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Tuesday, August 16, 2021

Befitting its Silicon Valley image, San Francisco is looking to set up a free or low-cost wi-fi hotspot to cover its entire 49 square mile municipal area, and provide enough computer equipment for all strata of residents to access it.

Last year, the city erected antennas to make one of its most popular tourist destinations, Union Square, a free hot spot, and three others are set to go up later this year. Responses to the city’s request for information are due in six weeks and [mayor Gavin] Newsom said he hopes to have the citywide Wi-Fi plan at least partly “manifested” within six months.

“Cities are starting to realize this is not a ‘nice to have’ anymore,” said Paul Butcher, Intel’s state and local government marketing manager. “To operate efficiently as a government, to enable business to compete and provide adequate resources to cities, you pretty much have to do this.”

It’s an audacious project, and a big step toward making the Internet a true mass medium. It’s also another blow against for-profit wireless hotspot providers; think of how distressed this makes the gajillion Starbucks stores in the Bay Area! Assuming this spurs even more cities to undertake wi-fi implementations — and I’m sure it will — it’s looking like the pay-for model is an ultimate dead end, even using selling points like secure connections.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/16/2005 10:43:31 PM
Category: Wi-Fi | Permalink |

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  1. Is the home of the 49ers really 49 square miles?

    Comment by tommy — 08/17/2005 @ 06:00:20 PM

  2. Aha! Very good catch, Tom! I can’t believe I didn’t see that.

    It appears to be true: 7 miles by 7 miles. I’m wondering if city leaders finagled that intentionally. San Francisco is on a peninsula, so there’s not much room to annex extra land; plus I’m not familiar with municipal/regional politics in that other Bay Area.

    It is just one example of local government making reality out of symbolism. It brings to mind Florida’s Space Coast area lobbying for, and getting, the (321) telephone area code. Y’know — 3-2-1, Blastoff?

    Comment by CT — 08/17/2005 @ 09:04:03 PM

  3. How long you reckon before there’s a library-like filtering debate? San Francisco is an unlikely candidate, but if it get to Charlotte or Houston you might see more of it.

    Comment by trumwill — 08/17/2005 @ 10:01:42 PM

  4. I did not know that about the 3.2.1 area code. Very cool… Wild stuff.

    Comment by tommy — 08/18/2005 @ 09:56:49 AM

  5. trumwill: I have no doubt, filtering will rear its ugly head, as soon as the first 12-year-old boy is caught “accidentally” surfing porn sites in a public park.

    It would suck, since filtering technology is so primitive that it tends to block out too much (i.e., access to breast cancer sites, in an effort to ban the boobie pics). On the other hand, I think it’s reasonable to expect this sort of free/low-cost service to have limitations; if you want unfettered access, you’d need to pony up your own dough.

    Sort of related to this: City of Tampa’s wi-fi network cuts off access to one hour per session, with a 30-minute break before re-signon. Again, a reasonable tradeoff for free and wireless access; plus, obviously designed for casual situational use, versus an always-on tap.

    Comment by CT — 08/18/2005 @ 10:06:55 AM

  6. I don’t disagree. I think that libraries have every right to filter as would a city-run network. I’m just not looking forward to the debate itself with histrionic screams of censorship and the right to see/do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it.

    Ultimately, though, with filtering technology being as poor as it is, it may become useless to the portion of the population that would use it most. Whether that’s a case for better filtering or not-filtering, I’ll let the policy-makers decide.

    As for Tampa’s restriction, my college did the same thing and it was pretty effective. Most people still bought their own internet if they could, but those that couldn’t afford it had *something*.

    Comment by trumwill — 08/18/2005 @ 12:55:06 PM

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