San Francisco, Houston, Chicago Municipal WiFi Plans on the Fritz
Michael Hoffman & Kristopher Kubicki
September 3, 2007 8:44 PM
comment(s) - last by
Gavin Newsom continues to be a strong supporter of citywide WiFi
(Source: Official Gavin Newsom web site)
Earthlink crumbles, and with it the plans of must urban municipal WiFi
As EarthLink continues in a rather nasty downward spiral, the likelihood of seeing citywide WiFi in San Francisco does not really look promising.
EarthLink's self destruction
didn't initially concern metropolitan residents much, but the company's
part in the WiFi deal was important
-- Google would offer a slower service, with EarthLink offering increased speeds for a low payment per month.
Residents cheered when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
envisioned free citywide WiFi
for residents and visitors of San Francisco a couple of years ago. But now the mayor must continue searching for other companies which originally showed interest in offering WiFi to the city.
Even though it's not difficult to find WiFi hot spots in San Francisco, the ability of having WiFi everywhere in the City would be superb. The San Francisco Metreon, located a block away from Market Street, there are at least 15 active WiFi access points. A quick visit to the heart of. Financial District also revealed a large number of WiFi points that a user with a notebook or smart phone can use. However, a trip down to Fisherman's Wharf will reveal only a couple of access points.
EarthLink's faulty business plan cost the company a $5 million penalty after failing to come up with a wireless network for the city of Houston. EarthLink now has until June next year to either start building the network or find a way to sneak out of the contract with Houston.
The company also had to bow out of a deal with Chicago. The city originally intended to provide infrastructure to AT&T or Earthlink for city-wide access, but negotiations fell apart when neither company could settle terms on cash for the project.
Earthlink's largest other muncipal WiFi plans have not panned out in any significant manner yet. The Earthlink Lompoc, California, project cost the company $3 million but netted less than 500 users at last count. The company's
Anaheim and Philadelphia networks
are still under construction.
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RE: Public Wi-Fi = Waste of Taxpayer Dollars
9/3/2007 3:49:31 PM
If it makes sense financially, then the private sector will make the investment
Not if they don't have easy access to a place to put their routers. It is pretty much guaranteed that a citywide wi-fi service in San Francisco of all places would be quite profitable, but it's simply not possible to set it up without access to somewhere to place all those hundreds of routers.
I think the way these deals are usually structured is that the government agrees to get the utilities to allow wi-fi routers on their poles (this is the main point), and also to make a large purchase (at a lower cost then their current expenditures) to guarantee a sufficient customer base, and in return the wi-fi provider will give free slow speed access. The real goal here is the citiwide wi-fi, and the free access bit is mostly just a sop those politicians who hate to do anything that helps a company (the isp in this case).
These are not supposed to be "tax and spend" programs, or even government trying to manipulate markets. The utility companies have a publicly granted privilege to place their utility poles basically anywhere they see fit, and the government involvement here is (fairly or not) intended to force them to allow a potential competitor to put something on top of those poles. Now, politicians often do a good job of screwing things up, but in theory at least there is no reason why these this need be considered pro-tax, anti-competitive, or anti-private sector.
RE: Public Wi-Fi = Waste of Taxpayer Dollars
9/4/2007 11:55:52 AM
I feel like the mobility market has suffered over the last few years given the barriers to entry. In other words, if you don't have the capital to compete with Verizon and AT&T, then your business doesn't have much of a chance in the mobility sector. As we've seen over and over, open-source technology leads to greater advances in a shorter amount of time, ultimately providing better and cheaper products to the consumers. Providing free WiFi with this type of coverage allows consumers to explore other options for their mobility solutions, which will provide the impetus for smaller companies to innovate and enter the market. Given all this, I feel like it completely falls within a municipality's role. To me, the short-term picture is allowing everybody to have connectivity in their homes who normally can't afford other services. Yes, they can go to the library. The bigger picture here is to provide the groundwork for innovation and more value for the consumer. Sort of a "if you build it, they will come" type of thing, and I think we've seen over and over that with regards to technology (specifically the internet), this axion will hold true.
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