Print 12 comment(s) - last by JKolstad.. on Mar 18 at 12:24 PM

The city plans to pay for the venture itself entirely

The city of San Jose, California is making a second attempt at providing its downtown area with free Wi-Fi in an effort to get those who work in the area to leave their offices.

Years ago, San Jose tried to cover outdoor areas with Wi-Fi for the public to use. The plan was to have browser-based advertising, small businesses and home broadband subscription use pay for the service, but this idea turned out to be difficult and depended on too many unknown factors.

But the city is now looking to use a new plan to provide the public and businesses with free Wi-Fi. San Jose will use an IEEE 802.11n network from Ruckus Wireless, which is made for outdoor use and has the ability to make its way around obstacles. To buy and set it up, it will cost about $94,000. To keep it maintained, it will be another $22,000 annually.

Instead of the old method of paying for the Wi-Fi, San Jose plans to either use the Wi-Fi as an extension of established networks by local companies, or strike a deal with mobile operators to "offload traffic from their cellular networks." San Jose will be able to pay for the network itself entirely.

The addition of the Wi-Fi network aims to provide better connections for city employees as well as wireless parking meters and parking garages. The network would keep everything downtown connected, allowing those who work there to know what's going on with local events and businesses. The city of 50,000 hopes this will encourage workers to step out of their places of employment and visit others in the area, making the city a bit livelier.

It is currently unknown how the Wi-Fi will be paid for or how fast the system will be, but it's expected to allow users to share about 1Gbps or more. The part of the network that will be open to the public will be unsecure so it can be accessed easily. For employees throughout the city, the network will be secure.

Source: Computer World

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Not free
By osserc on 3/15/2012 10:53:36 AM , Rating: 2
Nothing is free. Paid for by tax money, at the very least.

Do they at least have an ROI for the connected parking meters and garages so that the spend on the WiFi network will be paid for by lower costs somewhere else?

RE: Not free
By ThePooBurner on 3/15/2012 12:41:23 PM , Rating: 2
Nope. I have friends who work for the city and it's in the middle of budget cuts and lay offs because it can't pay for anything. That they are doing this is quite sickening in light of people loosing their jobs from lack of funding.

RE: Not free
By JediJeb on 3/15/2012 1:57:30 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like they watched "Field of Dreams" too many times. "Build it and they will come" is only true if you finish the sentence "as long as you give it away and not make anything off of it".

There is the old adage "You have to spend money to make money" but it is better if you are spending from a surplus than from a deficit. Spending money to make more money works, spending money in hopes of making the initial money is very risky.

RE: Not free
By BSMonitor on 3/15/2012 3:39:34 PM , Rating: 2
Weird. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Clearly an attempt to attract people to spend time in the downtown area. $22K a year seems like chump change if it works. More people means more $$ spent in your city. Means more money for your city government. Means more jobs.

Economics 101 not sickening.

RE: Not free
By osserc on 3/16/2012 12:35:03 PM , Rating: 2
That's why I asked, numbskull. First, there is an ASSUMPTION that having free wifi in downtown will encourage people to hang out there and spend money, increasing tax revenue. However, your risk is rather high, especially given the nature of smartphones today; since much of what people gain by the free wifi (internet access) is easily handled by even the cheapest of smartphones built in the last 3 years.

A much more PREDICTABLE return on investment is a proposed reduction in personnel and service costs related to the connected parking meters and parking lots. If the city can show a decent business proposal showing a short term (say 4 years or less including interest) return on investment for setting up this network then it's a lot easier to understand the deficit spending for long term gain.

Essentially, increasing the amount of people spending time downtown is a side benefit, but shouldn't be counted as the main source of return. A more predictable savings case can be made from the connected city-run devices.

RE: Not free
By JKolstad on 3/18/2012 12:24:22 PM , Rating: 2
A couple of points:

"Nothing is free" is only true if you believe that the economy is a zero sum game. There's lot of "technology" where the cost of providing it is small enough for the provider that through advertising or whatever that provider not only provides the consumer with something truly "free" *but also makes money themselves*. Think, e.g., Google and the myriad of Google apps out there. Heck, LibreOffice is even more "free" and a spectacularly powerful bit of technology.

The article suggests to me that the city is going to try to get this thing to pay for itself.

I agree you do have to look at the expected ROI if you're going to engage in deficit spending. 4 years would actually be a spectacularly fast payback -- even at 10 years, they'd be getting a better return than if they were to invest money in a bank.

Also keep in mind that while it's great when the government does something with a clear-cut ROI, unlike a public business, there's nothing that says that's a requirement in the first place: Government's primary purpose is to just represent the people and do our bidding; things like the public education system and public transportation and public libraries have difficult-to-quantify ROIs, yet most people still very much support those programs just because it does seem like the "right thing" to do in a society.

Secondly... you're certainly correct that almost everyone likely to access WiFi probably has a smartphone that can do so over the cellular networks. However, remember that other than Sprint all the major carriers today have rationed their data usage, so most smartphone users today actively seek out and use WiFi when it's available. Additionally, WiFi is typically (though not always) faster than the available 2G/3G/4G cellular connections. Finally, if you have a laptop, many people would prefer a simple WiFi connection over tethering to their phone, which -- depending on the carrier -- is somewhere between a small hassle, to something simple but that you pay for, to something that's outright prohibited and requires significant effort to do.

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