Archive for Wednesday, May 25, 2011

City gives Lawrence Freenet the go-ahead on fiber network project

Alex Kaufman, of Community Wireless Communications, loads gear into a Lawrence Freenet truck outside the Lawrence Freenet offices, 4105 W. Sixth St, in this 2008 file photo.

Alex Kaufman, of Community Wireless Communications, loads gear into a Lawrence Freenet truck outside the Lawrence Freenet offices, 4105 W. Sixth St, in this 2008 file photo.

May 25, 2011


Google this: Beat Kansas City.

Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting unanimously directed staff to start negotiating an agreement with the operator of Lawrence Freenet to provide more high-speed Internet access in the city.

In fact, several city commissioners said they hope the deal can be put together so quickly that some Lawrence businesses and residences have access to superfast 1-Gbps Internet service months before Google’s much-ballyhooed project in Kansas City.

“I think the digital divide in the future will be about communities that have high-speed Internet and those that don’t,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said. “We’ll have communities to the east of us that will have some of the best technology in the world. This is our offensive movement.”

Commissioners directed staff members to begin negotiations with Community Wireless Communications — the for-profit operator of Lawrence Freenet — to allow the company to access city-owned fiber optic cables along 23rd Street. Exact terms of the deal weren’t finalized at Tuesday’s meeting, but commissioners suggested a deal that would allow Community Wireless to lease about 5 percent of the fiber’s capacity for a one-time payment of $30,000. Community Wireless also would pay the city 5 percent of its annual revenues for the right to access the cable and for the right to locate wireless Internet equipment on some pieces of city infrastructure.

Community Wireless president Joshua Montgomery said the deal would give his company the ability to begin offering 1-Gbps Internet service — the same speed Google is planning for Kansas City, Kan. — to some businesses and apartment complexes in the city. Depending on how quickly the deal can be put together, Montgomery is holding out hope that service can be in operation by August — several months before Google’s service is set to begin in 2012.

Unlike in Kansas City, Kan. — and recently it was announced Kansas City, Mo., too — the superfast Internet in Lawrence wouldn’t be available community-wide. But Montgomery said the high-speed Internet could be offered along the entire 23rd Street corridor, the Daisy Hill area near Kansas University and perhaps along parts of Sixth Street and Iowa Street.

Montgomery said he can envision the high-speed Internet being a recruiting tool for businesses looking to locate at the East Hills Business Park or the new business park that the city plans to develop at the former Farmland Industries site on East 23rd Street. He also said he expects the city agreement to be structured in a way that allows a certain amount of the high-speed service to be offered to companies at a reduced rate.

“I think it could end up being a real incentive for companies to locate here,” Montgomery said.

Several city commissioners, in particular, were excited about the possibility of piggybacking on the momentum that is occurring in nearby Kansas City.

“On the economic development side of this, I think the possibilities are almost endless,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.

The potential deal did cause an official with major Lawrence Internet provider Knology to raise concerns. Debra Schmidt, interim general manager for Knology’s Lawrence operations, said the deal “may be opening the door to disparate treatment of other for-profit companies.”

City commissioners said they did not think that was the case, but directed staff members to meet with Knology officials to further hear their concerns prior to bringing back the Community Wireless deal for final consideration.

The new deal would replace several deals the city has with the not-for-profit Lawrence Freenet corporation. As part of those deals, the company received below-market rate prices to access city infrastructure in exchange for agreeing to offer about one free Internet account to a low income resident for every 9 paid accounts the company has.

Commissioners said they would like to see some language in the new agreement that commits the for-profit Community Wireless to provide some free service to low-income residents.

Other business

In other news, city commissioners:

• Agreed to accept a $150,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to install fiber along 23rd Street for a project to better synchronize traffic signals on the street. The fiber would be the same fiber used by Community Wireless under the proposed deal. The grant money won’t become available in until July 2012, but commissioners want to explore starting the project now and having the state reimburse the city for its $150,000 in expenses. City staff members were uncertain whether KDOT would agree to that arrangement.

