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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Let them eat wi-fi

Worldwide Pablo hits the nail on the head once again:

[E]xactly how did a luxury like universal wireless Internet service rise to the top of Portland's To Do list? Perhaps we've missed the news that public safety is fully in hand. Or that the infrastructure of paved streets, sidewalks, parks and community centers has now expanded east of the People's Republic of Laurelhurst. Or that fiscal accountability has been finally achieved at the city's corporate and candidate welfare offices. Or ... well, you get the idea.

Oh, sure, it won't really cost the city anything to launch the "cloud" [or so we are told]. High-end users will even have to pay a fee to get the advertising-free version. But do you ever wonder why it is that every boutique project aimed to appease elites from bicyclistas to baristas finds an instant audience at City Hall, when regular things go unnoticed, or worse, are held hostage to the "which child shall we kill first" bond-levy-income tax election extortion scheme Portland is becoming increasingly so famous for?

I hope that he and his Portland readers will remember that when they get their City Council ballots.

Comments (29)

There's a significant argument that closing the digital divide will improve the lives of the poorest people in our community.

From job seeking, to info about public services, even using to find cheap housing, the best way to live poor in this country is to get online but that's a tough problem. As you say, you can't eat your wi-fi, so poor people don't (or can't) afford access.

You might pop over to One Economy and dig in.

Paid for by Voter-Owned Elections.

So the City is helping to expand access to the internet in Portland, which will probably greatly expand the population of visitors to Jack Bog's Blog, thus increasing public awareness by giving more people access to "the other side of the story" (the side that is not revealed in local mainstream media)- Jack, you should be in favor of this.

Both this story and the one preceeding it (where you didn't show enough "blue") - just shows that the Kool-Aid continues to flow freely in Potland (no, I didn't misspell it). Gee, we have so many prime examples of where "free" wireless internet for a city has worked - there's Ashland ... no wait that isn't working; there's San Francisco ... uh, they are still just working on it, Philadephia ... oh, um they don't really have it either - but hey, we know it will work because "it's a good idea". Yeah, all the homeless, the crack heads, the welfare folks, they all have computers and since it won't cost us a dime ...

Won't cost us a dime until it doesn't work out, then the company comes looking for some money and the cry goes up that we have to help support it because it is such a vital "service" to the city. Welcome to just another (eventual) item that we the taxpayers will be on the hook for. Like most liberal ideas, nice idea in concept, falls apart terribly in execution.

you can't eat your wi-fi

You can't eat the wireless receiver either. Once we figure out poor people can't access the free wireless cloud without a computer, are you gonna start issuing laptops? Or will poor folks have to visit Aaron's and rent-to-own (after payday loans, the best scam on the poor in town)?

When I was poor and without Internet access, I simply hopped the bus and went down to the local library. I could search job listings, CraigsList, AND find a date with any number of Portland's working professional women. And it was all "free". Personal Telco seems to be doing a pretty good job of providing free access. Why not just let them keep doing their thing?

I hope that he and his Portland readers will remember that when they get their City Council ballots.

Oh they will remember, they may even vote someone else in - as laong as they have a big D next to their name. Guess what they will get.

Chris, you're right, wi-fi isn't enough. The next step is making computers affordable to folks.

You might read about a great nonprofit here in Portland called Free Geek that is doing just that.

Also, it's a ways off, but the MIT Media Lab is developing a $100 laptop for the world's poor children.

Obviously, free universal wi-fi isn't the end-all/be-all solution to the digital divide. But it's the first step. And that step has to be taken now -- before it's too late and the corporate control is overly dominant. If that happens, universal wi-fi will go the way of universal health care.


"Chris, you're right, wi-fi isn't enough. The next step is making computers affordable to folks.

You might read about a great nonprofit here in Portland called Free Geek that is doing just that."

That's idiotic.

1: Every library branch has many computers with high-speed access, available free of charge. The wifi "cloud" will be considerably slower and as has been noted, would require a wifi-enabled computer. I see no reason why they can't make a trip to the library.

2: I am likely much more familiar with Free Geek than you; at least I can state with confidence the following: Free Geek provides free computers only to charitable organizations. It is possible to "earn" a free computer by working at FG and learning all about computers in the process, but few are interested enough to devote that kind of time.

3: The FG systems typically do not include wifi receivers.

And that step has to be taken now -- before it's too late and the corporate control is overly dominant.

Amen. Look no further than Portland to see how successful public control is. And when the public sector can't do it all, we have all of our successful public-private partnerships to draw from.

Don't forget that it's also a big economic development strategy, especially for small businesses.

