Tech Wi-Fi City
posted by June 28 at 16:55 PMon
The City of Seattle is providing free wireless Internet access in the Columbia City and the University District business districts. The City’s Wi-Fi pilot project also includes four downtown Seattle parks: Occidental, Freeway, Westlake and Victor Steinbrueck, as well as the City Hall lobby area. This is a pilot project. Users can log-in using seattlewifi for the ssid. (More info.)
When will the entire central city be covered by a free network? My money’s on the tail end of 2008.
UPDATE: Glenn Fleishman, a local writer who covers Wi-Fi at wifnetnews.com, as well as writing about it and other tech issues for the New York Times, the Economist, and Popular Science, says I shouldn’t hold my breath:
There was a brief halcyon time when cities with lots of urban poor and lower middle-class residents put out “bids” for city-wide Wi-Fi that read like this: “Come and build our networks on your own dime. We’ll give you utility pole access (if we can). We’ll anoint you. We might even move some city telecom business over to you (no guarantees, bud). But you have to pay in a bunch of money for digital divide initiatives and meet really imposing service guarantees.”
And EarthLink, MetroFi, Kite, and a few others—including giants IBM and Cisco—did pour forth the money. Now, about two years in, no major city network is complete, although several are well underway (Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia, notably). The companies building these networks are all guarded about their next moves; EarthLink’s new CEO (the previous one died in January from cancer) may choose to not build new networks. And there’s just not a lot of interest in building networks without much more of a commitment from cities to buy services.
In a city like Philadelphia or even San Francisco, it turns out that there’s relatively poor and uneven broadband penetration with cable and DSL, and not enough competition to spur low enough rates to move people from dial-up to broadband or no access to broadband.
Seattle is pretty well situated, and we have a much more middle to upper class set of residents in the city proper.
The city’s fiber-optic proposal that they put out last year to a bunch of bidders included an option to build out a Wi-Fi network. None of the responses seemed to have included this.