Update on Oakland County, Michigan wireless project

The Detroit News has a long article on the countywide Wi-Fi project in Oakland County, Michigan. I had posted an article about this project last November (click here).The Detroit News has a long article on the countywide Wi-Fi project in Oakland County, Michigan. I had posted an article about this project last November (click here).

Oakland County issued a bid last year and chose MichTel Communications from Pontiac to own, operate and maintain the network. The Detroit News article says that the network will cost $100 million to build and $1 million a month to operate. MichTel is bearing all the costs. How will they make money: through advertising and fee-based subscriptions. According to the article, “Oakland Wireless is projected to make $53 million if it captures 10 percent of the county’s 1.2 million households and 40,000 businesses.”

Not an open network model

According to Tammi Shepherd, project manager for Oakland County, “MichTel is not required to wholesale bandwidth, however they may if they wish. The primary requirement of our program is they will provide free internet access at 128 kbps up/down for every business, resident, and visitor in Oakland County. They also have non-exclusive access to the public assets. People will create a user name and password on a captive portal for the free service, and will have the option to upgrade to higher speed services with MichTel.”

My concerns with the countywide network are listed below.

(1) While I am pleased to see that the county has arranged for free public access, the bandwidth is really TINY and not very useful at all. It’s just slightly better than dialup.

(2) The county missed an opportunity to create a real competitive environment with a lot of ISPs on the network offering services to residents and businesses. Had they followed the open network model (see Philadelphia’s deal with Earthlink), they would have required MichTel to open up the network to other service providers. The open network/wholesale access model is, in my opinion, the best model we have today for generating competition in the market for broadband services.

(3) Because of the closed nature of the network (see 2 above) I am afraid this is the same old broken CABLE FRANCHISE model exported to Wi-Fi.

Tags: municipal wireless, countywide wireless, countywide Wi-Fi, county Wi-Fi


  1. curious too says

    My family lives in the pilot area and the reception is horrendous. They literally have to carry their computers from room to room trying to get a signal and the signal strength is always low. The fastest speed they have been able to achieve is 54kbps. A lot of people are going to be disappointed with this overhyped service.

  2. Eric Paulsen says

    I live less than 1/2 a mile from the Wixom pilot and was considering building a parabolic antenna for my PC to see if I could grab onto the signal but for 128kbps up/down? That’s just sad. I figured 384kbps maybe…

  3. Where are you getting service? I live RIGHT next to where the Troy pilot area is and that is the first one being set up. It has NOT begun yet.

  4. I thought this service was supposed to be free. Bummer. I was thinking that the County govt. is going to offer it Free or atleast at a subsidized rate.

    And now, you are saying that this is ridiculously slow. C’mon.

    Well, so much for the hype, I guess. Hope they are going to fix all those speed issues soon.

    Can anyone throw some light on what is the technology behind this Wi-Fi hotspots these guys are trying to install?


  5. I live INSIDE the pilot area…no service. I thought that the pilot area was to completed by the end of January…missed except for Troy’s City Hall, I guess.

  6. I heard from a good source that the company does not even have the money to complete the project. The underbid everyone else and now can not complete the rollout. Also, Michtel is looking for colaboration agreements with others to fullfill thier legal contract with the county. It will never be finished.

  7. From the oakgov.com website:

    When will this service be available in my area?

    The installation of the Wireless Oakland network has begun, however service is not yet available anywhere as of March 2006

    I don’t know if this will be a good thing or a bust, but it is hard to judge signal strength when it hasn’t even been launched yet….

  8. Michael Sparrow says

    according to:


    “When will this service be available in my area?

    The installation of the Wireless Oakland network has begun, however service is not yet available anywhere as of March 2006. The pilot areas should be complete between February and June of 2006. The build out of the rest of the county will follow shortly thereafter, and we anticipate the entire county to be blanketed by the end of 2007. A more detailed schedule that shows when individual communities will be built out will be published on the Wireless Oakland website as soon it is available.”

  9. Michael Sparrow says


    Utility pole access delays $100M wi-fi project

    The company handling Oakland County coverage says the holdup is due to wrangling with DTE.

    Jennifer Chambers / The Detroit News

    April 21, 2006

    PONTIAC — Plans to blanket all 910 square miles of Oakland County with wireless Internet are at a standstill after the firm in charge of the project found it needs 20,000 additional access points to get the system running.

    MichTel General Manager Tony Yangouyian said Thursday the project has slowed considerably due to lengthy legal negotiations with DTE Energy over access to its utility poles. MichTel needs the poles to install its wireless access boxes. The county, which in 2005 awarded MichTel the contract to own, operate and maintain the wireless network, is providing access to 2,700 spots.

    “Each pole must be permitted. DTE said we have to identify the pole, send the information to them. They have to send someone out to look at the pole,” Yangouyian said. “They haven’t been able to give an answer on how long that will take,” he said. “A day? A week? Weeks? All that impacts being able to start and finish in a reasonable amount of time.”

    The seven pilot communities — Troy, Birmingham, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, Oak Park, Pontiac and Wixom — were to be online by mid-March. In February, MichTel official said trucks would be rolling across those cities installing wireless access boxes so the system would be up and running by the end of June. The entire county is expected to have wireless access in 2007.

    Scott Oppman, manager of application services for Oakland County, said 20,000 points are needed with today’s technology, which requires 15 to 20 points per square mile. But because the system is going to be built out over the next two years, during which the new wi-Max technology is to become available, all 20,000 points won’t be needed.

    “That is a dramatic, worst-case scenario ‚Ķ We don’t expect that to happen,” Oppmann said.

    The network is expected to cost $100 million to build and $1 million a month to operate. No taxpayer dollars are being used to finance the project. MichTel plans to make money off the project through fee-based, high-speed Internet use and by selling extensive advertising and issuing naming rights to its site.

    You can reach Jennifer Chambers at (248) 647-7402 or jchambers@detnews.com.

  10. […] The Detroit Free Press has an article (21 April 2006) on recent problems encountered by Oakland County bid winner, MichTel, in their countywide Wi-Fi project: Plans to blanket all 910 square miles of Oakland County with wireless Internet are at a standstill after the firm in charge of the project found it needs 20,000 additional access points to get the system running. MichTel General Manager Tony Yangouyian said Thursday the project has slowed considerably due to lengthy legal negotiations with DTE Energy over access to its utility poles. MichTel needs the poles to install its wireless access boxes. The county, which in 2005 awarded MichTel the contract to own, operate and maintain the wireless network, is providing access to 2,700 spots. […]

  11. I also live in the pilot zone, Royal Oak —- and do not have service at all.

    Very, very sad for such a potentially high-profile positive project for SE Michigan to go sour.

    I have little hope at this point.

