave transmission and newly proposed side spectrum of DTV channel owners in the public interest (See the work of the New America Foundation on DTV).

With respect to wi-fi, wireless OneCleveland’s design proposal should, in my view, call for a single, common build-out of a three-layer strategy including, first, institutional subscriber requirements, second, private sector commercial and consumer value-added service provider requirements, and finally, public interest requirements. This should be a non-exclusive design in which all commercial players should be invited to participate on the basis of a common mesh wireless strategy (and an agree to technical standard) for the region.

I would recommend that 40% of the available wireless bandwidth be assigned to the use of patrons, customers, workers, staff, and visitors to institutional subscribers to OneCleveland. These in turn might require some very important technical segmentation through channel tuning and VLAN architecture so that some of OneCleveland’s subscribers might be able to have “dedicated” access to something on the order of 200 Mb/s of wireless services. This is nearly 4 times our current standard (54 Mb/s) available bandwidth. Depending on the nature of the agreement, I think OneCleveland subscribers should be prepared to consider “giving away” their remaining wireless bandwidth within their facilities to the other two tiers in exchange for first, some discount on the build out (and refresh) of their facilities by OneCleveland authorized integrators, and second, so that they might enjoy 40% of the available bandwidth outside their facilities, across the region both inside other public buildings and outside in the wireless digital commons that we are proposing be built out. Of course, within commercial/private sector buildings there may be no need for this bandwidth allocation model given that public sector requirement will only be modest. However, in the mesh strategy some consideration may be necessary to maintain this allocation model in order to provide for a quality of services as packets are backhauled across public sector subscribers over the commercial access point and out over OneCleveland fiber to either the intranet or internet.

I would recommend that an additional 45% (or something on that order) of available wireless bandwidth (something like 220 Mb/s) be assigned to commercial infrastructure interests with an understanding that the allocation would be used for both corporate requirements as well as commercial and value-added consumer services. These tunable channels could be sold largely to support commercial requirements for inside buildings and outdoor access. Of course, mobile workers in the corporate/commercial world would be able to access their networked resources anywhere under the cloud whether they were inside their office buildings or elsewhere under the cloud. A simple OneCleveland wireless directory and provisioning service would allow folks to join either the commercial service, OneCeveland subscriber service (not-for-profit) or other forms of access (see below). Looking just over the horizon, there is a whole universe of services that will be made available over wireless bandwidth to individual consumers. These will be consumer services, like wi-fi phone services (with dual band access to your favorite cellular provider), two-way video conferencing over wi-fi, hundreds of new services from passive medical monitoring services to commercial massive player gaming environments that you want to play with while you’re on a wi-fi enabled RTA light rail or bus service. All of your access as a consumer, commercial, or corporate user would be made possible by commercial service providers.

Finally, I would recommend strongly that a 5% public interest set aside be an integral part of the wireless strategy in Cleveland from the outset. This public set aside, much as is allocated in the satellite industry and other spectrum allocations would be assigned in our region to address matters of social inclusion and the welfare of our community. This shared service layer will serve as an equivalent to a public bicycle lane for general access and guest services across the region.

We need to find a way to “violently agree” that we should work together (both in the public and private arenas) to build only one infrastructure for the region. A public-private compact should be consummated between all the interested and vested parties to build out the infrastructure. Multiple options for managing parts of the wireless infrastructure should be part of the agreement. The work underway right now in building out Vancouver’s Digital Muse might serve as a basis for the investment/management opportunities. Of course, countless new opportunities for new devices, applications, and related services over the infrastructure will be possible in support of our regional economic strategy.

Any number of use cases will need to be developed to discuss, among other things:

(1) an identity management schema to facilitate provisioning of access to the community-wide wireless service offering
(2) security services
(3) joint technical architecture within the public private partnership
(4) a long term refresh strategy that anticipates 36-48 month refresh of the infrastructure
(5) a series of research and development facilities linked to application development on the network
(6) technical training for advanced service offerings on the network
(7) a community wide portal strategy
(8) social networking strategies of a connected community
(9) mentoring opportunities for our connected community
(10) assessment and evaluation criteria for helping to answer what difference all this will make to the quality of life.


