Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

March 24, 2008

Is Universal WiFi Dead?

by @ 2:18 pm. Filed under Technology

A year ago I was excited when I read that Philadelphia intended to provide free or low cost WiFi to all its residents.And I was even more excited when I read that Philadelphia’s idea spread…shortly other cities like San Francisco, Houston and Chicago followed. Unfortunately, Sunday’s New York Times burst my bubble. The paper ran an article warning of the possible demise of universal, affordable WiFi. EarthLink sounded the “death knell”. A year ago EarthLink agreed to be the main Internet Service Provider for most of these experiments…at a profit of course. Unfortunately, in February EarthLink withdrew from the project leaving its partner cities hanging (or so they think). According to the NYT EarthLink announced “the operations of municipal WiFi assets were no longer consistent with the company’s strategic direction”. Wow, why such a radical change from a company that even outbid Google for the right to make wireless available in San Francisco? …First, it seems EarthLink under-estimated the cost of building a “good” wireless network. As an example…in Philly, it took more routers than expected to provide a “dependable connection” throughout the city. Second, market conditions drove the price of all Internet connections far lower than anyone ever expect. This forced EarthLink to lower its municipal prices also. And finally…Garry Betty, EarthLink CEO passed away in January. Betty was a strong advocate of universal, affordable WiFi. So where do we go from here?…According to the Time’s article many experts feel that US cities must adopt a model similar to European cities such as Athens and Vienna. These huge municipalities provide free or affordable connection through a system owned and operated by the city itself. I wonder if the time will ever come when officials in the US see the cultural and educational benefits of providing free Internet access to everyone. We can only hope.

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