  12. Dianne C says

    I just returned from wintering in FL hopeful to begin using the free wireless Oakland County had promised to provide by the start of 2006. I am somewhat irritated that it is not yet up and running. I was able to take advantage of free wireless in many parts of FL and I’ve heard that even the Upper Peninsula has free wireless in many areas. I hope they get their act together soon.

  13. someonewhoknows says

    All the hype and nothing but gripes; so like Oakland County Government officials

  14. jeff alborell says

    Michtel is probably making it so easy for DTE to stall mostly for economic reasons. They figure that when the new WI-MAX systems are available they’ll be able to save a bundle on costs. Trouble is that if the ball isn’t kept rolling somehow sagging public interest may put a wrench in the project. C’mon L. Brooks we need a cheerleader fast.

  15. James Noga says

    When will the wireless project start

  16. From “http://www.oakgov.com/wireless/” as of July 27, 2006 :

    When will this service be available in my area?

    The installation of the Wireless Oakland network has begun, however service is not yet available anywhere as of July 2006. The pilot areas should be complete by Fall of 2006. The build out of the rest of the county will follow shortly thereafter, and we anticipate the entire county to be blanketed by the end of 2007. A more detailed schedule that shows when individual communities will be built out will be published on the Wireless Oakland website as soon it is available.

    Is my home or business in a pilot area?

    You can determine if your home or business is in a pilot area by reviewing the maps of the pilot areas (“http://www.oakgov.com/wireless/assets/docs/pilot_map_atlas.pdf”).

  17. I simply cannot believe all the whiners and complainers that live in the US. Gimme gimme gimme is the battle cry of the over spoiled that live around here. The program that is being rolled is like no other in the US. There will snafus there could not be forseen while this program is rolled. It is not as simply as throwng up a box and flipping a switch. Heck think of setting up a wifi in yor home then going to every house in the city of Troy and installing one but getting legal permission first. Then making sure there are no “holes” in the coverage. I can see it now that when it is up running people will complain its not fast enough even many will be saving money by disconnecting thier dail up.
    For anyone who wifi in their home, do you have it set up and running correctly. That means WPA Encryption enabled SSID disabled Mac Address Access only enable. I bet you dont and I bet some oe right now is piggy backing on your system. I can drive with a 1/2 mile of my house and find 6 wifi networks and gain access and control over each one if I wanted. So please stop complaining until you at least get to to try it and then if you dont like it then dont use.

  18. Jim Mc Donald says

    The wireless project for Oakland will never work. We used MichTel and they could not keep our simple wireless link working.

  19. Michael Sparrow says

    ATTN: Name-Calling, Opinionated, First-Name-Only Jim (from Aug 17)

    I’m not a whiner or complainer. (Perhaps you should re-read your own post while looking in a mirror.) I’m simply a concerned citizen with few or outdated facts and information to work with.

    Folks trying to make business decisions based on the availability of wireless (or lack thereof) in Oakland County are suffering from a dearth of information about the project’s progress (or lack thereof). Rather than call names and offer opinions, here’s a reiteration of some facts.

    1. The pilot project was supposed to be COMPLETED in March.
    2. The “Calendar” and “News & Events” sections of the county’s official web site (http://www.oakgov.com/wireless/) have not been updated since February.
    3. I’ve utilized the email link on the “Contact” page more than once over the last few months requesting that information on the site be updated. No response — not even acknowledgement of receipt.

    Crossing over into speculation:

    The three facts above could be interpreted to represent a “deserted ship” by some.

    Everyone wants to be associated with a winning idea or team and if everything were going well you can bet every person (even those only peripherally related to the project) would be milking it for credit whenever and wherever possible.

    It is possible that the vacuum of information is indicative of a natural resistance to being the bearer of bad news. Perhaps things are either going so poorly, or perhaps even ground to a halt, so that no one is clamoring to be the first in line to deliver the news.

    If even minimal progress were being made, why isn’t it being communicated — trumpeted even? Like: HEY — We’ve gotten 50 access points hung in Troy and the neighborhood between streets x, y & z now has access! (It’d be a support nightmare to wait until all the access points are hung and then turn them all on at once.)

    I’m hopeful the network will be completed as planned but the longer the silence is held the more suspicious I become that the project is in the dumper.

    P.S. Not that it’s any of your business Jim (or that it has anything to do with Wireless Oakland), but I do know how to securely set up a wireless network, thank you.

  20. Hi
    I’m looking for people who live or work in Oakland County, Michigan to interview for my story updating the Oakland Wireless Project.
    Interested in sharing your hopes and concerns and views on the project? Email me or call me.
    thanks in advance
    Jennifer Chambers, The Detroit News

  21. James Noga says

    Mr. Sparrow:

    I saw your article in the Detroit News:
    You and Ms. Chambers are right on track. Michtel has from my sources less than 10 employees!!! I have a friend who used to buy commercial services from them and his service went down regularly. This is a sham on the part of Michtel. It’s a shame Oakland County is being taken advantage of… Michtel will never be financially able to make this happen. You might as well sign up for cable and be done with it!!!

  22. Dan Muller says

    Folks, this just isn’t going to happen.

    A correction to Mike Sparrow’s post of 9/1: the pilot project was actually supposed to be completed in the fall of 2005; it was postponed to March ’06 and many times since. The latest claim is that the pilot project will be completed through the fall and winter of 2006-07. For over a year, every three months, they’ve pushed the completion date back three months. That’s a project that will never complete.

    The entire network was supposed to be built in 2005-06. Now they are saying 2007-08. That is, after a year and a half, they’ve pushed it back two years. Again, it will never complete.

    Consider the deal offered by the county. Michtel gets free use of the county’s poles, etc. in return for providing free Internet access to everyone. But those poles turn out to be only 10% of what they need. (Did anyone do a feasibility study on this?) The rest is a private deal with DTE. What’s to stop Michtel from deciding that the county can keep their poles, just use the DTE poles, cover 90% of the county and charge everyone? By the way, the deal with the county runs only through 2010; in the unlikely event they finish the system by 2008, all bets will be off after just two years.

    There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

  23. Ann Arbor Resident says

    Wireless Washtenaw, operated by 20/20 Communications, is now in the pilot stage in downtown Ann Arbor, even though they only won the bid in June.

  24. What a joke Michtel has 3 employees left Wake up Oakland County Save face while you still can!!!

    You are being embasrrased by a bunch of Crooks

  25. Old Employee says

    As someone that worked at Michtel, I know what was going on with that place and the Wireless Oakland project. They only have 3 people that work for them TOTAL now. And that includes the owner of the company, Tony.

    Their main network admin and security guy quit because of the lack of pay, no support to get better equipment to help keep things running and checks bouncing. Their wireless tech if that’s what you want to to call him quit about a month later and they fired their ONLY switch and router person because after his check bounced AGAIN, his wife threatened to sue them.

    The Project is supposed to launch today according to WWJ 950. It may launch but don’t expect it to be stable. They are praying that this project brings them in some extra money since they dropped all their dial up customers and just have hosting left. I’m betting that once this goes live, they will sell the business off.

