Governments and WiFi

11 January 2006

I like the concept of city-wide wireless access to the Internet. I dislike the notion of taxpayers covering the costs—either the capital costs or the operating costs. Government does some things well and other things poorly. Internet access provides a new set of examples of things governments do poorly.

However, it’s beginning to look like the concepts behind municipal wi-fi may be as flawed as some other things that cities do. In my city they frequently repave a street only to have a crew cutting holes in the new pavement once the paving crews get a few blocks away. Department A in public works didn’t know what Department B had before it; that’s life in government.

Some of the municipal network activists get blind-sided by picking the wrong technologies for the job, expecting those technologies to work as theorized and believing the hand-off from installer to operator (the municipality or it’s subcontractor) will be easy.

Techdirt has lots of coverage as you’ll see if you visit the links above. Here’s the extent of what I believe a city’s involvement should be: the city has the easements; donate them!

Let a business (with enough capital and knowledge to do the job right) have a long-term lease on those easements for $1.00 a year. Then, be willing to listen to the endless grousing by the legacy phone companies who will whine like little children.

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