What if Apple brought universal wifi to San Francisco
With plans for municipal Wifi at a standstill, Josh Wolf suggests that Apple step in.
While San Francisco's plan for municipal wifi may have stalled after Earthlink decided to abandon the project amidst corporate restructuring, the city's desire for free city-wide wifi was affirmed on November 6 when 62% of voters voiced their support for the original proposal. It's unclear whether the city will ever get their free wifi, but the city has voiced their desire to be able to log in anytime, anywhere and there do seem to be a few ways for this to still happen even without Earthlink on board.It sounds silly, but San Francisco is Apple country. With a combined area of just 7x7 miles, there are three Apple Retail Stores (one of which just opened this past Friday) that are almost always crowded, Macbooks seem to outnumber PCs at every coffee shop, and the iPhones was already ubiquitous the moment it launched. With the iPod Touch being dependent on accessible wifi and the iPhone stiffled by AT&T's slow network speeds, San Francisco seems like the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how powerful these gadgets can be in a city with universal wireless access. The benefits for Apple would be significant. Those living in San Francisco would have another incentive to upgrade to an iPod Touch or the iPhone, and the PR opportunities would be enormous. Apple's market share in the bay area would continue to climb, and the company would be able to push their airport technology and continue to build their global brand in association with San Francisco. Of course, Apple would probably be disinclined to jump into this endeavor alone. There are a number of companies that are obvious choices to partner with Apple in connecting the entire city, but none of them have the same caliber of support amongst bay area residents. Google could easily come on as a partner: they have the ad network that could make the initiative sustainable, but the privacy concerns that plagued the first iteration would obviously continue. AT&T is another possibility, but their track record is far spottier than Google's; many people in San Francisco wouldn't feel comfortable surfing on an AT&T network, but the telco is probably the most natural partner for such a project.