• Set a bid date of June 14 for a pair of projects that will replace aging waterlines along Ninth Street from Tennessee to Vermont streets and along Kentucky Street from 12th to 19th streets. The project is expected to cost about $1.4 million.


trainpost 7 years ago

You heard it here first... this will end with lawyers and Joshua Montgomery looking for someone to blame.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years ago

I don't know if what I heard is true or not. But if it is, anyone that uses Lawrence Freenet will also need to have a backup system in order to access the internet for the times when Lawrence Freenet is offline.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years ago

It's not that Knology is never offline, but they have never been offline for more than perhaps fifteen minutes at a time. They have never been offline for a month!

Ron Holzwarth 7 years ago

Again, I was only told this, it was not my direct experience. But, it was enough reason for some friends of mine to ditch Lawrence Freenet, and confirmation that I had made the correct decision to not consider Lawrence Freenet:

While the Lawrence Freenet system was entirely offline for over a month to install some new hardware, they charged the customers anyway! They offered no credit for over a month's worth of interrupted service!

Plus, I was also told that the the Lawrence Freenet technicians that keep the system operating are nowhere near as skilled as the Knology technicians. Why should they be? They're only paid a fraction of their peers with Knology!

MarcoPogo 7 years ago

Larryville hasn't been interesting since about 2003/2004 when the admins started banning people left and right with all sorts of drama.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years ago

You might be correct. I'm talking about whoever offers Freenet net connection service right behind HyVee on 6th. St.

Other locations may be different.

nschwerm 7 years ago

nice competition is good for the consumer, I look forward to more options and better prices!

cowboy 7 years ago

Why the city would work with a completely inept organization needs some explanation.

nativeson 7 years ago

Lawrence Freenet has conducted a 5-year brainwashing campaign on this community. They have tried any and every way to access public funds to subsidize their organization. It appears they have won.

The fact is that we have many for-profit providers able to provide bandwidth. Stay out of the fray and let the market drive this business.

cowboy 7 years ago

no bid process ? no alternate vendors considered ? Ted Mack's amateur Hour Show has returned.

Ralph Reed 7 years ago

And where was your cry in the wilderness when the same was given to Halliburton?

trainpost 7 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Jake Esau 7 years ago

Watch out for the difference between gigabit and gigabyte service... they are very different. One gigabyte is 8 gigabits. I know Google's service is 1 gigabit, not 1 gigabyte and I suspect that Freenet's will also be gigabit, not gigabyte.

In general, bytes are used to refer to storage capacity and bits are used to refer to transmission rates.

Matt Schwartz 7 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Hwy50 7 years ago

As long the city doesn't make it an exclusive deal then what's the harm? If Knology or someone else wants to lease a few strands of that fiber then it should be made available first come first served.

Also, I wouldn't get too worked about them offering gigabit like KC. They're not Google in that they don't have thousands of miles of fiber crisscrossing the country to hook that gigabit connection to. They're going to have to pay their upstream providers like everyone else at market rates. Good luck.

nekansan 7 years ago

What is the capacity for the city to get out of the deal? Free-net gets exclusive access to a limited resource for a one time fee? What prevents them from simply using the agreement that they have with the city to prevent a better situated provider from assuming the use of the fiber and providing service to the city. It seems far too open ended for the city. There should be a 3-5 year lease with both a fixed lease cost and a revenue share going to the city, not access to the fiber forever going forward. Who covers the maintenance cost if the fiber is cut or damaged? Is the revenue share 5% of gross revenues or only those derived through the use of the fiber? What happens when Freenet's revenues fall and they are paying the city nearly nothing for the ongoing use of the fiber?

ivalueamerica 7 years ago

I hear a lot of whining about freenet, but have yet to see one piece of evidence presented by any of the whiners that they actually have done something illegal or deceptive..just that you do not like them.

