Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Municipal wireless - why should you care?

What would you do with "affordable" wifi in your office? Or your home? Do you think your city should support the deployment of city-wide wireless access for all residents (and not just those in swanky neighborhoods?)?

CompuMentor thought about it (scroll down to "What's New"- PDF version of our response is here), and what we've come up with is, I think interesting. Because it's less about whether or not the city should invest in Wifi or not (it looks like wireless will become available in a lot of metropolitan areas whether it's provided by the city or by private enterprise) - but what is a city to do that's really going to help developing neighborhoods? Just provide wireless access? What about access to hardware? Wifi ain't nothing if you've got no laptop or desktop to connect it to (or wireless card....). What about tech support for communities at risk, so they can get a computer fixed at a subsidized rate? Sound like a good idea? Perhaps more effective than just providing low-cost or free wireless?

These are many of the questions being discussed right here in San Francisco, and around the nation as cities consider supporting municipal wireless. You can read the collected feedback on San Francisco's proposal here.

So why does it matter to you? You may or may not have a direct community development mission. Paying a monthly fee for DSL - whether it's $80 a month or $40 (or less?) may not make or break your organization.

All I can say is that I brought my laptop to my rehearsals a couple of times, and were it not for a random wireless access point (not provided by the theatre) I would not have been able to deliver a sample of the program to the folks who needed to reproduce it on time.... (And imagine if you could take photos of a set, put it up on Flickr, and get feedback from people without leaving the theatre....) Sure, these may be less "critical community needs" aspects of municipal wireless access, but Starbucks is not offering T-Mobile for under-served populations either. The idea is that municipal wireless can serve a broad range of needs. The question is - would you and your organization just want wireless access, or more? If more, what?


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