Chaska was one of the first U.S. cities to offer city-wide wi-fi, and the articles goes in-depth on the history and technical upgrades that got the network where it is today.
When we moved to town 17 months ago, we were willing and eager to try out the service. Unfortunately, as my comments in the paper indicate, our experience with Chaska.net was it was too slow and not accommodating for a net-savvy household (3 computers, DirecTV, Wii, iPhone — all requiring Web access – often at the same time). We live across the street from a tower and used an external antenna, but if you want to download movies and music, upload pictures or Skype with a friend, you’re not going to want DSL’s kid brother for service.
Beyond speed, you 1) can’t use routers to share the net with devices like DVR and video gaming systems, and 2) can’t use a router to have more than one compute online at once. These are total deal breakers.
Okay, so why does it suck so badly? I thought the article’s history lede summed it up nicely:
Rewind to 2004 – that was before Twitter, back when Facebook was a fledgling operation that few had heard of, and when saying you connected to the Internet using dial-up didn’t get you laughed out of the room.
Okay, so we’re at 2010 and cable internet is adequate for a digital native’s needs. Rather than upgrade all the wi-fi antenna towers, let’s think out six years from now. My idea? Take all that fiber aroudn town and hard wire the fiber direct to every home. Depending on the infrastructure, it could be as fast as 50 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream and carry hundreds of HD TV channels to every home…like Verizon’s FiOS (full disclosure: I used to do PR for Verizon FiOS, and they are still a client of my employer).
You can’t get FiOS in Minnesota, but I’d love to see civic leaders exhibit the thought leadership that made Chaska a municipal case study for city-wide wi-fi and build the next generation of online infrastructure to handle the bandwidth of technologies and social applications of the future we’ve never considered.
Meanwhile, I want to give major kudos to the Herald for building and maintaining a Facebook community where it leads discussions and adds value that leads to reporting like this story. A comment I left in December was repurposed — with my permission — for the story. Great stuff.