To build out a broadband nation using wireless services requires us to think through the development of a digital commons. The philosopher John Locke made the point back in 1690 that “the only way by which anyone divests himself of his natural liberty and puts on the bonds of civil society is by agreeing with other men to join and unite in a community.” The goal of a OneCleveland wireless strategy should first and foremost be geared to repairing our sense of community by enabling new, richer, more compelling forms of communication. The goal of a OneCleveland wireless strategy is not separate, above, beyond the overall goal of OneCleveland namely to use a mix of advanced technologies to connect, enable, and transform the community. A OneCleveland wireless network should be a multi-user, mulit-purpose infrastructure that meets multiple needs across the community while remaining robust, secure, and reliable. Commercial interests need to engage in public and community affairs. At the same time, public interests need to be strive to become more entrepreneurial, nimble and customer focused. If we attempt to build out a city-wide wireless infrastructure today, with opposing strategies, exclusive arrangements, and traditional zero-sum attitudes, we will fail. That is the story most everywhere acoss this country. There are no guarantees that following the proposed integrated, three-tier model will lead to success, however, the project and the outcome represent a bold, model for addressing a national challenge. The United States needs a national strategy for broadband. We have gone from fourth in the world to sixteenth and we are tumbling towards falling out of the top 20. A national policy should be built on the basis of strong community models. A OneCleveland wireless strategy, such as the one outlined above, provides one such framework for community discussion and deliberation.

Lev Gonick, Cleveland Ohio, August 15, 2005.

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August 15, 2005

Case and OneCleveland Selected as Top Campus Technology Innovator of 2005

This just in. Campus Technology (Syllabus Magazine) has just announced the top 13 campus technology innovators of 2005.

Case Western Reserve University and its leadership for the OneCleveland initiative joins an elite group of schools for the class of 2005 innovators award.

Here's the lead in to the center fold story:

IN THE NEVER-ENDING EFFORT to better serve students, faculty, and staff via technology, some college and university campuses take the kind of initiative—even out-and-out risk— that results in advances previously thought impossible, or at least, far down the pike.

The institutions we highlight here have pursued their technology challenges with the kind of doggedness that should serve as a model to other institutions wondering just how far they can push their own envelope. Whether it’s to advance foreign language learning through the use of digital technology; attract new students from previously untapped regions via superb Web portal services and customization; or improve the management, tracking, and security of chemical materials on the campus, the colleges and universities in this special feature have taken the initiative and followed through with people, process, and technology each step of the way. Most critical to the success of these initiatives are the vision and leadership of particular campus administrators, faculty, and staff. Equally important, in many cases, was the campus/vendor partnership forged to support the challenge and see it through. For those readers facing their own similar challenges, we say: Use these stories for inspiration, guidance, and even to make contact.

Here's a link to the complete story online.

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August 12, 2005

Reinventing the education challenge in Cleveland

OneCleveland seeks to inspire innovation and transformation in our region. Truth be told, for a city that ranks as the most impoverished in America, many proud and engaged community leaders are more than a little embarrassed by the failed attempts to fund the turn around of Cleveland’s Schools. The failed school funding efforts runs the risk of reinforcing negative self images and our predisposition to wrap ourselves in Cleveland’s very real Eeyoresque funk of “woe is us…”

OneCleveland is one idea that can help us to reinvent the entire education challenge in Cleveland. We need a big, bold, vision to help us imagine a 21st century education project for a community that is as cynical as it is disenfranchised. Over the next 18 months, OneCleveland can help connect every single child and every household in Cleveland to the Net. Netizenship in the 21st century is every bit as important and inalienable a right as the civil rights movement of the last generation.

