The downtown WiFi… controversy?

Continuing yesterday’s Small towns that ‘get’ it

Any city that wants to attract the creative class, knowledge workers, young professionals and enterpreneurs needs to support a free WiFi downtown. Period. The aforementioned group views a WiFi network as the previous generation does for a highway network – comprehensive and free… and guess what, it’s a helluva lot cheaper. The City of Alexandria, VA is the latest city to sponsor free WiFi downtown, and estimates a cost of $20,000 to start, $7800/year to maintain a WiFi downtown. Let’s see, that’s about the same cost as the pick-up truck that carries the ‘road closed’ signs for street repair.

So what’s the controversy with a city-sponsored WiFi network?

– The U.S. Internet Industry Association doesn’t like that it takes business away from their internet service provider members. That pales with the loss of business by not having an information network in the business center of town.

– City officials say it’s unfair to taxpayers that don’t use the internet. Uh, that’s 8 cents a year per person for a city of 100,000. How about those who don’t drive that pay for roads? Or about the lack of new community amenities because job creators (city tax revenue generators) can’t get online downtown?

– Other detractors wonder if it’ll even be used. They probably don’t know many people in the target market previously mentioned.

The real issue? Possibly explained here.

So where are these WiFi cities? Tomorrrow…

Do you have free WiFi throughout your downtown? Why not? Speak your mind below…

  • zippy

    Excellent posts. Its also a good way to sure up the digital divide among low income people and the upper class. I swear our society loves to take the longest route to the most direct solution.

  • dan

    I couldn’t agree more. I believe that downtown wifi is a necessity for a city that wants to support a new generation of urban entrepreneurs. I have lobbied hard with local authorities here in columbus, oh, but with little interest. I believe despite the lobbying abilities of private broadband companies, downtown wifi will become standard in the future. As I told Columbus council members, either we can be one of the first cities to do it and attract excitement and innovation or we can do it last when we have to, and by then no one will care.

  • Another important answer to “what’s the controversy w/ municipal wi-fi” worth noting:

    Certain huge corporations stand to lose profits as we adopt new technologies. For example: widespread wi-fi might lead to widespread use of Voice over IP, which might lead to decreased use of old-fashioned land-line telephone calls.

    So, many of these behemoths are buying legislation and pumping money into public misinformation in their favor.

    Some of the largest cable and telecom firms who have the most to lose from municipal wi-fi, have dumped fortunes into fake “consumer interest” groups that then lobby politicians, mislead the press and propagandize the public in an effort to fight municipal wi-fi. Details:

    http://news.com.com/A+question+of+independence/2009-1034_3-5681661.html
    http://www.motherjones.com/news/dispatch/2005/05/municipal_broadband.html
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=New_Millennium_Research_Council