Grassroots Wireless Community Networks

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Dewayne Hendricks, Michael Marcus, Jim Burger, and Dave Hughes

May 16, 1996
Reported by Alison Atkins

Dewayne Hendricks, CEO of Warp Speed Imagineering, provided some "Personal Perspectives on Wireless Networking." Hendricks says it takes about twenty years for new technologies to be integrated into the mass market. He outlines the steps of technology transfer from the technologists to what he calls "the Simpsons," a family incapable of programming their VCR. Hendricks sees unlicensed wireless technologies as still too new for the even the average family, mainly because they are too costly and complicated.

Technology Transfer Steps (TT) Steps

Satellite TV Broadcasting

Unlicensed Wireless Networking TT

History of Unlicensed Wireless

Wireless LAN Thoughts

Wireless MAN Thoughts

(These devices are a long way from the Simpsons.)

Final Thoughts

Michael Marcus, Associate Chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC is involved with spectrum management, equipment authorization, and general technical policy issues.

The FCC is made up of five commissioners appointed by the president. Part of its mission is to regulate interstate telephony, cable service, and all use of radio waves in the private sector. The FCC publishes proposals (dockets) both on the Web and in the Federal Register. The FCC encourages public comment on these proposals. In fact, they are required by law to respond to any concerns of citizens.

In 1959, 29 radio frequency bands were made available for public use on a licensed basis. Licensing is a complicated and costly process which is difficult for laymen to complete on their own. Community networks may consider creating strategic partnerships with private companies also interested in wireless technologies to help bring down the costs. There also exist three bands available for unlicensed use, which although still expensive, may provide point to point access.

Marcus says the FCC needs to know how much demand exists for point to point capacity. Any individual comments are welcomed and may be emailed through the Web at the FCC home page.

Jim Burger,Senior Director, Worldwide Government Affairs at Apple, urges community networkers to get involved in public policy issues that will affect the connectivity of their networks.

Apple's Interest in Grass Roots Community Networking

NII Band Proposal


Acting on the NPRM

Dave Hughes is the Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation Wireless Field Tests for Education. Hughes claims that if you solve the wireless problem for schools, you've solved it for communities, due to the location of schools within communities. Hughes also believes that by solving the networking problem in rural areas through wireless technologies, you've solved networking problems for third world countries that want to come online but are without phone lines. However, before these third world countries get online, businesses must make it easy.

Hughes is also a strong advocate of unlicensed access to public radio frequencies. He believes that current licensing practices are both too costly and too complicated to allow for wide use within the community. Hughes thinks the issues of the day center on the necessity for a public spectrum.

Perhaps numbers speak louder than words. Hughes estimates that for a particular rural Colorado community, five year networking expenses through US West would amount to $877,000. Using wireless technologies, Hughes estimates the same community could operate for $154,400.