Indeed, it's a vital underpants (er, linchpin) to the growth of family wage jobs. Nothing says economic development like researching welfare benefits and needle exchange programs while waiting to get your face tatooed.

Yes but, with a Wi-Fi cloud Porklanders can all wear pulse monitors that will link to the grid when they flat-line (for whatever reason) and call EMS folks (in their armored vehicles) to their locations (with using GPS locators) to scoop up the bodies before they spill any body fluids that might pollute the environment. Remember, we all live in a watershed.

The next step is making computers affordable to folks.

Yellow computers!

Gosh, reading Abe's post above makes me realize we are closer to "Max Headroom" than I thought!
Breughel and Mahler are coming!

Folks, the knee-jerk anti Portland city government attitude on this blog has gone out of control.

This proposal should be celebrated by true fiscal conservatives, who look to government to create an environment to stimulate private enterprise. This is precisely what this does. It leverages public assets (buildings) for attenna to make the cloud work. If it is such a money loser, why did so many companies bid for it??

First, the wi-fi cloud won't cost the City a dime. NOT A DIME.

Second, this is far superior to the currently spotty PDX Telco coverage and the local library (which limits internet use to one hour/day). PDX Telco has endorsed this project.

Of course, when you satirize poor people with comments like Garage Boozer, what do you expect?

Portland does do some smart things at times, and this is one of them.

First we need the free WiFi cloud, so we can...
Then provide the free WiFi laptops, so ...
The homeless can surf for shelters, and...
Also locate the best soup kitchens, since...
They smell too much to use the library!!

And, of course, this is all done at NO CHARGE to Portland, because the service providers will have banner ads that all these homeless people will no doubt be clicking on.

Doesn't Kari know that Meth really fries your brain and damages your teeth? Just say NO to drugs!!! And just say NO to really STUUUUPID ideas like this.

I think Jack's real beef (correct me if I am wrong) was that Portland should find lots of municipal stuff to focus on, like schools, police and fire, local crime, etc. Come on Portland, get your head outta the (WiFi) clouds!!

How about free cell phones too? The "cellular divide" is too much to bear for some.

Forgive me, for I am of the analog generation.

From what I understand, WiFi was on it's way in term of the Portland area before this whole "WiFi the whole city" effort caught my attention. I understood that a group of locals were putting together a piecemeal grid in Portland, using private non-profit and community groups to create islands of WiFi.

Then, this "whole city at one time" thing comes along.

Is it true that this is costing the city taxpayer not a cent? City buildings are being used to help create the network, right? That's got to cost the taxpayer something, even if it's miniscule. So, if it's going out free to anyone who wants to tap into the internet, you just have to have a $700 laptop computer with a WiFi accessory? Is that right?

Is there a specific outfit that is doing this out of the goodness of their heart? If so, why isn't someone else doing it? Is that where the city comes in to the picture? To decide who gets to do this good thing for everybody with expensive laptops? Is there any kind of regulation on what these folks can do for the money they're going to get for doing this good thing? And....

Most important of all: Can we tax it?

If it's not costing us anything, why is anyone particularly cheezed at it? I mean, there's no such thing as a free lunch, so who's carrying the freight on this one? The illusion is advertisers. Banner ads and pop-ups? Well, it could be worse.

It could be cable television where you pay for the service and still have to watch the stinking commercials. Or, it could be the movie theater, where they sell totally unrelated products while you wait to see the movie you paid good money to see (not to mention the exhorbitantly overpriced junk food you got at the counter on the way in).

Hey...Just hop on down to your FreeKey and get a recycled cellphone.

You mean there isn't one here?

Tells you all you need to know about this website and its followers. The City of Portland comes up with a plan that will make web access available to everyone without costing any tax money and all Jack can do is complain about it. Maybe we'll have to start calling him Reaactionary Jack.

Like the voice mail lady says, "Thank you. Goodbye."

"Folks, the knee-jerk anti Portland city government attitude on this blog has gone out of control."


As many times as Portland shi**y government has jerked us around with misplaced priorities, hare-brained schemes, inattention, ineptness and plain old stupidity, a "knee-jerk" reaction is simply good sense.

How many times would I have to hit you in the head wirth a ball-peen hammer before you winced at the sight of one?

And, yes, the attitude obviously is out of control - yours, and your pals, anyway - and that's the beauty of it.

Is the City paying a penny or isn't it?

Every time someone at the City says they won't spend a penny, it usually means that they are going to spend dollars (or millions of dollars). The only way to tell who is on the hook is to look at the contract. For, as we've all learned from SoWa, neither side of the transaction is capable of telling "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Although gaps and wording can make City contracts look like Swiss cheese, they do tend to specify who pays what under which conditions ... or they should.

