Google/Earthlink Lead The Pack For San Francisco's Non-Muni Muni-WiFi

from the moving-forward dept

While there's been some legitimate skepticism over the messy and haphazard process being used in San Francisco to set up a muni-WiFi offering, ever since Earthlink and Google teamed up on the bid, most people considered them the clear front-runners. So, it's barely worth mentioning that, indeed, the city has announced that the combined Earthlink/Google proposal makes the most sense. Of course, what's most interesting here is that it highlights how muni-WiFi is not really muni-WiFi. Almost every so-called "muni-WiFi" offering is really a commercial, for-profit, venture. The only "muni" aspect to it is that the city is handing over rights-of-way to place access points, demanding some measure of ubiquitous coverage and reasonable pricing for less well-off citizens while also looking for ways that public service officials can benefit from the service as well. The real question will be just how willing the winners of these systems will be to open their networks up to others. In this deal, Earthlink is effectively opening up the network they would build to Google to offer a free, ad-supported WiFi that would in some ways compete with Earthlink's own cheap, but still fee-based, WiFi. This is also the same model Earthlink is using in Philadelphia, where it has won that city's "muni-WiFi" bid. In a lot of ways, this makes the most sense. It doesn't make sense for every potential provider to go around getting the right-of-way rights and putting up access points -- but if the local government is going to let one commercial entity do so, why not allow them to let other providers offer service on that network at a reasonable price as the tradeoff? While we're still not convinced that muni-WiFi is the right technology for the job, it is good to see that the various muni-WiFi offerings are increasingly being agreed to under more reasonable terms than many critics originally envisioned.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    identicon
    Jason, Apr 5th, 2006 @ 8:16pm

    Pardon me Mr. Rockefeller

    "It doesn't make sense for every potential provider to go around getting the right-of-way rights and putting up access points"

    Or does it? I'm sorry but forgive me for not pointing what appears to be a monopoly in the making. It is not my intention here to explain capitalism in detail, but it is worth mentioning perhaps that it is based on this concept we like to call competition. Perhaps one would like some fortunate conglomerate to oversee the importation of petroyleum? Perhaps this would be of some convenience to the american consumer? Only in an environment that is contigent upon competition do consumers really benefit, muni or no muni.

     

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      Mike (profile), Apr 5th, 2006 @ 10:40pm

      Re: Pardon me Mr. Rockefeller

      I'm sorry but forgive me for not pointing what appears to be a monopoly in the making. It is not my intention here to explain capitalism in detail, but it is worth mentioning perhaps that it is based on this concept we like to call competition.

      Heh. If you read us often enough, it should be pretty damn clear that we believe strongly in free markets and competition. However, there is something called a natural monopoly. Allowing everyone to put up their own access points creates more problems and more expenses than it solves.

      And, in NO way does having muni rights of way create a monopoly on internet access. Already you have the ability to get DSL or cable. Increasingly there's cellular access wherever you need it as well. This is just one more method, but due to the low range of WiFi, it requires gov't approval for right of way.

      So, explain how this creates a monopoly?

      Petroleum import isn't a natural monopoly is it?

       

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    identicon
    jeremy, Apr 5th, 2006 @ 9:48pm

    ownerless wireless mesh

    It would serve readers well if they are concerned with these issues to check out the real alternative to muni and private networks...ownerless! See my page http://youarethenetwork.blogspot.com/

     

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    identicon
    teleken, Apr 6th, 2006 @ 6:44am

    fonforall

    Join us http://en.fon.com/ FON is a Global Community of people who share WiFi. Share your WiFi broadband access at home/work and enjoy FREE WiFi Access all over the world! FON, share locally, enjoy globally!

     

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      identicon
      Agonizing Fury, Apr 6th, 2006 @ 12:25pm

      Re: fonforall

      FON is great, except for the fact that you are more than likely violating your contract with your ISP. Most ISPs have restrictions that specifically state that you may not share your internet access. And guess what, although it's legally murky water, most of what I have read indicates that if you share your internet in violation of a contract, you can be held liable for the actions of other people using your Internet connection. The DCMA only covers legal ISPs. That said, if it weren't for the stupid restrictions in contract, I think FON is a great idea.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    aly, Apr 10th, 2006 @ 7:12am

    (__/)
    (='.'=) This is Bunny. Copy and paste Bunny into your
    (")_(") signature to help him gain World Domination.

     

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