  26. James Noga says

    To Old Employee:

    I consider your information to be accurate except for the comment that Tony is the owner. He is a figure head (A small one at best) He’d like to think he’s smart but when they are tired of him they will run him out like the rest… It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

    Wait until the F.C.C. pays them a visit to audit the switch. It’s aal going to com out with-in the next 30 days!!!

    Bye Bye little man…

  27. What I would like to know is where all this bitterness has come from? I am horrified to hear of such negative talk from people. Don’t you all want this project to succeed for the better of Oakland County. I currently use dial up. When this project is done I will get a service that is much faster for free. Internet service is a luxury to many people. And I personally don’t care if it takes a bit longer to get a quality service. I guess all that is left to say is–a quote from a very wise person-my mother- Shame on you!

  28. Dan Muller says

    Nicole, yes we’d all like to see the project succeed. But the problem is that it obviously has serious problems, and no one will admit it.

    In the county’s latest announcement, they delayed the pilot project yet again, from March to April. And, while the county website still says they expect to cover the whole county by early 2008, the Detroit News reported in December that it would be mid-2008 and the Oakland Press last week put it at the end of 2008.

    I agree that the comments about MichTel’s internal affairs are unnecessary. But I do blame the county. All we’ve heard from them for a year and a half is “three more months until the pilot project is done”. They’re still saying that, and the service is available….nowhere!

    Yes, it’s a complex project and I would expect some delays. But when a project take five times as long as originally announced and there is still no visible progress, you have to be skeptical as to whether those involved are capable of completing the work.

    And yes, I know they were delayed by the DTE negotiations last summer. But how could they have gotten that far into the project before realizing that would be a problem? (I’ll ask again, did anyone do a feasibility study on this?) And, once they hit that roadblock, why did they continue to stick to the “three more months” line? Their schedule projections are not realistic, and that means either they don’t understand the complexity of what they’re doing or they’re knowingly disbursing false information.

    Common sense dictates this. Let’s suppose that the pilot project really is completed by April. That covers 2% of the county. If it takes a year and a half to finish 2%, do you really think they’re going to finish the other 98% in one year?

  29. James Noga says

    Anyone remember a company that used to be called Big Net? I think these are the same people that had such poor marks when it came to DSL, customer care and finances. How big is this company? Don’t mistake incompetence with bitterness there is a large difference; Mr. Muller is right on target.

    Hey Nicole!! when was the last time you got anything for free?? We all want to see this for Oakland County, but when will Mr.P wake up and finally appoint a company with the resources to pull it off. When is re-election???

  30. Dear James-
    First of all, Hay is for horses, not a way to address someone–especially one that you are not familiar with. Second, the bitterness I was referring to was all the derogatory comments made about Oakland County and Michtel. Third, I have always been a fan for the underdog and a glass half FULL type of person. People have had many goals and asprirations throughout history-some of those were delayed, put on hold, and revised. If such remarks and negativity were made to them-we would not have many luxuries in life(such as electricity, cars, and the telephone). All I would like to see is some openess to a project that is more complex than we even realize.

  31. Michael Sparrow says

    Okay — it’s RANT time!

    I’ve working in tech/IT for 25+ years and I’d be fired if I did either of the following in any job I’ve had over those years:

    1. If I hired a vendor that was clearly incapable of completing the work as spelled out in the original requirements, and either I didn’t insert a clause in the contract allowing me to dump the vendor for not meeting deadlines or, if the clause existed, I didn’t execute my rights under the clause and replace the vendor. Bye-bye — pink slip!

    2. If I worked for the vendor and my estimates when placing the bid were off by magnitudes (rather than “only” multiples) because I failed to fully grasp the scope and requirements of my project. Bye-bye — don’t let the door hit you…! (DUH — GEE BOSS — I NEVER KNEW WE’D NEED ALL DEM DAIR POLES TA HANG DIS STUFF ON AND WE’D BE NEEDIN’ TA FIGUR OUT HOW TA POWER DA STUFF…)

    Only with government do we see examples of IT projects that drag on for years, cost millions of dollars, and are either never completed or are not usable upon “completion” — all with no accountability. (I know that in this instance, it’s supposedly not taxpayer money being spent. Although if you look at the January 4 post earlier in this string, apparently MichTel doesn’t have enough money to avoid bouncing employees’ paychecks. How are they gonna’ come up with $80M to wire the county?)

    When the first delays were announced, I was disappointed. After multiple delays (heading for multiple YEARS in this case), disappointment turns into frustration. Even when the delays are announced, the announcements come months after the original deadline passed. What? No one realized as the original deadline approached that they weren’t going to make it? (It’s called “proactive” Mr. Patterson and company!)

    Even the “progress” that’s been mentioned in numerous newspaper articles is misleading. The fact that service already exists in Pontiac and Wixom is always mentioned. Guess where MichTel’s offices are? Pontiac! So great, they’ve probably managed to make the wireless access point in their offices available outside their office. The Wixom access is described as covering “a four block area”. Heck, with a few clicks, I could setup the wireless access point in my home to provide service to everyone within a few blocks! (Shame on the newspapers for trumpeting this tripe!)

    One last point, all this “biggest/first of it’s kind” rhetoric is hogwash! (More drivel repeated by the newspapers.) This link to a page on this very website — http://muniwireless.com/municipal/1556 — is for the “December 2006 update of wireless cities and counties”. While the accompanying table does specify 149 “planned deployments”, it also specifies 79 [completed] “region/citywide” networks.

    Since there’ll probably never be any accountability, how about at least a change in strategy that involves at least a little proactive honesty?

    RANT complete — thanks for listening…

  32. James Noga says

    Well it has finally happened!!! MichTel has sold their coutomers to another company. the problem is they didn’t tell the customer and service has been again interupted. I’m speaking about Residential phone service that carries VITAL E-911 services. Oakland County Beware if they EVER get your city wired.

    Don’t take my word for it try and call to speak to someone: No Body Home

  33. Milton Dean says

    Mr. Noga,
    MichTel Communications aside; Do you have any of you own opinions that pertain to the actual Oakland Wireless Project?

  34. James Noga says

    Mr. Dean: Re: http://www.wirelessgr.com

    Thanks for asking; I think the concept of the project is fantastic. Oakland county shoud look around the country and see what’s happening in other cities. Please take a minute to review the progress taking place in Grand Rapids, MI. It appears that they are aligning with a company called Clearwire the article shows how much ground Oakland County has lost in accepting excuse after excuse from an incompetent company. http://www.wirelessgr.com

    Don’t lose sight of the fact that this project is way behind schedule!!! How many times have we heard that “we didn’t expect that” That indicates the company is in over their heads. If this was so difficult would Clearwire already have 33 Broadband Networks serving 370 Cities in 12 States?? Look at the progress.