I hardly think that the city can justify denying a contract because some LJW whiners are uncomfortable but unable to pinpoint anything illegal.

Sigmund 7 years ago

nschwerm (anonymous) says… "nice competition is good for the consumer, I look forward to more options and better prices!"

Exactly, why wasn't this put out for competitive bid? I would have liked to see what Sprint, AT&T, Knology would have offered for use of the same equipment.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

The city isn't selling all its capacity-- a small percentage, as a matter of fact. Why can't these other companies buy in, as well?

At any rate, the $30,000 is what's necessary to seed the bulk of the funding the city will need to put this in. Would you rather it come from the general fund, instead?

Hwy50 7 years ago

Competitive bid for what? They're not buying something, they're leasing out. Has the city turned away someone else who expressed interest in leasing? It's no secret this stuff is going in the ground.

Sigmund 7 years ago

ivalueamerica (anonymous) says… "I hardly think that the city can justify denying a contract because some LJW whiners are uncomfortable but unable to pinpoint anything illegal."

They can deny it for any reason whatsoever, like "No thanks, not interested." However if they are going to do a public/private partnership they have a duty to taxpayers to get the best deal from the most capable vendor which in no way is CW.

Sigmund 7 years ago

I have seen it take months for this commission to decide whether or not to put blinking lights at a school crossing and they up and do a project with Community Wireless in one week? Makes me wonder about which Lawrence businesses and residences will have access to superfast 1-gigabyte Internet service

he_who_knows_all 7 years ago

There is nothing "free" about "freenet".

ljwhirled 7 years ago

Unless you are a low income family.

Sigmund 7 years ago

Hwy50 (anonymous) replies… "Competitive bid for what? They're not buying something, they're leasing out."

Don't be so dense, a lease is "buying" of exclusive rights to something for a period of time. In any event if the City is going to lease something, shouldn't they determine the value of what they are leasing? What better way to determine value than offer it to the public and then hold a competitive bidding?

Sigmund 7 years ago

he_who_knows_all (anonymous) says… "There is nothing "free" about "freenet"."

True, but interestingly enough this deal isn't with FreeNot, but with for-profit partner Wommunity Wireless.

Sigmund 7 years ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies… "The city isn't selling all its capacity-- a small percentage, as a matter of fact. Why can't these other companies buy in, as well?"

Good question. As long as any other for profit as equal access at the same rates I have a much greater comfort level. However, there is nothing in the article that even hints that this deal is available to other public providers. This point needs to be clarified before the Commission agrees to any deal.

Sigmund 7 years ago

Key Issues: There are several policy issues that the City Commission should consider. A past value expressed by the City Commission has been providing a level playing field for for-profit companies by charging the same access rates for City infrastructure. Policy issues regarding the CWC request are 1) equal treatment for all for-profit companies and 2) potentially creating a situation were the City gets less-than-market rate revenue for its infrastructure access. City Commission direction would be needed regarding these policy issues.

karinwoodard 7 years ago

Shame on the city for not doing their research. I sure hope they conducted a full review of the network design and included Service Level requirements in the agreement to hold Community Wireless accountable for their promises. This certainly wouldn't be the first time they have broken their word to the city. Has anyone asked the Greek houses on campus how Josh Montgomery scammed them last summer with the same concept? That's right... They came back to Sunflower with stories of poor service and unrespectable behavior by good ole Josh. I truly hope the outcome this time is different... The cost to the city, its residents and anyone daring enough to buy service from "Free"net will be high if it doesn't work out.

Sigmund 7 years ago

Staff has identified the following items as key areas of interest for the City related to this request: Historically, the City has attempted to establish relatively uniform regulations and rates regarding for-profit businesses so that the City does not provide a competitive advantage of one business over another. Additionally, State law requires franchise agreements be competitively neutral.