Here’s the challenge. We need to turn the access challenge, social inclusion, and digital divide into a HUGE win for Cleveland Schools. OneCleveland is part of the solution. Cleveland’s middle and high schools will all be connected to this world class infrastructure through a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. But that is not enough. While we work on adding transformative and provocative services on OneCleveland’s wires we need something really out of the box that will stop everyone in their tracks. It has to be something big, bold, and even audacious to reignite our wonderment and awe in what is possible. Most learning goes on outside the classroom. So, here is my proposal.

Cleveland needs to develop a $99 laptop computer for America’s inner cities. The Cleveland laptop is not really “just” a computer, it is an integrated communication and gaming device. It needs to come complete with a keyboard, screen, storage, software tools, headset, and wifi and all for under $100. We need 100,000 of them in the next 18 months. From a technology perspective every Cleveland laptop would come complete with mesh network tools tying every household and school classroom to one another. With Skype running on linux every laptop will also serve as a presence and communication device. These adhoc mesh networked devices can also be connected to OneCleveland’s core application suite which today includes health care education and moving forward hopefully music education, oral health, early childhood education, art education, and much more. Peer to peer learning, communications, gaming, and of course authoring and sampling will drive massive adoption of the Cleveland laptop. Cleveland will be making front page news for its innovation, inventiveness, and its support for leveling the playing field in the all too important years of a child's developmental years.

Cleveland, like every major city in America has spent tens of millions of dollars connecting schools. For less than a million dollars we can provide every child in Cleveland a fully integrated data, voice (and maybe video) device that can be leveraged as a networked device whether it touches the backbone of OneCleveland or any other service provider. No one has got a $99 device on the market. Students from Case Western Reserve University and other schools and colleges should have a city-wide competition to propose a technology solution and business plan. The winning team would receive $50,000 along with a commmitment to a manufacturing contract and additional R&D support. There would be little, if any, profit driving the effort here in Cleveland. If it works here in Cleveland the Cleveland laptop can work anywhere in America. Because there is a need for this kind of device, it is only a matter of time before someone develops a strategy that will truly change the nature of human communication and citizenship. Why can’t we build it here in Cleveland to address community priorities, create jobs, and change people’s lives.

The data is unequivocal; education is the single most important predicator of human development. Today, as we know peer to peer environments are engendering significant creative development and invitations to discovery, exploration, discipline, reasoning and creativity. The Cleveland $99 laptop program will provide every kid in Cleveland with not only the device but also the communication and software infrastructure to develop, sustain, and advance the informal learning opportunities for young people. This is a go for it! strategy. The Cleveland $99 laptop program will spawn a solutions economy that will make education cool again and along the way attract the population at large to support public investment in more innovation both inside our schools and beyond the playground fences.

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August 07, 2005

The Future of the Cleveland Municipal School District

Patrick Leier is the Superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, a transient community in the sprawling Los Angeles basin with a population of about 200,000 (40,000 students). Most households in Pomona live below the poverty line. Back in 1995 nearly 70% of students in the School District didn’t attend the same school for three years either having dropped out of school or their families moving to new addresses.

Over the past decade, Leier has helped turn around the Pomona Unified School District. Most impressive, Leier’s efforts are informed by a philosophy that education can be an engine of community development and transformation rather than the traditional “deficit” orientation which sees the school system as symptomatic or even the root cause of the community’s general malaise.

While there are a certain number of headaches that come with the territory, Leier has demonstrated that a combination of vision, entrepreneurship, and technological insight can lead a School system as well as the entire community to a sense of pride and accomplishment.

The eVillage at Indian Hill is part of Leier’s legacy. Leier realized that both the School District and the City needed a marquee landmark project to mobilize community support and to create a highly visible symbol of the power of the possible.