    MichTel wants a press release each time they meet with the county, that’s their idea of progress

    Again look what’s happening around the county, If the objective of this project was to attract business for Oakland County then the county is running 9th. in a 10 person race…

  35. Michael Sparrow says

    Congratulations L. Brooks! You finally spill the beans about who is doing what. Why did you wait so darn long to reveal who besides pitiful MichTel was involved? I suppose better late than never…

    Link to copy of speech in Det News article:

  36. James Noga says

    Reference Jan 5th. So I was off by a few days!!!
    MichTel has been forced out of the phone business. Their switch has been de-certified by the manufacturer. Sadly they didn’t even let people know that were on their VOIP services one morning their phones just didn’t work. GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE but nothing new from Larry Moe and Curly.
    That’s what’s left there I hear since the switch guys check bounced all the way to Telegraph Rd. the count is 3 employees. Interesting to see what the next move is‚Ķ

    Don’t worry Oakland county wireless is already here for you. Get it Wire Less

    How much in soft costs have been charged against this project?????

  37. I have been waiting patiently for the Wireless Oakland project to get somewhere. It is obvious that that wait has been in vain. As a retired employee of an automotive supplier, I can tell you that had my performance been as poor as the counties and Mich Tel, I would have been fired forthwith. Who is accountable in this project? I feel it is time to be done with the name calling and bickering. Lets get the responsible parties off their kester and get something done!!! This is looking like just one more indicator of why Michigan is going down the tubes. No one is taking responsiblity for getting the project done. Come on Mr. Patterson. Its your county, get it going!!

  38. I have read most of the comments on this page. I think some of them hold much merit. More so than the people making them probably realize. Michtel is a terrible company! It was brought in because they were able to undercut the competition. What I mean by this is they offered more for less money. Look at our roads, bridges, and other government projects that go out to bid and are rewarded to lowest bidders. Unfortunately Mr. Patterson is not a technical guy, so when a company like MichTel comes in and wows everyone with what all they can do with how little compensation, of coarse he’s gonna jump at it. Too bad for Mr. Patterson (and what I mean by that is anyone in Oakland County) that his ignorance in technology has caused this to happen. Now we are faced with a troubled company (MichTel) coming in underfunded, probably hoping that the funds they will now need will cost the county and/or financial backers less than it would to dump MichTel and bring someone else in. Not to mention the technology they are using is outdated. So now if by whatever means this thing does get up and going before the year 2010 contract, whoever has or ends up gaining the contract is going to be stuck with upgrading everything to the new technology. Who’s going to pay for this? The Tax payers may not be paying for this (directly anyways) right now, but by the time all is said and done, the Tax payers will once again be picking up the tab. Maybe we should think twice about what morons we elect to run our government (Granholm, Kwamie, Patterson)! If you elect people with no experience, or a proven corrupt background, or living out of a wine bottle. Then you can only blame yourself!

  39. Will it ever be up and running?

  40. Jeff Hillbright says

    Read up on the health implications being found with this system! Not only is it a financial debacle, it is a health debacle for residents.

    Wireless Oakland Causing Ill Health at Roll Out.

    Is Wireless Oakland a Health Concern?

  41. Dan Muller says

    Will it ever be up and running? No, not in the sense of what you’re probably thinking. They are still playing the delay and disinformation game.

    On 3/16 they announced that it was “available in the city of Troy”, according to the title of the press release. So the city of Troy pilot area has service? Well, no, the service is available only in an area between “Livernois and Rochester Road and Big Beaver and Wattles”, according to the website. So it’s in that full square mile? No, read the whole press release, it’s only in one neighborhood. How big of a neighborhood? I drove over there and tried it. One street. You move up to the next street and the signal is so weak you can’t connect. But a press release titled, “Wireless Oakland available on a single street in Troy” wouldn’t sound very impressive.

    Think I’m nitpicking? On 5/3 they announced that the service was available in the entire Royal Oak pilot area. Of course, that hit the papers the next day. On 5/5, I tried it. No signal at all. The county website had already been changed to say that the installation was in progress in Royal Oak, but the service was not available there. Didn’t see the press release correcting their earlier release.

    Now they’re saying that all the pilot areas will be functional by mid-May. So it’s all going to suddenly get done by next week? Of course it won’t and they know it.

    So just what are they doing? In an interview some time back, a MichTel spokesman said that they were expecting to use WiMax when it became available, which they expected by early 2007. WiMax has a much greater range, dramatically reducing the number of access points needed. Translation: far cheaper. The intent is obvious. They knew they couldn’t do this with WiFi and hoped that WiMax would be available before they actually had to install anything. But it’s not, so they have to keep delaying. It will come out eventually; the best estimates are by the end of this year. Then they’ll install that and tell you how wonderful it all is. But your notebook doesn’t have WiMax, so it won’t be able to connect. Neither does your PDA or any of the wireless equipment you have at home. So they’ll have a great system that no one will be able to connect to until they replace their hardware.

    As I said in my first post, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

  42. Ed Noga says

    Here is your chance to ask the questions, Oakland County, MichTel, and others will be there to update everyone on the progress of the project.

    Fill up the room!!!!!!!

    State of the Wireless–Networking and Presentation
    Presented by the Troy Chamber and GLIMASoutheast
    Altair Engineering, 1820 E. Big Beaver Rd. (west of John R)
    6-8:30 p.m.
    RSVP to 248-641-8151 or theteam@troychamber.com

    Phil Bertolini, Deputy County Executive/CIO of Oakland County, will be the Master of Ceremonies and lead a panel discussion about Wireless Oakland. Representatives from MichTel, CISCO, and Media Genesis will serve on the wireless expert panel along with Troy Chamber President Michele Hodges.

  43. James Noga says


    Cities struggle with wireless Internet
    A $3 million plan to blanket Lompoc, Calif., with a wireless Internet system promised a quantum leap for economic development: The remote community hit hard by cutbacks at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base would join the 21st century with cheap and plentiful high-speed access. Instead, nearly a year after its launch, Lompoc Net is limping along. The central California city of 42,000, surrounded by rolling hills, wineries and flower fields more than 17 miles from the nearest major highway, has only a few hundred subscribers. That’s far fewer than the 4,000 needed to start repaying loans from the city’s utility coffers, potentially leaving smaller reserves to guard against electric rate increases. And Lompoc isn’t alone. Across the United States, many cities are finding their Wi-Fi projects costing more and drawing less interest than expected, leading to worries that a number will fail, resulting in millions of dollars in wasted tax dollars or grants when there had been roads to build and crime to fight

  44. It was supposed to be pushed out in Troy by the end of March. May 25th and still no city wide wireless. Bureaucracy is worthless.

  45. terminator02 says

    I just signed up for the basic free service because my default connection went down for a whatever reason and saw this available and the connection is great. I am in birmingham.

