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Qualcomm co-founder: No tax dollars for Wi-Fi

Company chairman says private companies should be the ones that blanket cities with wireless networks.

WASHINGTON--Municipalities should leave the task of building Wi-Fi networks in the private sector's hands, the co-founder of Qualcomm said Tuesday.

"I don't think there's a ban required," Irwin Mark Jacobs, who recently retired as the company's CEO and now serves as its chairman, said during a luncheon speech here at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "But if I were voting in a municipality, I think I would not vote in favor of using tax funds to go ahead and compete with commercial services that are available and that are rapidly improving."

Many municipalities are

Jacobs also suggested that the practice of charging fees for individual hot spots will die out as "all you can eat" services that offer connectivity from anywhere become more widespread.

Since Qualcomm marks its 20th anniversary this year, Jacobs used Tuesday's speech primarily to reminisce about his company's early ventures--some of which required jaunts to the nation's capital--and to boast about the multimedia advances cell phones have made during his tenure (think camera phones).

"We didn't even have a particular product in mind when we started," Jacobs said. "Very quickly, luckily, we did come up with ideas that indeed have kept us busy ever since."

Back in 1988, that idea was CDMA, or code division multiple access, one of three major techniques cell phones use today to transmit signals digitally.

But before going ahead with the technology, the San Diego-based company had to see whether use of the network would fly with federal regulators here. "Over we trotted to the FCC and explained it," Jacobs said. "And that's when we found out simply that if you didn't disturb the analog network, it was up to the market to decide how to proceed ahead."

Looking to the company's future, "there is no area where we should make a larger investment than in education," Jacobs said. "I think Qualcomm's major limitation of growth over the years has been the ability to find and attract very good students who have the right kinds of backgrounds."