Under Leier's leadership, the district purchased a depressed regional mall and turned it into the eVillage at Indian Hill. Part urban renewal, part community project, part school, part technology infrastructure hub, the location offers a unique and intriguing model for communities everywhere.

The transformation from failed retail space to community center required a rethinking of education space, education funding, and ultimately, the education experience for both K-12 students and the surrounding community. The result is a flex space elementary school, an academy-based high school, and much needed retail space for service-oriented businesses and community organizations such Cal Poly Pomona, HeadStart, a NASA/JPL Research Center and a local history museum.

The flex space enables the district to bus elementary students from overcrowded schools to a safe, secure learning environment. In fall 2001, 1,800 students attended elementary classes at Pueblo East, Pueblo North and Pueblo South. The Village Academy High School occupies a separate "compartment" of the same facility and supports more than 400 students. The eVillage has also become a transportation academy providing not only basic busing services but also combining vocational training, business development, and technology innovation in public transportation systems.

The Village at Indian Hill is not just about repurposing an existing structure. The district is experimenting with acceptable ways to introduce enterprise into the education process by creating a business rather than a marketing relationship with their partners. The school and retail companies at Village at Indian Hill work together in a unique, symbiotic partnership that offers students hands-on learning opportunities, while businesses benefit from skilled labor and reduced infrastructure expenses.

The district formed the non-profit Pomona Valley Educational Foundation to create an endowment for educational programs that support student learning. A private entity closely aligned with the district, the foundation manages all business relationships including commercial leases. They also pursue grants and equipment donations. Partnerships have included technology leaders like AT&T, Apple, HP/Compaq and others. The Foundation was also one of the first K-12 school systems to become a “hub” of internet activity and infrastructure development for the LA Basin.

The foundation has two primary revenue streams: leasing of commercial space within the mall complex and rental of the high-tech conference facilities. Retail companies lease space in the complex and may provide applied learning opportunities for students enrolled in the academy programs. In partnership with the nearby Sheraton Fairplex, the foundation also manages a high-tech conference facility.

PUSD is bringing money into the school system with creative leasing.
The School system provides conference facilities, high-tech equipment, and technical expertise. Students are trained in conference support areas and earn credits and cash by offering their services, skills and expertise to local businesses and even back to the district.

Funding for the purchase, design and architectural work came from Federal Qualified Zone Academy Bonds. Federal E-rate funds and California's Digital High School and Library grants has helped to bring technology to the school system. In addition to these one-time grants, the district receives funds for enrolled students based on the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) and the impoverished student population qualifies for state and federal categorical programs.
Partnerships with corporations, educational institutions and other non-profits further strengthen the community and provide resources. By opening the facility to adult education at night, the district splits the cost of equipment with higher education partners and brings a much-needed service to the community. The school has also attracted grants and partnership programs from companies such as: Apple, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Compaq, CompUSA, NASA/JPL, and many more.

What was once 55 acres of vacant, sub-standard commercial space is now a highly visible, quality, state-of-the-art business and education center. The project has invested more than $50 million in new development and operational funding with the hope of bringing stability and economic growth to the community of Pomona. New housing starts have sprung up all around this once abandoned neighborhood. School safety not only at the eVillage but elsewhere across the District are at all time lows. The fiber optic ring that connects the school system supports a digital surveillance system whose head end is at the eVillage and supported through a partnership with Pomona Public Safety. Just this past week the Pomona Unified School District released a commercial software suite for online essay scoring known as RxNetWriter. Pomona Unified and the community in Pomona California believes that they can define their own future. Whether it is software development, housing starts, commercial activities, the secret in Pomona is that education has become the engine of change and transformation.

Patrick Leirer is the kind of leader that Cleveland needs. To build on the strengths and accomplishments of the past 7 years, Cleveland needs new leadership that can align the challenges of the education environment to the broader goals of the community. Our community’s vision for School leadership should be viewed as part of the civic “A” team creating partnerships that make a difference.

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