Why no Wi-Fi?

The other day I was talking to a reporter about municipal Wi-Fi. He didn’t think it would ever work – as some claim it would – for several good reasons. First, living here in Boston (a city filled with old brick buildings), signal penetration would probably not be good enough for many people. Secondly, he pointed out that it might not be a government’s place to provide a no-cost alternative to a readily available commercial product or service. I guess I buy that, but here’s my beef.On Friday, I walked all over the city for various meetings. I started at the Deshpande Center over at MIT. A connection is available there, so far, so good. Next, I walked across the river for a lunch near the Public Garden. Now I know that the Park Plaza has free Wi-Fi so I was able to stop there to connect. Lunch though was another story. There were no open or fee-based networks for me to access. Finally I walked over to Kinsale, near Government Center. Again, I could see plenty of networks but none were accessible.

I’m not suggesting that people leave their networks open for just anyone to hop on and surf (though please feel free). But at this point, access is something that I take for granted. I’m willing to pay for it if need be but I expect to at least have that option. If the idea of municipal Wi-Fi is concerning for carriers, perhaps they could make an alternative available. Yes, EVDO is out there, but for incidental use, the cost just doesn’t make sense.

It surprises me that no carrier has looked at a city, identified the fewest number of points needed to provided the greatest reach of service and approached businesses (which may even be existing customers) about hosting a hot spot (for a cut). It needn’t be fast, just available at a reasonable cost when and where you need it.

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