Free Wifi Sometimes Really is Free

While the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco keeps arguing about who should own the free wifi network that Google and Earthlink are offering to build for all the residents of the City, and subsequently nothing is getting built, another company called Meraki is going out and actually building it.

On a serious note, there are actually some really good issues to be debated about the Google/Earthlink proposal, but like most things in politics what ends up getting debated is really a proxy fight about something else. This case is no different. The losers here are the residents of SF who pay higher taxes, absorb a higher cost of living, and end up leaving the City in droves when they start to have families, and in this case can’t even take advantage of something that companies are willing to give them for free.

Tom Foremski recently wrote about a public policy event that featured low turnout from tech companies. It’s not that there is a pandemic of disinterest in public policy among tech companies, indeed some of these executives and companies are the most informed and engaged of any private sector cross section, but there is widespread distaste with the process of public policy. Silicon Valley is about change, at least that’s what it’s supposed to be about, while politics at all levels is about status quo. Knowing what you know about SF politics, would you want to be involved in it?

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3 thoughts on Free Wifi Sometimes Really is Free

  1. The idea of wireless Internet on a city-wide scale is a good one, in my opinion. Asian countries have it implemented and I don’t see how providing a new business tool can’t help. Politics is another issue, though. Initially, I think I read that the Internet provided would be completely FREE and that the city of San Francisco would actually make money off of the ISP providers, but like the old saying goes: if it’s too good to be true…

  2. Free Wifi would be a boom to any city, allowing people that normally would not or could not access the internet, portable devices such as laptops, PDAs (I love my Ipod/Touch) to surf the net, order, do email and more

    I spent an hour talking to the Mayor of Hillsboro and he had no interest whatsoever in a city-wide free Wifi even when I offered to help start it up and help with it

    Too often, people in government would rather do nothing or just “lets have another survey” than risk their job

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