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Free WiFi Trend Continues

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the less-talk-more-action dept.

Wireless Networking 296

Palal writes "San Francisco is about to embark on a Free (or low cost) WiFi campaign with the mayor holding the reins, of course, in hopes of offering more low-income residents easier access to the Internet. Since San Francisco, unlike Philadelphia (previously covered on Slashdot for a similar project), is only 49 square miles, will this work here and can this be accomplished in a year as promised or is this just another political plot to get the Mayor re-elected?"

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296 comments

free good (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356017)

nice

Re:free good (4, Informative)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356101)

In your rush for FP, you neglected to RTFA, and the summary in incorrect in it's assertion of "free wifi."

FTFA: Free service for all is probably not in the cards, however. The mayor's statement on the TechConnect's Web site specifically calls for "affordable, wireless broadband access."

It may end up being low cost, but likely not free.

Re:free good (1)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356159)

Free (or low cost) In your rush to debunk FP, you neglected to RTS (read the summary), and the summary is correct in it's assertion that it is indeed not free.

Re:free good (2, Insightful)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356200)

You are correct! After I read the article and posted, I then proceeded to actually read the summary.

D'oh! *smacks self on forehead* :-)

Re:free good (4, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356464)

I wonder what the definition of "low cost" becomes when the taxpayer subsidy is included in the cost figures.

Politics (2, Funny)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356026)

Everything is politics. That you can be sure of.

As far as it working, I don't see why it wouldn't be possible. How will it conflict with Googles offering [slashdot.org] in the area?

low-income residents easier access to the Internet (5, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356027)

So people can afford a $400 Dell cheapass PC, but can't spring for a $5 a month Internet dialup connection?
Oh wait, I forgot that its the fault of the people on the 'have' side of the 'Digital Divide' that the other people can't get online. Our village is in shambles! I need a hug.

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356149)

*Hug*

I don't know how I ended up on your foes list. I couldn't agree with your post more.

-Peter

Three kinds of Free now. (5, Insightful)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356180)

When I saw the headline about the "Free WiFi trend", I foolishly assumed they were talking about actual free WiFi, like when a private resident or coffee shop opens up their 802.11g encryption so anybody in range is free to use it.

Sadly, they are talking about pre-billed, manditory WiFi, in which residents of a city are forced by the state to fund a WiFi connection with their taxes, whether they have better alternatives available or not.

Now it seems we need three different definitions for "Free":

1. Free as in "speech"
2. Free as in "beer"
3. Free as in "pay for it or go to jail"

Re:Three kinds of Free now. (1, Offtopic)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356226)

still not as bad as the mandatory recylcing program our county has. I have to pay for a service I have no intention of using 32.00 a year.

Re:Three kinds of Free now. (4, Insightful)

oringo (848629) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356254)

I would agree with you if the following things were true:

1. Electricity is free
2. Network bandwidth is free
3. Network maintainance is free
4. Network adminidstrators can live off air

So yah, shove your idealistic freedom and face the reality. Plus, TFA never mentioned anything like $5 fee. All I read was that the city hasn't made any financial commitment yet to the $18-20 million cost.

Re:Three kinds of Free now. (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356264)

Plus, TFA never mentioned anything like $5 fee.

Neither did I. Try to keep up.

Re:Three kinds of Free now. (-1, Flamebait)

m50d (797211) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356297)

This isn't insightful. Please, someone take the mod points away from the right-wing nutjob.

Liberal Translation Alert! (1)

justasecond (789358) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356335)


Liberal translation alert! "Right-wing nutjob" = poster has no coherent argument to parent's comment and has resorted to the standard left-wing namecalling playbook.

Re:Three kinds of Free now. (0)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356351)

This isn't insightful. Please, someone take the mod points away from the right-wing nutjob.

So now you are a right-wing nutjob if you point out that "tax funded" and "free" are not exactly the same thing? I know a lot of democrats who will be shocked to learn that they are right-wing nutjobs. I can hardly wait to tell them the news.

You are one of those people who complains to the letters page of the Villiage Voice that Howard Dean isn't being combative enough, aren't you?

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (5, Insightful)

Joseph_V (908814) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356184)

Low income families normally get ahold of a second-hand computer for far less that $400, more on the order of $20-50. Pop in a wireless card for $20 and they have the capability to file taxes, read email, download sweet linux images, and browse pr0n with the best of us! (for under $50). That is only 2 months of the cheapest broadband you can get.

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356332)

Low income families normally get ahold of a second-hand computer for far less that $400, more on the order of $20-50.

I agree. Heck, that's what I do. I've bought a couple servers and several desktop computers for about that price, though the monitor was extra. Spare monitors can be had for $20 ea.

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356202)

Low income residents can often get free or near free pcs that are donated. So yes, compared to free, $5 is expensive. It's also not wireless.

Insightful? (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356220)

Where does it say anywhere that the "haves" are at fault? Maybe this is implied by the fact that their tax money will be used to build it. I don't think that implies fault, though.

