New York Considering Muni-WiFi?

from the isn't-there-enough? dept

It seems like these days every city feels the need to explore muni-WiFi. It’s a hot political topic. As we’ve said repeatedly in the past, most of the efforts to stop muni-WiFi are coming from incumbent telcos (or, rather, incumbent-paid-for think tanks) with lots of misleading statements. However, that doesn’t mean that muni-WiFi is absolutely a good thing in all situations. In many cases, it’s probably unnecessary, and it still seems questionable to make use of WiFi in this manner, as it’s not well designed for wide-area coverage. Yet, the latest to start exploring the idea of muni-WiFi is New York City. The arguments for universal access to broadband make sense, but I was just in Manhattan, and almost everywhere I went the problem wasn’t too little WiFi, but too much. Where I was staying, I could spot nearly 30 access points. The problem there isn’t that we need muni-WiFi, it’s that all that WiFi causes plenty of interference and makes it nearly impossible for anyone to get on any of the access points. Muni-broadband can make sense in places where people aren’t being offered service and can clearly use it. It’s likely that there are parts of the city that don’t have quite as much WiFi as the places I looked. It can make sense for the government to offer up real estate for access points or fiber to help provide broadband service — but there needs to be a clear reason for them to do so. At the same time, they should make sure that the technology they decide to use really makes sense for the job it’s being given.

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Comments on “New York Considering Muni-WiFi?”

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Thomas Aabo says:

muni wifi

Surprised to find a voice against muni-Wifi on these pages. There should be no doubt that a city-wide network potentially enabling ALL residents free (or ad-supported) internet access is a benefit to any city or area. Imagine the countless credit-challenged and low-income segments that would finally be granted internet access. Imagine the growth in new business opportunities as wifi becomes wide-spread and VOIP and a myriad of next generation services and devices will be enabled by a visionary municipality.
We have access to about 12 WIFI networks from our office and have never had problems with connectivity or interference.
Too much of a good thing does not seem to apply here – the only reason to not support muni-Wifi seem still to be resting with incumbents dreading the disappearance of revenue-streams.

Rafael Junquera says:

Muni Wi-Fi

If you provide free Wi-Fi for people who can afford a computer and the service, who are we really benefiting? As much as I would like to see free Wi-Fi all around my area, I think that if roads, for example, are built for free [tax dollars] by the goverment, then with free Wi-Fi there should be public computers [public transportation] and a bunch of other services to really help those unable to afford both acces to the Internet and a computer. If it is just to help us, those who can pay for it, then we could be creating a negative scenario instead of a positive one.

LaidLaw says:

I wonder

I wonder if the worry is really going to be a problem? I just have to think that muni Wi-Fi will be like everything else that a government tries to do. It will very quickly outdate itself, and those who are regular users, would probably end up buying their own connection from broadband providers as any muni system would be pretty crowded with users looking for a free ride. While it would be nice to sit on a subway and check email, I dont’ know that I would want to give up my home network.

sbeebe (user link) says:

Muni WiFi

I see no issues with city sponsored wifi as long as:
it is a competitive market, ie, the city doesn’t grant themselves a monopoly.
That should take care of concerns about the service becoming outdated or not meeting consumer needs. And you shouldn’t have to give up your home network. It sure would be nice to be able to jump on the internet from anywhere – and have some choice about whose service to use.

mike says:

Muni WiFI (especially New York)

Think subways. Buses. Clear signal in the canyons.
Couple with GPS: where am I? how do I get from here to there? What can I buy near here? All the cool things that could (but aren’t) being done with WiFi are magnified enormously in NYC.News and video coverage (including amateurs) would be greatly enhanced. And NY is more than Manhattan (in case anyone has forgotten). A city-wide mesh could easily be financed by location specific advertising.
Great idea.

scott says:


First the government will give away Wifi for free. Then the companies that charge for Wifi go out of business. Then the government will control the internet, read all your email,and will watch everything you do online, and will ban you if you criticize them, or spread unpopular views. The internet will then turn into a source of freedom to another tool to control the populace. Look at libraries. There used to be pay libraries, but they went out of business when the government libraries came. And the government watches what books you read. Ask the unibomber about that one. Same with schools. No private schools can compete with a free service, and the government schools teach kids that government is the answer. bye bye freedom on the internet!

Kayza Kleinman (user link) says:

Not necessarily WiFi

What the hearing ahve been about is NOT WiFi, but about making broadband more accessible. On the last hearing, which preceded the passage of the law authorizing this advisory comitee the the discussion was quite clear. Yes, there were several witnesses who were pushing WiFi, and the “Philadelphia model” to an extent, etc. But there were others pushing oehr echnologies. And, most importantly, there were several of us who spoke about the overall goal, and ured that the Comitee look at a variety of technologies.

I specifically spoke about the need to evaluate ALL technology, wired AND wireless – and the benefits of specificially looing at MULTIPLE technologies. WiFi has benthe technology of choice, because it’s easy to get up and running on a widesperad basis, and some of the folks doing this stuff are being rather clever about how they handle the problems, and sometiems even turn them into advantages. But, the people behind this bill are smart enough to know that just because Philadelphia chose this modl, as did smaller cities, ti does not man that it’s the right thing in this type of city.

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