Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dear Mr. Voelpel:

Nice fluff piece about the Steilacoom/CenturyTel WiFi "experiment" in your Friday column April 13. Evidently you've been spoon-fed from the mayor's office who seems intent to cram this down our town for reasons unclear to many of us.

Had you done research, you would have discovered from the needs assessment, only 180 of the townspeople responded. Not exactly a statistical representation of the 6,000+ residents. Overwhelmingly a majority of that minority expressed little or no interest. In fact, 74% of the respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their current speed, 52% satisfied or very satisfied with their current rates, and 82% satisfied or very satisfied with their current Internet reliability. But here it is anyway.

A beautiful historic hamlet on the banks of the Puget Sound, Steilacoom prides itself on the history and the many "firsts" it claims, including the first town incorporated in Washington State (1854), the first library, church, school, jail, etc. In modern times, it was the first town in Pierce County to value and establish view preservation ordinances under the foresight of former mayor and council member, Lyle Dunkin. Does any of that factor into the unsightly tin cans on top of the street lamps? Were town citizens consulted? Indeed, the only other town that has been "blanketed" by CenturyTel's techno-porn is Vail, Colorado, where CenturyTel had to disguise the "small white traffic cones" as bird houses. I guess Vail residents have different views.

Yes, I do have a view. And yes, I do resent the placement and design of the wireless "experiment" without the opportunity to mitigate concerns. Did I mention the connection is UNSECURED? That means the neighbor kids having a LAN party can easily intercept my signal to the access point and capture passwords, credit card numbers and anything you might transmit with nothing more than a Pringles can (, It's also slower than either DSL or Comcast's broadband

The community should also be aware that if you already have a wireless network at home set up with the recommended security settings, it's possible that the CenturyTel WiFi devices might interfere and make it difficult, if not impossible without technical assistance to connect to your preferred home network, instead of CenturyTel's slower unsecured network, which is designed to be easily accessible to anyone.

By the way, you may want to check out the rates CenturyTel charged Vail residents:;client_ip=;portal=centurytel;filtered=yes
$10 per day; $44.95 per week; but you can get ONE HOUR free every 24 hours, at the slowest 300kbps speed available. Good deal, huh? Should you decide to sign up, don't forget you'll also need to change your email address if you currently use or for your current email; unless of course you want to pay for both CenturyTel and your current provider.

I'm not so sure I see the need for the town locating "big brother" cameras around town. Is this community really so fraught with crime or in such a widespread geographic area that it requires techno-surveillance? If my town emergency services and operations were to seriously consider wireless on which to run their business, I would certainly hope it would be:\
1. Secure and encrypted
2. Redundant in case of equipment failure, my police, fire and other services wouldn't fail.
3. Disaster-proof in the event of earthquake, flood or maybe an active volcano.

There are a number of other options available worthy of investigation including WiMAX and high-canopy technology requiring much fewer transmission points and providing higher security when and where necessary. I see any endeavor of this scope and impact requiring due diligence to compare and contrast the options and truly weigh the pros and cons, once the goals and objectives are gathered from a significant majority of those afffected and interested in an open and honest discussion.

Just thought you should know another side of the story.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

WiFi Experiment

Thank you for the opportunity to be heard at a recent council meeting regarding Steilacoom's WiFi experiment and share the before and after photos with council members.

It's commendable that our elected officials are looking into ways to provide greater services to the town residents at little or no cost. However, as I stated at the council meeting, I feel it's imperative to weigh the aesthetics of the technology with the expected benefits before an accurate cost/benefit judgment can be made. Much of Steilacoom's value lies in the beauty of the view and the historical significance the view evokes. I would hope that any initiative undertaken by the town include the aesthetics and weigh those effects heavily along with the residents' perception.

Regardless of the economics and whether or not there is any cost to the town, there is no price for the loss of the beauty that is Steilacoom. Even if the town were to profit, it would still be inexcusable to construct unsightly devices projecting from the top of street lamps subjectively scattered throughout the town. It would be like giving us a dry July 4th parade or wind-less Salmon Bake by erecting a dome over the town. Neither solution would be desirable or acceptable for obvious reasons. The same principle applies to the current WiFi project. In fact I found over 30 references in the town municipal code referring to view preservation, some of them specific to wireless devices.

The majority of people I have talked to about this agree the devices are an eyesore and should either be removed or moved to more discrete locations. I would also suggest that any consideration of a permanent installation for this service undergo town wide scrutiny and public input to establish an acceptable design for neighborhood approval. At the very least I would hope that acceptance of services would include resident's ability to influence placement in their neighborhoods.

To that end, I have started a blog online for anyone to post their thoughts, comments or information about this or other subjects of impact to the town. It is open to anyone wishing to post a comment and is more valuable the more people leave comments, so I hope you will participate and use the forum to communicate with a wider audience of interested citizens.