  46. I have been trying to get on to the Oakland Wireless Network for at least three months. First I couldn’t get a signal. They moved some of the AP’S around but still there was no signal, and then there was a signal and now the signal is so weak and it comes and goes about every fifteen seconds. I have tried hundreds of times but am still unable to connect to this alleged network. I have made calls to Michtel and sent numerous e-mails which they don’t even bother responding to. My closest AP is about 2 blocks which is pretty close considering that they are supposed to reach 600 feet. I’m still wondering if this network will work at all. Somebody sure got ripped off. If this is the free service, why would you want to pay for this service??????

  47. russell wozniak says

    i live in oak park an have no service yet. we were told service would be here i june 06. WXYZ said oak park has service bull s–t part of the ciyt has had service for 6 month now the rest of the city is still wating

  48. Jonathon H says

    The dozens of posts here complaining about a free service is absolutely stunning to me. Sure, there have been delays but this is pretty new technology and definitely a new concept in trying to blanket a 900+ square mile county. Once they announce the service is live, whenever that is, then judge it. MichTel is dealing with an array of issues the greatest of which is DTE Energy. And to whomever wants to complain about the “free” speed of 128K please get a grip on reality. Did you really expect to get T1 speed for free? Maybe you can lobby your county commissioner to raise your taxes and then Oakland County can subsidize T1 speeds for everyone!

    As I said before, let the service be finished and then decide. I currently receive a 128K signal in Bham that is actually very good. It’s just so ironic to complain about a free service when AT&T, SBC, Ameritech and Michigan Bell have been gouging you for years and DTE can’t keep power on in numerous parts of Oakland County.

  49. Michael Sparrow says

    To Jonathan (no last name) H:

    To say “there have been delays” is to gloss over the fact that this project is MORE THAN TWO YEARS BEHIND SCHEDULE. I’d love for you to be my boss as you can obviously excuse anything, including GROSSLY INCOMPETENT project planning.

    “Pretty new technology” and “new concept”? Wrong again. I refer you a portion of my post of January 10:

    — start of snip —
    One last point, all this “biggest/first of it’s kind” rhetoric is hogwash! (More drivel repeated by the newspapers.) This link to a page on this very website — http://muniwireless.com/municipal/1556 — is for the “December 2006 update of wireless cities and counties”. While the accompanying table does specify 149 “planned deployments”, it also specifies 79 [completed] “region/citywide” networks.
    — end of snip —

    I personally never complained about the 128k speed as I know it will be more than adequate for email and light (i.e., no massive uploading/downloading) web surfing. (This assumes it will be true, rather than hypothetical, 128k speed.)

    As far as “gouging” by SBC, I pay less than $20 a month for 3Mbps DSL and have not had a service interruption in three years. I consider that reasonable. According to Michtel’s web site, that same $20 will only get me 512kbps on their network. If I want 3Mbps from Michtel? That’ll be $40/month.

    Yes, it’ll be wireless at those speeds but there’s no way I’d pay that much extra for the convenience. I’d reserve my heavy duty uploading/downloading for home and simply use the free 128kbps on the occasion I was around town and needed to connect for email or surfing.

    If too many folks reach the same conclusion, there won’t be enough paying customers for Michtel to recoup it’s now-estimated $100-$120 million investment — much less to fund the ongoing support and maintenance of the free service.

    I hope Michtel finds a way to get it finished but based on their track record, their contract with the county (which expires in 2010) may end before the project is completed. What do you think the odds are that the entire county, particularly it’s more sparsely-populated northern reaches, will actually get connected before then at the rate they’re going?

    I don’t want the project and/or Michtel to fail but I wouldn’t invest a nickel in the project at this time.

  50. I agree with Jim and Jonathan about the complainers around here. Do people here complain about their wives and kids when they mess up? Yes there has been a pitfall of problems and delays but is it really any of your concern……… no it should not be. People here complain about something that they have no vested time or money in but yet feel cheated and betrayed. Please grow up kiddies, your tax dollars were in no way what so ever used to get this project going. There is no added property taxes levied against your winter or summer tax bill but yet when you go to sell your house this just might be a bonus selling point if and when they they get the county done. This was ALL was and is being done with corporate donations from business’s in and out of Oakland County. So what gives you the right to complain??? Nothing at all. Most you complainers would not even be here if there was no free internet to people. If you had to pay for it you would either bitch about the cost or the speed or most likely both. You have absolutely nothing, zilch, nada, zero vested in this so, please grow up and act your age. Go ahead cry some more and flame away because I already know you will.

  51. Michael Sparrow says

    Golly gee Larry!

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    Your post is nothing but a complaint about “the complainers”!

    Thanks for your “contribution” to our discussion — you’ve added so much value.

    BTW, you loose credibility when you hide behind first-name-only postings.

  52. Dan Muller says

    A few comments:

    Larry, I don’t complain when my wife or kids mess up. But I certainly would if they lied to me repeatedly as Oakland County officials have been doing about this project. Furthermore, if they also repeatedly made promises that they knew they had no intention of keeping, then, again, you’d better believe I’d complain. The fact that I’m not paying for the system is irrelevant. Honesty is not something you have to pay for. Perhaps having people deal with you honestly is not important to you. It is to me.

    Jonathon H, you’re stunned about people complaining about a free service. I think the point is that there simply is no free service to complain about. I would be thrilled with free 128K service. But despite all of the bluster and promise, there is none.

    You talk about people being gouged by other ISPs. Did you ever consider the fact that some people were promised–over a year and a half ago–that they would have Wireless Oakland’s service within three months? If they had known then that it would really be a year and a half (and who knows how much longer), they could have purchased a long-term contract with their ISP at a lower rate. But they believed what they were told and didn’t.

    How many people in Oakland County are paying for data plans on their cell phones but who wouldn’t need them if the county had kept its promises and completed the installation last year? How many are paying for access to Wi-Fi hotspots that they wouldn’t need?

    So let’s have no more of this nonsense that it’s not costing anyone anything. Every one of the thousands of people who could have been using this system could be saving money if the county had kept their promises, or even had just been honest and said from the beginning, “it’s going to take years to get this up and running.” But, for a politician, that wouldn’t have sounded nearly as impressive.

    The supporters of the project say that it will be of great benefit to the future of Oakland County. But surely if having the network is beneficial, then not having it is detrimental, so why shouldn’t we complain about the endless delays? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that it’s important to have it, but then say that not having it is no big deal.

    Here’s a question for those who think no one should be complaining: Can you name just one thing in connection with Wireless Oakland that they’ve actually delivered on time and working as promised?