Sigmund 7 years ago

Possible Cons Less-than-market rate for infrastructure access, at least initially. Loss of control related to some of the City’s infrastructure unless bank collateral issue and security concerns can be resolved. Disparate treatment of for-profit companies and potential liability as a result. Operational challenges and coordination issues if fiber is shared or owned by another entity other than the City.

I don't see where any of staffs concerns were given any discussion by this Commission.

Sigmund 7 years ago

Finally, any journalist who compares Google to FreeNot or Community-Whynot? ought to have their journalism license suspended for first degree excessive exaggeration and aggravated hyperbole.

Sigmund 7 years ago

The Freenet agreements acknowledge the not-for-profit nature of the company and require Freenet to provide regular quarterly reports documenting free service and establishes a target of 10% of users to receive free service. The non-profit status and the provision of free internet service to low income residents has been the basis for the City’s assistance to Freenet, which includes providing free access to certain parts of the City’s infrastructure system and minimal free electricity to power the equipment to support wireless service in the downtown area.

Has FreeNot lived up to that agreement? Are those reports available to the public? According to FreeNots home page their free service is pathetically limited:

Freenet Free Monthly Fee: $0 Download Speeds: 384 Kbpss Upload Speed: 96 Kbps Duration: 30Min/Day

Even if ALL of FreeNot customers are charged nothing, 30 minutes/day represents significantly less than 10% of a 24 hour day!

Before entering into any further agreements with Community WhyNot (the for profit), this Commission has a duty to examine just how well FreeNot (the not-for-profit) has lived up to its past commitments.

trainpost 7 years ago

This is the same Joshua Montgomery that said, while speaking to the city commission, without question, his Kids internet plan would happen without the city co-signing a loan for him... still waiting on that one, Josh.

Michael Lindsey 7 years ago

anyone ever see the movie "The Flim-Flam Man". I can't believe how gullible the commission was and how stupid are some of the people who comment here. Just talk to any former or current employee to learn the truth. about Montgomery

trainpost 7 years ago

"Just talk to any former or current employee to learn the truth. about Montgomery" Or to any of the many, many local businesses to which he owes money.

Amy Heeter 7 years ago

I know two people with Freenet service. Both spend more to3 waiting for repairs or service calls to be completed both are low income so they get it free but they did have to pay for equipment. I font know anyone who pays for Freenet service do my question is how.many paying customers does free net have.

robbinsknd 6 years, 4 months ago

So I just wanted to comment on my experience with Lawrence Freenet......HATED the company that changed their name but never their service had them for 7 years constantly had to "babysit" my bill monthly was always charges that were wrong and I believe they got away with it because at least to me their was no known competition....First I dropped home phone went to only cell, then got satellite TV so was making the switch little by little so only had internet through them, had bronze to be exact....well recieved a bill 1 month that was at least $100 more than it should have been, of course their number was a contact on my phone, so I asked why so much? well apparently bronze comes with so much or little bandwidth our family had gone over through gamimg, music, movies so if I switched to gold charges would disappear so I did.......$75 a month reviewed my bill as you have to very carefully with them and noticed a "tv service fee" I called and asked as we did not have "tv" with them...rep actually said "we charge you $10 a month so you don't get free cable"??????so naturally I say but I dont have or want cable with you so isn't that a charge you would have to absorb? I mean does that make any sense to you? rep says I can not agree or disagree hmmmmm? So I searched for any other possible solutions and came across Lawrence me I did my homework I grilled the very nice rep about it for 3 weeks he patiently answered all my questions and concerns as I told him I had read reviews.......They came out to see if I could pick up a signal and it was a perfect signal...installation was easy, they followed out satelite route into house the device on roof is about the size of an Iphone......upon running a test we were faster than the gold service I was paying for...I now pay $35 a month for unlimited fast uninterrupted internet with great customer service...I love that they are local and I'm supporting a Lawrence business and helping out others to be able to have internet access as for every 10 paying customers one eligible family is provided for free....Thank You Lawrence Freenet.

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