Is a $400 Dell the only option for low income families? No. Computers are available for much less. I've been the recipient of a free computers, and my income isn't even low.

Is a dial-up connection the equivalent of a broadband wifi connection? No. Broadband is faster and doesn't tie up their phone line - assuming they have a phone line. Broadband provides more opportunity. Ever download a 600 MB linux ISO at 56k? How about a several megabyte PDF for online classes?

Re:Insightful? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356362)

Anonymous becuase it's not PC, but also it's true.

I work in this field. sometimes.

they have phone lines.

they have cars, despite public transit within 2 blocks of their subsizized apartments or half-price homes (by comparison I have no car, despite public transit within 8 blocks of my apartment)

and what infuriates me the most is that they have cable tv at 60-100/month

make your own judgements. i have.

they don't need subsidies or freebies. they need to decide what their priorities are, and then be left with the consequences of making those decisions.

enough already. this is not a useful kind of charity.

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356247)

So people can afford a $400 Dell cheapass PC, but can't spring for a $5 a month Internet dialup connection?

Actually, certain organisations in Philadelphia give computers to the poor, but one of the main gripes was that the poor couldn't afford to do anything with them. Still the $5 dial up access is less than the $20 that Philly is going to offer for wireless, but if you take a look at the major ISP prices (Earthlink... AOL...) for dial up that it's about the same cost. Do you think the poor are going to hunt the net and search for a no-named mom and pop ISP that they haven't seen advertising on? They'll be luck to see a Net Zero add.

And personally, I'm all for a city wide Wifi because not only will I keep my Comcast cable connection, but I can afford a wireless connection for only $20 more so I can haul a laptop anywhere in the city and have an internet connection.

Hell if it works right I can haul a computer to Tatooed Mom's On South Street and drink a PBR and post to slashdot... Although that might get dangerous after the 6th one.

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356276)

Oh wait, I forgot that its the fault of the people on the 'have' side of the 'Digital Divide' that the other people can't get online.

Hey, why don't YOU try getting the phone company to run DSL out to your alienware PC in your cardboard box?

I predict that if the housing market goes belly-up, San Francisco (and many other parts of California) are going to start looking like Tokyo: people wake up in the park in the morning, put on their suit, and go to work. They'll be homeless, but not because they're shiftless bums who can't get a job, but because they lost their house when their interest-only mortgage blew up in their face. Hell, it took years of resistance after the dotcom crash to lower the sale price of houses in the silicon valley... "economy" means nothing in real-estate, if you can't get the price you want for the house, they'll just let it sit empty until they can. We'll see that happen again as people prop up home values as long as possible, making sure even the well-off have to pay exorbitant amounts that the economy can't bear, just to get a house.

But hey, it's in the city's best interest to let stupid people destroy the local economy. Freedom and all that.

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (1)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356311)

I wonder how this will work if Santorum's prohibition on the "gov't doing things private industry can do" thingie.
All the resistance to this has come from the current broadband providers.
I don't think the only issue is using your PC at home or at starbucks etc, I think that once we blanket the country with wifi- we will see nav and entertainment systems delivered to cars etc. by wifi.
This is why I wouldn't buy sattelite radio stock- I think around the time they reach profitability, the country will be blanketed in wifi, making them irrelevant.
Couldn't the current cell phone infastructure handle nationwide wifi?

Affordability... (2, Funny)

sterno (16320) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356327)

Okay, so are there people who:

1) Can afford a $400 Dell
2) Can't afford Internet access
3) CAN AFFORD TO LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO

Re:low-income residents easier access to the Inter (1)

crashclay (907177) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356337)

It seems to me that if they can't afford wireless, then odds are they can't afford a pc. So what good is going to do to give them internet access for *free* if they don't have a pc that is wi-fi capable?

Gotta Love Canada (5, Informative)

Godboy_g (794101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356030)

They should get local business to participate, they could share the cost, and make it more avilable to end users. That's what they do in my city. We've had free Wifi for over a year now, and they're constantly expanding the coverage. currently it's most of the city. See the following for details: http://www.fred-ezone.ca/index.php [fred-ezone.ca]

Re:Gotta Love Canada (2, Informative)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356089)

The Rincon Center in the financial district (corner of Speare and Mission) offers free wifi during the week.

Free as in Drugs (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356032)

Yeah.. it is free until you are hooked.. Then they jack the prices up.

Re:Free as in Drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356153)

How long `til you see homeless people sucking...err..things for wifi?

Low income residents in San Francisco (3, Insightful)

coflow (519578) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356036)

This must be a joke. Last I read, the median income for an SF resident was $160,000. I guess this means SF is looking out for those who are unfortunate enough to only earn $125,000 per year?

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (1)

pointbeing (701902) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356093)

This must be a joke. Last I read, the median income for an SF resident was $160,000. I guess this means SF is looking out for those who are unfortunate enough to only earn $125,000 per year?

If you only made $125k a year you'd have a tough time living in SF proper.