  53. James Noga says

    My Fellow Residents:

    there have been many changes going on behind the doors of 10 huron St. The ex-ATT gentleman that MichTel brought in to shore up their reputation has already resigned; frustrated with the incompetence of the entire staff (all 3 of them) The finance guy ran him out of the company!!! Imagine an supposed internet company with advanced technology being ran by an accounting clerk? No wonder they can’t make it work. For those that want to make excuses for the MichTel folks please Google wireless networks you will find over 100 examples of cities with working networks all over the country. If you really want to make your self sick just look around the world 1,000’s of examples are performing well. Just think about your tax dollars; are you so naive that you don’t realize that Oakland County has spent plenty of your money to drag this thing along!!!

    But here’s the bottom line most of the big money sponsors have pulled their funding. Michtel has NO Money of their own. They have been hoping to get the project to the point that they could sell the company and bail out. No takers on this one tooooo bad.
    If you don’t believe these words now just wait a while.
    The shoe will be dropping very soon…

  54. Michael Sparrow says


    Yet three more clues that things continue not to smell right:

    Quote from the most recent (July 17) press release on the Wireless Oakland website:

    “Service area maps will be published on the MichTel Communications website, http://www.michtel.com, showing the current state of coverage within the Phase 1 communities by the end of July.” [ http://www.oakgov.com/wireless/news/july07status.html ]

    Okay, so it’s now approaching the end of August and guess what? You really didn’t really think there’d actually be any “service area maps” on the MichTel’s web site did you?

    I gave up trying to find the phantom service area maps on MichTel’s web site but noted that MichTel’s “customer service” home page [ http://www.michtel.com/support.htm ] specifies the following:

    “MichTel shall, at a minimum have knowledgeable customer services representatives available twelve hours a day (8:00am-8:00pm) Monday through Saturday for all accounts that subscribe to the free or for-fee services. The customer service representatives will be able to provide information regarding:
    Service and product offerings
    Placing orders
    Bill Payments
    Billing inquiries
    Taking trouble tickets
    Log on issues
    Answer all FAQs
    Customer service can be reached via a 1-888-642-4825…”

    Well guess what?!?!?! I just dialed the number multiple times (Thursday, approx. 9:30 a.m. EST) and every time it resulted in the familiar three escalating tones followed by the mechanical voice announcing “The area code or telephone number as dialed is not valid…” I’m shocked!!!

    While searching around the site, I also observed the following change to MichTel’s “Residential Wireless Service” web page. When I posted on August 15, the web site offered “Platinum” 3Mbps residential service for $40/mo. A copy of that now-obsolete page is still cached (as of today) on Google at:

    By today, the Platinum 3Mbps offering has disappeared (with no explanation of course) from the page [ http://www.michtel.com/rwireless.htm ]. Hmmm… Maybe they’re having so many issues that they can’t commit to that level of service?

    The incompetence and mismanagement surrounding this project continues to escalate — even after already reaching unimaginable levels previously. Is the end near?

  55. Michael Sparrow says


    Number continues to be wrong where originally quoted (888-342-4825) on the web page, but is correct (888-642-48*3*5) elsewhere.

    Old MichTel “Business Wireless Service” web page (cached on Google as of today):
    [ ]

    [ http://www.michtel.com/bwireless.htm ]

    Old page offered:
    “Security: Open / WPA / RAD”

    New page:
    No mention of any type of security.

    I’m NOT a wireless network expert so I won’t even venture a guess what this means.

    Attempting to get on MichTel’s web site regularly results in “Connection refused” errors. Such errors generally indicate a server that is down, too busy, or experiencing other problems preventing it from responding to requests. Just gives you the warm and fuzzies doesn’t it?

    Is the stink becoming a stench? I’m hoping someone from the press will take the initiative to do some investigative reporting to find out what’s really going on.

  56. All

    I understand your frustration and I also understand your concern for the future of Wireless Oakland. I will be the first one to state that there have been issues that have caused the project timeline to be altered and that the communication of these issues should have been more effective. There have been numerous evolutions in the project that have given us reason to review the results of Phase 1 and determine the best course of action to move forward. The good news is that we are moving forward with many lessons learned.

    Phase 1 has been deployed across 18.5 square miles in 7 different communities. Is there perfect coverage? No, but MichTel is in the process of completing the necessary heat mapping and in-fill coverage. The heat maps are to be completed soon and the coverage maps will be posted at that time. MichTel has also provided a service where a technician will travel to a customer’s home if needed to get them connected. Have there been a large number of “free” users to date? Yes, we have over 11,000 users signed up for the network out of 35,000 households in the footprint. Over 8 million minutes of free wireless internet have already been consumed. Is this more than expected? Yes, we only anticipated 1,750 users in Phase 1 initially. Have there been hurdles to jump? You bet, we have struggled, for example, in areas where there are underground utilities. This is the type of issue that will have to be resolved if we are to be successful.

    I have read each and every comment and I have taken the comments seriously. There have been a number of comments on the financial resources of MichTel. We knew when we awarded them the contract, which is 15 years in length, that they could not fund the project from their resources. We knew that they had to bring partners to the table. To date, they have brought Cisco, Johnson Controls, Microsoft, LeComm and RF Connect to the effort. Phase 1 was a significant investment that was made by the private sector and we are currently in the planning process for the remaining phases including funding. These partners are strong and Oakland County has opened many doorways to make this happen. Would we have liked the timeline to move faster? Sure, but the reality of the situation is that in 2005 we had no roadmap to follow. Today, others are following our lead as we are providing all of our documentation to the world over the internet. Everyone is correct that today many more projects have spawned and networks are being installed. All I would ask is that people do their homework and check on the true status of the other projects. Most projects are just getting started and are jumping the same hurdles we are. We are working cooperatively with many other efforts to ensure success.

    A number of posts have stated that we are not utilizing tax dollars for the effort. They are correct as the duties that I perform include numerous responsibilities with Wireless Oakland adding on the pile. I am not claiming that “my job is hard” or that I am claiming that “we are overworked.” I am simply stating that we are doing everything in our power to make Wireless Oakland the premier network in the nation. To date it is one of the largest deployments in the nation as well as a unique deployment of 7 communities. Nothing like this has ever been attempted in the entire world. The closest effort is in Macedonia at approximately 1,000 square miles and in Silicon Valley at approximately 1,400 square miles. Interestingly, Silicon Valley is approximately a year behind us. This project will bring the internet to everyone in Oakland County with the goal of making it a regional effort for all of Southeast Michigan. I do make one simple request, give us the time we need to make sure that Wireless Oakland get’s built the right way. We will be pushing more communications to the public to give them a better status of where we are. We have learned from Phase 1 and we are intending on improving our processes.

    At this time I would like to make an offer to those posting comments on this site. My team would be more than happy to answer any questions on Wireless Oakland that anyone has. I am not interested in laying blame or defending against complaints. I am interested in facts and would be willing to share them with anyone who asks the questions. I know that this is a long response and that some may feel that I am simply defending my turf. This response is to show you that I am “all in” on this project and that we will not let it fail! If you have any questions or need facts about the effort please contact us at wocp@michtel.com. Thank you.

