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Monday, April 24, 2006

About that free wi-fi cloud...

Hmmm... Let's see... Doesn't work well in a town of 28,000... Hey, let's do it right now in a city 20 times that size! Think big! Can you say "linchpin"?

Comments (9)

or Bill M's term, "underpants?"

Of course, it'd only be directly relevant if MetroFi were providing the network down there, which they aren't. It's also unclear whether the technological specifics in this story equate to whatever MetroFi intends to roll out here.

With all due respect to my fellow elected officials, "free wi-fi" is anything but free. Sure, individual subscribers might save $50 per month in internet access charges in exchange for a wi-fi network of questionable quality o reliability.

But look at the other side of the coin. The private sector already provides internet and/or wi-fi service for customers who choose to pay for it. Those private companies have employees who live and work in the Portland area.

If you take $50 per month in internet/wireless access and multiply it by, as an example, 100,000 Portland residents who might switch to the so-called "free" city wi-fi system, you're looking at FIVE MILLION dollars per month, and SIXTY MILLION dollars per year that no longer go to local companies.

That's a lot of lost jobs in the Portland area. It also means lost payroll tax revenue, lost school district revenue, I could go on and on.

Is this really the purpose of local government?

Robert, although I totally "get it", your explanation includes logic and standard business sense. This is government, and we've seen that those principles are not always embraced as in the private sector where financial consequences are real. They'll never get it until their revenue decreases from the private companies. Then, crying "we have no money" they'll just increase the tax rate for the remaining businesses and the rest of the suckers in the city and county.

This is just one of many bad ideas that initially seems "cool, progressive, visionary" but when analyzed is just another financial disaster.

See you all on the Tram!

Or on the Max, or in a "free" bike lane near you.

Of course, Robert doesn't "get it" at all. This is a typical uninformed comment.

The free cloud comes with hitches--advertising and slower connections. The company will make money off of the many who will pay a lower rate for the faster connection.

And of course his assumption that 100% of internet access fees paid to, say, Qwest, stays in Portland, is idiotic.

Isn't this sort of like television? Government provides the infrastructure (spectrum rights), the private sector provides the ad-supported service, and the consumer watches for free once he has invested in the right equipment. And of course the consumer can upgrade to cable or satellite, which is a better service with more options.

In this case, the local government is providing infrastructure in the form of space to locate transmitters, the private sector is providing both a free and an upgraded service, and the consumer can use it for free with the right equipment. I also think the city has been pretty open that this service will not be nearly as good as cable or DSL internet. But it will allow me to, say, check email on my bus ride home, not to mention thousands of other efficiency gains for both the public and private sector.

I hate to burden down such great arguments with any facts, but in case you want to learn more about what is really going on...

For a whole bunch more on the San Francisco WiFi project which was a backroom deal between the Mayor Gavin Newsom and Google see my blog


San Francisco has a 95% outdoor coverage and 90% indoor coverage requirement - no one thinks the currently selected proposal can meet that.

additionally the google free is only 300k while the city asked for 1MB minnimum free.

Next City hearing on WiFi is Friday May 19th 1pm

you can watch it online on SFGTV here:


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