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City Hall already paying price for free Wi-Fi

Cities across the country working on free Wi-Fi networks may soon wish they had given the idea a little more thought before announcing their ambitious plans. The problem is that, once people begin to think of wireless access as an assumed entitlement, they will complain that they are being cheated unless they their service is anything less than perfect--for free. Which is exactly what's starting to happen.


Politicians who gleefully touted their Wi-Fi plans are now realizing the technical complications involved in blanketing entire municipalities with free networks. And even though such issues as have been known from the outset, that isn't stopping citizens from complaining.

Political leaders are facing the same kind of problems that their predecessors encountered after rushing headlong into freeway expansion, high-rise constuction and other brick-and-mortar urban development that should have undergone more scrutiny before the jackhammers were fired up: They're building for the sake of building, without thinking through what's really needed.

As Dave Pokorney, city manager of Chaska, Minn., told "I've heard a lot of city officials say they want to have a Wi-Fi network. They don't know why they need it, but they want it. My advice to them is that the technology should fit the mission rather than the mission fitting the technology."

Blog community response:

"Not all users are on Cloud Nine in St. Cloud, Florida as the city assesses the first ever public Wi-Fi Network. One month later, grumblings about spotty coverage (so, what's new?) are mounting. The HP-built network was supposed to blanket the whole city and provide free Internet access to all residents. Did HP build the right expectations?"
--Spot Shopping Guide

"About that free Wi-Fi cloud... Hmmm... Let's see... Doesn't work well in a town of 28,000... Hey, let's do it right now in a city 20 times that size! Think big! Can you say 'linchpin'?"
--Jack Bog's Blog

"If the city wants to argue that this is a welfare offering to those who cannot afford it, let's describe it as such, and approach it as the city does with other services. Let the city provide Internet connectivity in public spaces, such as libraries and parks."
--The Only Republican in San Francisco