    Phil Bertolini
    Deputy County Executive/CIO
    Oakland County, MI

  57. Dan Muller says

    Mr. Bertolini,

    Thank you for entering the discussion here.

    I know you expect to get the questions via e-mail, but the reality is that if I do that, I’ll just post the responses here, so we may as well just do it this way. I have a couple of comments and questions.

    Certainly, there is a great deal of frustration expressed here and elsewhere. And I think that much of that surrounds the use of the words “done” and “complete”. I find it very frustrating to hear the county announce that the installation is done in an area, then people try to connect and can’t. They complain about the lack of service or poor service and are told that they shouldn’t complain until the installation is done. So which is it? Done or not done? As I said in my previous post, you can’t have it both ways. So far, it’s like taking your suit to the tailor and he says it’s done, but when you pick it up he’s still working on the pants. There’s no point in him saying that he’s done with the coat, but still improving the fit of the pants. He’s not done.

    In the following questions, I’m going to use the word “done”. Here is what I mean by that. The installation is done in an area when the service works as it is intended to work in that area. I will leave the definition of “as intended” to you. But if you say, for example, that the Troy pilot installation is done and I go there–as I have recently–and try to connect in three different locations, but can’t, then that means that you intend for there to be no service in those locations. If I can connect, but it takes five attempts and the connection drops after two minutes, then that means that you intend for the service to work that way. If that’s not how you intend the service to work, then you’re not done. I hope that’s clear.

    My questions:

    1 – What is the best estimate of when all of the pilot areas will be done, according to the definition above?

    2 – What is the best estimate of when the entire county will be done, according to the definition above?

    For both of those, I don’t care if the answer is “next week” or “in five years”, just give us answers that you are willing to commit to.

    And a suggestion:

    You need to seriously rework the Wireless Oakland portion of the county website.

    If I go there, one page tells me that all of the pilot areas are complete. Another tells me that just the Madison Heights area is complete. Another tells me that Madison Heights and Wixom are both complete, but the others are being installed. One page even says that the pilot areas are “to be covered” (future tense), then in the next paragraph says they’ve been done since May. It also says that the rest of the build-out will be done directly after the completion of Phase 1. But if Phase 1 has been done since May, and it’s now the end of August, shouldn’t we be three months into Phase 2? Do you see the source of frustration?

    I can go there and get “facts” to support just about anything I want to say about the project. Strip out all of the duplicate, contradictory and vague information (when you say “service is available in the Royal Oak pilot area”, does that mean everywhere in the area or just somewhere in the area?) and give us the straight story.

  58. Michael Sparrow says

    Mr. Bertolini:

    Thank you for joining the discussion.

    I agree with Mr. Muller above. I believe the public would best be served by all questions being asked and answered directly in a convenient, public, and independent forum such as this. (If you’d like to suggest an alternative that meets such prerequisites, please let us know.)

    Now to a question. What are the estimates for how much it will cost to operate and maintain the network once it’s complete? Operation and maintenance would include not only infrastructure maintenance but also the costs associated with staffing a support center. (MichTel promises on their web site to answer phones 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.) [Hmmm — maybe they don’t expect folks to use the network on Sundays?]

    Earlier newspaper articles quoted such costs at $1 million a month. Is that accurate — including all the costs mentioned above?

  59. If you thought the Wireless Oakland project was moving along like the Slowskis on the Comcast commercial Michtel just got into Livingston County’s pocket by promising to do better on the wireless network in Livingston County. Amazing that another county of Michigan has drank the Kool-Aid!!! But no surprise; at the bottom of all this is Brooks P. yep the picture is becoming clearer by the minute. Here’s the link Read it and weep…


  60. Chris Begley says

    It would seem that Mr. Bertolini has not joined the discussion. The last 2 posts ask for a simple and clear clarification of the timeline for wireless oakland. It would seem that that would be available at this stage of the process.

  61. Actually, the lack of response tells me everything I need to know. There are only two reasons not to respond: either he doesn’t know when it will be done, or he does know and is embarrassed to admit to the real date. Either way, the non-response is an implicit admission that it’s not happening any time soon.

  62. Phil Bertolini says

    Gentlemen – I have responded on 3 different occasions to find that the posting did not take. I will try again. Our intent is to still have the project complete by the end of 2008.

    We are in the process of planning the future phases based on what we learned in Phase 1. We are also still in-filling those areas while testing the service. I am far from embarrased or avoiding your comments as the initial installation of Phase 1 has been a success. I did provide an e-mail address for all questions but that seems to not be enough.

    Now, I have tried to bring this discussion into a civil tone but some are intent on attacking…ie, “drinking the kool aid” or “we know who is behind this”. Let’s be clear, we are doing this for the betterment of Oakland County and all those that truly need the internet to compete in this global economy. If that is not enough reason to do this, then what is.

    Mr. Muller, I appreciate your feedback and we have made several changes to the web site based on your comments. We also agree that using the words complete or done were not appropriate since we are still working Phase 1. Thank you for the feedback.

    Mr. Noga, I have no response for comments obviously motivated by wanting the project to fail. Your choice is to not use the network and continue using the technology you already have. I wish you the best.

    Mr. Begley, you are correct that we should have had the schedule by now. We had a preliminary draft that we have sent back for review based on the lessons learned in Phase 1. We hope to have a new schedule very soon.

    All, I hope that we can take the feedback above and turn it to good use. As I said before, I am understanding of the frustration and I appreciate your patience. This will be my last posting to this forum. I welcome comments sent to the e-mail address above. Thank you.

    Phil Bertolini
    Deputy County Executive/CIO
    Oakland County, MI

  63. Michael Sparrow says

    Mr. Bertolini:

    Perhaps you missed or overlooked my posting and question of Sept. 5.

    I’d still like some response to my question but I’d prefer the response be posted here.

    In that Sept. 5 posting, I was very specific on why I thought exchanges here were better than exchanges to the email address you offer. I repeat:

    “I believe the public would best be served by all questions being asked and answered directly in a convenient, public, and independent forum such as this. (If you’d like to suggest an alternative that meets such prerequisites, please let us know.)”

    What are the specific reasons you insist on the use of the email address? If you continue to require the use of the email address, are you willing to grant unconditional and unrestricted permission to post all inquiries and responses to and from the email address here so they can be shared by all? If not, why not?

    Michael Sparrow

  64. Dan Muller says

    The question of posting responses to e-mail questions is moot, because there are no responses to post. On Friday, 9/28, I e-mailed the questions in my 8/27 post to the address given. They have now had more than a full business week to respond and have not done so. These are not difficult questions. The first and most basic question any project manager must ask is, “What is the target completion date?” The answer to that question should be well-known to every member of the project team, so that whoever read my e-mail should have been able to respond instantly.

