Teh Internets Winning the War on Wireless
posted by June 12 at 16:48 PMon
Posted by news intern Chris Kissel
In my news article this week, I reported that all attempts at providing free municipal WiFi across the country had ended in miserable failure. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning, I may have spoken too soon.
The article says that the city is linking up residents with the help of Meraki, a small company that set up routers around the city in order to get its name out in the open.
In Seattle, we’ve got Seattle Wireless, a movement whose participants, like Matt Towers, set up nodes in their neighborhoods out of the kindness of their hearts. The result is a mesh network spanning the city that’s got potential, but for the time being is full of holes and, for those who can pick up the signal on their laptops, provides service that’s unreliable at best.
Matt Westervelt, one of the founders of Seattle Wireless, told me that the incentives for setting up a grassroots-based free WiFi network in Seattle amount to a feeling of “public good will” and a personal interest in doing the work. In San Francisco, project developers found a way to couple that with the entrepreneurial spirit, and now “144,000 residents will be surfing the Web for free by the end of the year at no cost to the city.”
On top of that,
The mayor’s office is working to ensure that SRO hotels and public housing projects are some of the first to receive the devices because residents there typically don’t have Internet access. Five public housing projects now have the technology, and 13 more are expected to have it by the end of the year, Newsom said.
The work that folks like Westervelt and Towers are doing in the city is great, but they can’t do it on their own. In San Francisco, it looks like some initiative on the part of the city in fostering a healthy business relationship with a start-up company (read: not Earthlink) was the key to getting something substantial to happen.