Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chortle, Snort: AT&T's (in)Competence in St. Louis

Since I've already shared the basics of this story I thought I'd let you know how it ended up:

AT&T, the ponderous international conglomerate that had the temerity to tell Lafayette that we didn't really need a modern telecommunications infrastructure and we local yokels we were clearly unable to run one anyhoo, has finally reneged on its contract to build St. Louis a wifi network.

Because they can't find the plug...Honestly that's pretty much the story.

They forgot, when they strong-armed the mayor and the city council into awarding them the contract non-competitively, that WiFi isn't totally wireless: it needs power for its radios to work. And AT&T's engineers haven't been able to figure out how to do it yet. So they'll just do a pilot downtown. The gist:

AT&T had planned to build out the wireless network across the city over two years, under the plan announced in February. It would then provide free Internet service to everyone for 20 hours a month and charge for more time or higher download speeds.

The main problem was that AT&T engineers couldn't find a cheap way to power the network's transmitters, which carry the network signal and send it to people's computers. One estimate required 50 transmitters per square mile.

They initially planned to mount the transmitters on city streetlights, but some of those don't have power during the day...
Missed that did you? No power eh? Uh, ......Duh.

Ok, now I don't want to hear any more nonsense about how Lafayette's engineers couldn't possibly be competent to run a fiber-optic network. AT&T's engineers manage it and they literally can't find the plug in the dark. My guess is that LUS' engineers would have known they'd need power. And would not have assumed that light poles could be treated like simple light switches.

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