    Mr. Bertolini’s 9/27 response to Mr. Begley is nothing but a fancy way of saying, “We don’t know when it will be done.” Because they remain unable or unwilling to answer such a basic question, I stand by my comments of 9/24.

    And despite his assurance that the Wireless Oakland website has been corrected and his agreement that the use of “complete” and “done” is inappropriate, the website still states that the “Phase 1 installation is complete in each of the seven Phase 1 areas”. Referring to the Royal Oak and Madison Heights pilot areas, it says that as of 5/3/07, “MichTel Communications, LLC has recently completed Wireless Oakland installation in these Phase One areas.” There are many other such examples still posted on the site.

  65. From the sounds of many posts this system isn’t doing so well and I personally feel this is a good thing since I to agree with other posters that there are serious health concerns with this project.

    Recently some parents group has been circulating fliers in our area warning of the health impact of WiFi/Wireless Oakland and people are starting to get concerned. My husband is a a local physician and we’ve both noticed increasing amounts of headaches and ringing in our ears since this system came online and have reported it to the MDOH officials.

    They claim this system is for “The good of the people”, yet I don’t recall ever agreeing to have this signal penetrate my home, nor did I ever agree to have it penetrate the blood brain barrier of my skull. I think if there is an interest in what is good for the people then there needs to be some concern over the health impacts of this. I have read that 3 countries now warn citizens against WiFi and have refused to implement citywide systems, why aren’t their studies being considered?

    German Government issues caution over WiFi health impacts.

  66. There’s a lot of JUNK science circulating around the world today so beware of people who say that Wi-Fi emissions will fry your brains. Glenn Fleishman has been doing a lot of posts on this subject:




  67. James Noga says

    I’m not sure if Wi-Fi can in some way harm us but if there is any validity to the claim we ALL better stat away from Panera Bread, McDonalds and any other public place that offers free Wi-Fi to the patrons.

  68. The people that claim Wi-Fi is harmful need to put their tinfoil helmet back on. The same thing was said about every major technology. (kind of like the camera stealing your soul)

    I am not going to complain about Wireless Oakland, the way I see it how can I complain about a free service? Hell I pay $45 a month for Comcast internet now that is something to complain about.

  69. Chris Begley says


    Check the “fact sheet” updated on 8/29/07 that states county wide deployment completed by mid 2009. Yet on 9/27/07, in this forum, Mr. Bertolini states that they are planning to be completed by the end of 2008. Email requests for a timeline of completion continue to be ignored.

  70. Dan Muller says

    Since the county is unable to provide answers to the questions that have been raised, I think we should try to do the best we can in answering them for ourselves.

    As Mr. Begley has shown, the scheduling of the project is clearly in complete disarray. The pilot project was done in May, or July, or it’s not yet done, depending on what county release you look at. As for the county-wide deployment, the mid-2009 figure is consistent with what they’ve been saying all along. For 2-1/2 years, they’ve insisted that the project will be complete in another 1-1/2 years.

    Now we’ll turn to Mr. Sparrow’s question about financing. The heart of his question is, “Can the system generate enough revenue to support itself?”

    Let’s take a look at that, using the figures from the county and MichTel, keeping in mind that they’ve been wildly optimistic in their other measurable estimates (schedules, how many poles are needed, etc.)

    The materials on the Wireless Oakland website indicate that the pilot areas have 35,000 households, with 500,000 housholds in the entire county. In the pilot areas–which the county claims are complete–200 customers have signed up for premium (paid) service. They have said that greatly exceeds expectations, but let’s assume that it will hold for the rest of the county. That would mean something less than 2900 paid customers county-wide. Continuing our best-case scenario, we’ll assume all of those are businesses and all of them purchase the most expensive plan, at $100/month. That yields total monthly revenues of $290,000. If the news articles (indicating that the monthly cost is around $1,000,000) are even close to being correct, the system is not viable.

    And remember, this analysis is absurdly optimistic in that it:
    – Relys on information from the county, which has proven to be far too optimistic
    – Assumes that the response will greatly exceed even their expectations
    – Assumes every customer will purchase the most expensive plan

    Even so, the system cannot sustain itself. A more reasonable estimate would cut the revenue in half, putting it nearly an order of magnitude less than what is needed to support the system. Ironically, they were off by nearly an order of magnitude on the number of mounting locations required and in the time it would take to install the pilot areas (3 months vs. 2 years and counting).

    Sorry folks. It’s not happening.

  71. I am the Ex-Wireless Engineer/Technician at GigaTrans and Left Michtel because I was sick of being part of a company that had such poor service, they would not pay their bills and customers would get shut off, all the time.

    I am now a Systems Engineer for a major Wireless Company, in Chicago.

    I have to say that it is a shame and should be a crime to deploy a system with haste and disregard for feasibility.

    South East Michigan has suffered enough, and Oakland County should be more accountable for the Vendor they chose.

    Bottom Line, they failed and something should be done for damage control.

  72. i have a couple questions, 1. is farmington hills signed up to get wi-fi. 2. if it is, when will farmington be getting it??? email me if you know, k thx bye!

  73. Andrew,

    By now, you’ve noticed that your e-mail address does not post. We can only answer you this way.

    The intent of Wireless Oakland is to cover the entire county, which of course would include Farmington. As to when it will be installed there, no one knows–including the county and MichTel. The county originally said that the pilot areas would be finished in the fall of 2005 and the entire county by the end of 2006. They are now two years late on the pilot areas and still cannot give an estimate as to when they will be completed.

    As for the rest of the county, they promised, in December 2005, to have an installation schedule within 30-45 days. They still don’t have it.

    My personal opinion is that it will never complete. For the reasons behind that, see my posts of November 2, 2006; September 24, 2007 and November 9, 2007.

  74. Keith McVay says

    Karen L:

    Many homes and business already have Wi-Fi installed. Such business’include Panera Bread, Starbucks, and McDonalds. Airports are covered with a Wi-Fi signal. Any suspected health affects will be proven to be false.

  75. This is what is going on around the country, if Earthlink can’t afford to play in this space how can a 3 person company like MichTel expect to? Hey Oakland County how about a progress report???

    Headlines across the country announced the implosion of the muni-WiFi market as EarthLink, one of the service’s largest cheerleaders, pulled back on its initiatives and some cities scrapped their WiFi plans. EarthLink is now looking for strategic alternatives for the business, aka sale, and several municipalities have canceled planned projects. The problems: Usage is low in many cases, scalability has been a challenge, devices and capabilities have been found to be wanting and business models promising free community access have proven not to be be viable, for the most part.

    Is this a sign that the muni WiFi market has failed or is the industry settling into a more rational period of deployment based on securing cities as anchor tenants rather than free WiFi access for the masses? We are seeing examples of muni-WiFi done right when the service is used to better municipal services.

    Related articles:
    Earthlink may bow out of WiFi altogether Report
    Will Earthlink continue to chase the WiFi consumer? Report
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