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South Coast Central CyberCity Q&A Page
Click on a question below to see the answer.

* What’s the big idea?
* What does all this mean - CyberCity, Metropolitan Area Network, Wi-Fi, Wired City, Urban Digital Network, Intelligent Community -- What’s the difference?
* How did this idea come about?
* Isn’t all this wired-up-city stuff rather pie-in-the-sky?

* Why are you doing this?
* How do I actually find out how and where I can get a high-speed (or higher speed) cable, phone-line, or WiFi hookup?
* If I want to have my own local website, how do I go about it?


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What’s the big idea?
Briefly, the idea is for the Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole conurbation to be recognized as what is known generically as an e-city, e-commerce hub, or wired city -- or more properly as an Intelligent Community, with an Urban Digital Network, based technically on a conurbation-wide Metropolitan Area Network or MAN.
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CyberCity, e-City, Metropolitan Area Network, Wi-Fi, Wired City, Urban Digital Network, Intelligent Community -- What’s the difference?
These are variant technical and economic terms reflecting the same underlying concept. Often a conurbation will use a particular term in its funding application and so tend to stick with that for assessment purposes. CyberCity is simply our own ad hoc term to promote the concept locally, there being no technical network or economic plan in place yet.
The comparable ‘e-city’ has not really caught on, but is akin to other e- terms like e-mail and the self-explanatory ‘e-commerce hub’.
‘MAN’  is the technical acronym for Metropolitan Area Network. It’s really just an extension, applied to a metropolitan area, of the concept of a WAN or Wide Area Network. (WAN is used to differentiate a network extending to more than one physical site from a LAN or Local Area Network, which is a digital network restricted to one building or site.) The popular version of MAN that has been adopted in places like Brighton is ‘metronet.’
Wi-Fi refers to a wireless internet broadband connection, and it depends on having a nearby broadcast base (as with a cordless phone), and officially has a range of around 50 metres. However, there’s a new, more powerful WiFi standard called WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), which has more range (up to a 5 mile radius), and is defined by Wikipedia as “a wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) technology”. [If you’re interested in Wikipedia’s technical article on this, click here]. Wifi is the latest ‘enabling’ technology, and public municipal WiFi networks are already operating in America, in cities like Philadelphia.
‘Wired City’ is the oldest term, basically an American one going back to the 1970s, when cable first began to spread.
‘Urban Digital Network’ seems to be getting more used by planners as it’s less techie and more transparent.
 “Intelligent Community” is a term created by an American satellite and cable industry body, the Intelligent Community Forum. The ICF sponsors the Intelligent Community Awards, given to cities (including Glasgow)  which set up relevant electronic infrastructures, to facilitate what others have called the wired city, smart community, or e-city. It is the community — whether a town, city, county or region — that views communications bandwidth as the new essential utility, as vital to economic growth and public welfare as clean water and dependable electricity. Where communities once raced to build seaports, rail depots, airports, and highways to attract businesses and create jobs, many now view broadband communications and information technology as the new keys to prosperity.’
 
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How did this idea come about?
As far as WiFi --the latest enabling technology -- goes, the way it seems to develop is that a local government or university sets up a wireless network for its own purposes (such as CCTV coverage). As happened with the internet itself (which began as the US military’s Arpanet), the network is then opened up to public use, via a 2nd, public channel. Any such wireless network potentially offers "wireless clouds" of free public access.
Locally, this area was in the forefront of wireless research at the outset, when Marconi set up an experimental wireless-telegraphy base in Poole. Before WiFi appeared on the scene, Bournemouth University even tried to set up its own ISP as the outcome of a pioneering project in the mid-late 1990s called Coastlines, which set up a portal site [www.coastlines.org.uk – now defunct] and then issued an ISP-installer CD like the ones you get in computer stores for AOL etc. They've since switched to using WiFi for their on-campus network.
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Isn’t all this wired-up-city stuff rather pie-in-the-sky?
Not really. It’s already happening elsewhere.
It’s true there was a false start with the TV-cable technology model being promoted as its vehicle in the 80s. TV cable take-up failed because in Britain it had to be buried underground (involving endlessly digging up the roads and pavements), whereas in other countries the wiring is simply strung overhead on telegraph poles along with the telephone wires. Cable is of course now used for broadband internet as well as TV (via NTL etc), but the bandwidth also has to be shared, so that the more people in your street who have cable, the smaller the bandwidth share available to you. This may become a critical issue as more and more people switch to internet TV, alias ‘Telco TV’ – digital TV services offered by telecomms majors like BT.
In the last few years, with the development of DSL [Digital Subscriber Line] technology and the government-mandated opening up of the BT exchanges to competition, the old BT analogue-signal phone lines can carry digital data at between .5 and 10 Megabits/second – in other words, high-speed broadband from a variety of ISPs, ending reliance on cable.