Face it folks, you want "free" wi-fi, because you don't want to pay for it. Heck, I don't want to pay for it. It stretches the limits of genuousness to tell us that it's for the children, poor, homeless, or lonely.

I want an open access policy to be applied. All the legal research on this point is a sunk cost, from the AT&T battle. It would cost nothing more than the power to demand a franchise fee. Greater if one thinks of the freedom to contract. And, I want upstream speed to match downstream speed, with fixed IPs as an option.

The add space should be treated like that for public access channels for cable TV, thus eliminating the need entirely for voter owned elections.

The cost is the lost opportunity to do things genuinely in the public interest . . . in favor of the arbitrary use of power to reward advertisers. It is a typical monopolistic strategy. Independent WiFi might have been like low-watt independent radio . . . too controversial to be allowed the freedom to exist. The city had to get out front on the issue before the natives caught freedom fever.

If any city employee is involved in this at all, then it is costing the salary of that employee. If a memo is typed about it, an email sent, a conference held, a work group created, a license granted or whatever, it IS costing the city money. This is diverting attention from other areas of city administration, thus it IS costing us.

Portland needs to stop, regroup, and focus on the basics: safety, streets, transportation and essential public services. When all of those areas are under control and well financed, then Wi-Fi and create all the feel good programs they want.

Guys, this is about parking meters. That is what has spurred the city to correct a big mistake they made a few years ago when they installed the new meters. They "batch" all the card numbers together and spit them at the city every day at 5 pm. right now the city is experiencing 35% fraud at the meters. that is right, 35%! they are loosing 3-5 million a year on the meters. All you hvae to do is use a expired card on the meter and it will still give you a parking sticker.
On a another front, the city just gave away jobs and taxable income to a BAY Area company. that will put up Pop-up adds!
Mark my words, when this thing fails....and it will....the city will buy the assets of Metro-Spy for pennies on the dollar.
Not a bad deal, but still no jobs.

So, if it's going out free to anyone who wants to tap into the internet, you just have to have a $700 laptop computer with a WiFi accessory? Is that right?

Or a $50 WiFi card to plug into your desktop computer.
Which will most likely be the next thing the city will want to hand out to folks who "cant afford them".

Also, it's a ways off, but the MIT Media Lab is developing a $100 laptop for the world's poor children.

Which was designed as a teaching device, and is not intended to be sold to individuals, but governments. Then handed out to the folks. That $100 pricetag is for lots of thousands of these laptops at a time.
But I really dont think they will never see the light of day in the US. Mainly because they will be so limited in funtionality.

Hell, I recently bought a 6-yr-old Wi-Fi capable Mac G3 laptop on Craigslist for $180 that is far more functional than those things will ever be.

Poor people don't need the internet. They obviously need to work harder, bussing tables, pumping gas, and working the cash register. With time, they can become the next Bill Gates - but obiously, since most won't, it proves that poor people are lazy.

Lazy people don't deserve computers.

The Personal Telco project has spent most of its efforts implementing free wifi in coffee shops and existing businesses. So, unless the poor can afford lattes and tea everytime they want to use the internet, they're out of luck.

Also, the comments on this blog show a HUGE amount of ignorance: the 'poor' is not a reference to homeless people, but to those who WORK and don't make a whole lot of money. As a result, they barely scrape by, often times neglecting some needs (medicine) and even going hungry at times. Many of them have families AND housing.

The City of Portland wants free wifi so it doesn't have to pay exorbitant internet fees for its offices all over town. Police, Fire, city offices will all be able to utilize it in some way. Solar-powered parking meters can connect to it without having to use the cell companies' expensive system ($30 a month or whatever per parking meter). The city will get a great deal on the wi-fi system.

Secondly, I can pick a 2-year old computer off of craigslist for about $100, including monitor. Then I can buy a $15 wifi card, and - if I have wifi in my area - I'm on the internet. In fact, a huge amount of poor people already have computers. Pretty much every KID under the age of 30 owns one anyway, but internet is steep: you either need cable ($52/month with internet) or DSL ($50 per month - and you need the land line!) Who has land lines these days?

However, since this is just a bitch fest, please continue with your ignorant comments.

Right on, Bob. This group is no longer able to separate the hair brained from the smart public/private partnership.

It's funny people here talk about cell phones--the reason we have such good telephone access in this country is precisely this sort of public/private partnership + a monopoly in the early years of telephones.

Same story for rural electricity. Same story for trains. Etc etc.


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