Update on Lompoc municipal wireless network

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about Lompoc, California which has been unfairly branded a “failure”. The city does have a citywide Wi-Fi network (called LompocNet) and it does NOT have a FTTH network, which I reported back in 2004 when they were thinking of spending several million dollars for a high-speed broadband network.

Here’s the latest on Lompoc’s muni Wi-Fi network:

  • 7.2 square miles (18.6 square kilometers) covered
  • Cost of subscription: $16 per month (billed via the electric utility, includes CPE from Pepwave); $10 for 30 days or $5 for 48 hours (paid via credit card)
  • Who buys short-term subscription plans? Many contractors (who work for Vandenburg Air Force Base or the federal prison) enjoy Wi-Fi access everywhere and those who are in short-term apartments, where they can’t get DSL or cable without long-term contracts, also like the service.
  • They have 1450 subscribers as of January 2009.
  • They use 182 Tropos mesh nodes and 33 Tropos gateways, Aptilo’s gateway/network management software, and Motorola Canopy (35 base stations) for backhaul.
  • After the city announced plans to deploy FTTH (because many areas did not have cable or DSL), lo and behold, Comcast started rolling out cable service. It became difficult for the city to justify spending millions of dollars on FTTH.
  • They are installing wireless electric utility meters for the wireless AMR project. More than 52% of households have the new meters. They use iTron’s equipment to collect the meter data.  They are also installing wireless water meters.
  • They have Tropos mobile Wi-Fi routers in police cars and are considering using the Wi-Fi network for video surveillance.
  • The network cost $4 million to deploy (the price includes equipment cost) but it’s cheaper to deploy a similar network today because equipment costs have dropped and people have learned a lot about deploying these networks (avoiding the mistakes that Lompoc made).
  • Annual operating cost: $800,000
  • In a recent survey conducted by the city, users gave the network very high marks in value for money (the city asked users to rate the value of the service and on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best, the average score was 4.65).

Comments

  1. This certainly sounds like a success. The revenue from user access clearly does justify the cost … but wireless AMR and public safety could easily tip the financial scales.

    It would be very interesting to put together the complete financial balance sheet for all of these applications.

  2. I’d call it a success – it definitely depends on the subscription base for long term, but I’d buy – if I was stuck in Lompoc!

  3. Jack Simpson says:

    Don’t want to be a nay-sayer, but 1,450 subscribers @ $16/month = $278,400 a year in revenue, with an operating cost of $800,000 a year. Doesn’t seem like a success to me. They should have done FTTH, now that would have been a real asset to the community.

  4. Esme Vos says:

    Jack,

    I think that’s why they are pushing the city to use the network for municipal applications. If the city can save money and improve operators at the same time, by using the network, it becomes more valuable to the community.

    But I do agree with you: they should have gone ahead and deployed FTTH. The “dirty” tricks of cable operators (and telecom incumbents”, which is to announce rollouts of broadband networks whenever a city decides to deploy FTTH, are nothing new. This happens also in France. But the city should have simply gone ahead. Once more, short term thinking and the refusal to invest for the long term will hurt American communities. Meanwhile, cities in Europe are deploying FTTH and very soon, their residents will have 100 Mbps symmetrical service, instead of the asymmetrical downlink/uplink networks that American cable and telecom operators are rolling out here.

  5. I have to say I’m curious about one thing:

    1. $16 per month
    2. $10 for 30 days

    So, to use credit card to pay will save $6 per month? I guess it’ll be strange if

    $16 per month (a month is of 30 or 31 days, except Feb) competes with $10 for 30 days.

  6. Good luck “using the Wi-Fi network for video surveillance”. I wonder what the throughput is on the network? It cannot be more than a few Mbps — not sufficient for video surveillance.

  7. To answer Shines question: the $10/30 days fee covers just the service– you provide your own receiver/router or use your laptop + wireless and they give you help setting it up. The $16/month “family plan” covers everything–ie, they provide the router, you merely go home, plug it in and hook up your computer, or so they tell me. No software, no installation necessary. The “family plan” is for those who use the service primarily at home on desktops. The $10/30 day plan is for those who use a laptop and are free to move throughout the city, like to coffee shops, etc. So, one’s access, the other is hardware+access.

  8. lompocnetsux says:

    i know this thread is pretty old but i have to say… lompoc internet is not worth it. i spoke to the wifi technician from the city and he told me that the network the city uses is about 1/12 of the power of the networks comcast or verizon use. so yeah it sux. youtube is pretty much useless as well as anything with flash. any websites with a lot of ads takes a long time. even wikipedia which is mostly just text can be slow. and games are completely out of the question. but at the same time i realize that you get what you pay for and for 16 dollars a month….i guess its worth it. but i use the internet a lot so it’s pretty mind-numbing having to wait. i would only recommend this wifi service to people who dont use the internet that often. or people still living in 1996. for everyone else just pay the extra amount and get reliable high speed internet

  9. Rackemup420 says:

    This lompocNet is the WORST internet I have ever used.

    1) they tell you in the office that:
    A. If you have atleast 4 bars on the receiver then you are guaranteed to get at least 50mb/s… BULLSHIT.

    I have had this internet for 2 months now and I can safely say my AOL dial up was 10x faster… Now sure you could say it is my location… but… I live right next to a node that is not even 25 yards away, where as my friend lives about 100 yards away from the closest node and his speeds are about 10x faster than mine (I cant even download a 12mb update for a game..), which are still super slow…

    For $16/month it is NOT worth it… You can pay 9 bucks for dial up and have a more consistent connection.

    Right now im pinging 2.2kb/s to Google… that’s fucking pro… sad ass lompoc needs to get out of the 20th century and into the right way, and fire that tech guy he is awful….

  10. What a waste. says:

    I see nothing has changed since 2006 with this failed network. And, they keep pouring money into it on the backs of the rate payers under the guise of increased cost to provide utilities.

    I’m taking an educated guess here that the actual reason for the utility rate increases is to fund the revenue stream to keep the network “up” and “running”. They did give their rate payers a small reprieve from the 2012 electric rate increase stating they costs of electricity was not as “high” as they thought it would be.

    Hopefully they don’t kill off the few subscribers they do have with the rising health impacts from cumulative wireless networks.

    I notice their own blog that allowed “users” to post their true thoughts and opinions about LompocNet service no longer exists…why are they hiding.

    It’s better to admit failure than to string people along. Another embarrassment for the City of Lompoc. This Blog hides nothing about this fair cities council leadership – http://lompoclinnsanity.blogspot.com/

  11. Joe Smith says:

    Worst internet ever! Read above posts,,, this service has not improved and I have had it since 2010. I actually forgot that I have been using this service because I routinely use available wifi from my neighbors. What a waste. I cant believe the city is still using this internet service when the costs of operating it are not being met by subscribers. What a joke!