Wireless digital networks are already happening on major corporate sites, on university and college campuses, and in London neighbourhoods such as Islington’s Technology Mile. In other countries there are already public municipal wireless networks, e.g. in Finland. It’s also happening elsewhere in England in conurbations which are comparable to ours in terms of size, like Bristol and Brighton (which has the first free-WiFi beach in the UK). To quote a paragraph from a Guardian article on the Brighton setup:

Want to see the future? Go to Brighton, where it is being created through a blend of anarchy and civic pride. A partnership between the free Wi-Fi movement and the local council has now delivered wireless broadband via a new WiMax service. Almost the whole of Brighton is now blanketed by a wireless internet service that delivers data faster than broadband. It carries public sector, commercial and educational traffic - another first for the city. Schools have multi-megabits of data, businesses get the equivalent of high-speed leased lines, students have fast data in their dorms, and everyone gets free Wi-Fi in pubs and cafes. The Brighton metronet, as it is called, emerged after the council noticed the buzz surrounding free Wi-Fi.
[“Brighton Rocks,” Guardian 16-6-05]
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Why are you doing this?
As the ICF put it, creating an Intelligent Community is not a matter of technology but of  “creating a culture of use”.  Otherwise what will develop is a technology controlled by a few people – probably a public-private partnership in which the public are treated as consumers. The danger is you get a cash-strapped local government which is being pressured by London to provide e-government services being offered a sponsorship deal to subsidise the local ‘community’ portal in exchange for capturing it as a promotional platform. You can see this process at work already when the council lets commercial outfits take over public spaces like Bournemouth Square for their sales and promotional activities. The public is deprived of the entitlement known legally as quiet enjoyment, because the council does not consider they have any such entitlement in the matter anyway, since legally everything belongs not to the public but to the Council. In the case of  an official ‘community’ metronet portal, if there is no real public involvement, system users may easily wind up with a sponsoring firm controlling their desktop screen by placing advertising on it, by requiring an adware toolbar be downloaded, and by requiring personal registration data being provided which they can resell for further advertising purposes. This process is already happening with increasing frequency on the internet in general. An added danger is the dependency on Wifi, which is inherently insecure, since it broadcasts all data input as local radio signals.
There has, therefore, to be a public-interest awareness campaign. To quote the ICF again, “Without these non-technology efforts, the broad-band revolution risks worsening social inequality, reducing economic opportunity and constricting political participation.”

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How do I actually find out how and where I can get a high-speed (or higher speed) cable, phone-line, or WiFi hookup?
You can check up what cable or phone-line broadband subscription services are available to you at your home by entering your postcode in one of several sites that allow you to do this, such as UpMyStreet.To have WiFi access throughout a conurbation is usually an essential part of an Urban Digital Network or ‘wired city’ since cabling an entire urban area is not practical. WiFi access however is a slightly more complex prospect as it’s meant to be a ‘mobile’ service. It’s true some people merely want it to get rid of all the cabling where they have several computers and get them networked together to share an internet link etc., but usually WiFi access means being able to go online, via a laptop, away from any cable hookup. WiFi may already be available to you at your home (or office) via your BT line: BT Broadband customers can get it – unless they’re too far from an exchange or are on the BT Broadband Basic package.When you take your laptop out in public, it’s hit and miss – you need first to search websites like Wi-fi Hotspots Directory to identify local WiFi ‘hotspots’ or active nodes (officially, “broadband wireless internet access locations”). From there, you can locate one that is legitimately available to you (otherwise it’s theft) and is safest to use. (With WiFi, everything you access online is broadcast for 50m around, and there are people who lurk at such places as cybercafés waiting to sniff out passwords or access other confidential data.)
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If I want to have my own local website, how do I go about it?
You can of course pay a web design firm to create, upload and update it for you, but if you can't afford the ongoing expense of that option, you can still do it yourself. Click here to visit our DIY Web-Publishing Information & Resources help page to explore your options and get some basic guidance on how to proceed.

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