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (4, Insightful)

BrynM (217883) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356124)

This must be a joke. Last I read, the median income for an SF resident was $160,000. I guess this means SF is looking out for those who are unfortunate enough to only earn $125,000 per year?
You, my friend, obviously don't live here. Walking a couple blocks without being spare changed is a luxury. There are far more crackheads and poor in the Tenderloin than people that make six figures on the entire peninsula. I see kids in the TL every day who need to see more of the world than the people smoking and selling themselves on the street.

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (1)

coflow (519578) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356154)

No, you're correct, I don't. But I've read in several places that there is an extremely high median income there. I've also spoken to friends who have bought houses there, and it's certainly not cheap, nor is the rent apparently. It seems silly to me that the mayor would think giving away $5 to $10 wireless would really help anybody.

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (2, Interesting)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356221)

I'm only semi-joking, but have you considered the homeless people who have laptops? I've read of people who are living out of their cars in the bay area after losing their house. Without connectivity, they'd have a hard time finding a decent job. Keep in mind that this is an area where you can't just get a job at McDonalds to pay rent while you look for a better job. I'm sure the real goal is to make wireless connectivity more convenient for the people who can afford to pay for it, but others can benefit as well.

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (1)

maelstrom (638) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356355)

Oh come on thats just asinine. If someone was in that position, somewhere like the public library would be a great resource for job hunting on the Internet.

If they are concerned about the homeless, why not spend the money on shelters, food, or even the creation of jobs?

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (1)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356454)

Are you under the impression that politicians do things for well thought out and logical reasons? Here I just thought they did things that sounded good and would look good as bullet points on a future campaign. I'm not saying I think that's a good reason to do this, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone tried to claim something similar. Most people wallowing in decadence can't relate to what would really help all the little people.

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356314)

You, my friend, obviously don't live here. Walking a couple blocks without being spare changed is a luxury. There are far more crackheads and poor in the Tenderloin than people that make six figures on the entire peninsula. I see kids in the TL every day who need to see more of the world than the people smoking and selling themselves on the street.

So, in San Fran you have three groups of people:

1. The super-rich, living in the larger of those pretty houses that overlook the bay.

2. The upper-middle class, doing well enough to live in a $600,000 matchbox of a house, and happy enough with it that they won't move to a place where the cost of living is lower.

3. Homeless crack-heads, who are lucky if they can afford a change of clothes.

Of those three groups, which one needs state-funded WiFi? Because I don't see it.

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (1)

NilObject (522433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356374)

So the pop-locker on crates is going to use my change to buy a PowerBook so he can explore the world? Probably not. Same for the homeless kids.

If you can afford to live under a roof in SF, you can probably afford a connection to the internet. If you can't, tough. It's called "not being rich". Those who live in relative poverty aren't going to have a nice shiny modern computer with a 802.11 card anyways.

If you ask me, the money wasted on this program should go to programs like 826 Valencia[1], which is an open-door writing and reading center that lets any kid come in and expand their world through writing.

Maybe S.F. could fund open computer centers for kids? After-school programs? Soup kitchens? Unicorn programs?

[1] http://826valencia.org/ [826valencia.org]

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (4, Informative)

angle_slam (623817) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356127)

Last I read, the median income for an SF resident was $160,000.

Slightly off . . . by more than $100k. According to the census [ca.gov] , the median household income in San Francisco is $55k.

Re:Low income residents in San Francisco (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356197)

Maybe you should learn how to read because your sense of money is a joke.

From the San Francisco article [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia:

"The median income for a household in the city is $55,221, and the median income for a family is $63,545. Males have a median income of $46,260 versus $40,049 for females. The per capita income for the city is $34,556."

MY MISTAKE (0, Flamebait)

coflow (519578) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356248)

I stand corrected, my apologies. What I have read in the past is that based on the median HOME PRICE in SF, a homeowner would have to earn ~160 per year. I realize this was a mistake on my part, and for those of you who seem infinitely offended, I offer my heartiest apologies. I didn't realize I would ruin your day.

too bad (2, Insightful)

tont0r (868535) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356037)

Too bad [slashdot.org] this didnt work here. And mostly because no one knew about the free service.As a resident of Orlando, I definitely didnt have a clue. I hope that in time it will be reconsidered. Too bad we canned this before it started catching on.

Re:too bad (1)

saider (177166) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356141)

Orlando is too spread out. The system was deployed in the Lake Eola area, where most (relatively wealthy) people already have faster and better connections. About the only benefit to the system was so that a few yuppies near the park could get internet on their lunchbreaks. They came nowhere near providing inexpensive access for the poor. If they wanted that, they would have placed it over by the Arena.

Even if you advertised the hell out of it, 95% of the tax paying residents of the county could not access it. And if they expanded coverage, then the bill would have skyrocketed.

Politics as Usual (1, Offtopic)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356038)

or is this just another political plot to get the Mayor re-elected?

Isn't everything a mayor does a plot to get re-elected? I'll believe in altruism when he's paying for it out of his own pocket, rather than out of the taxpayer's.

OTOH, this would sure reduce the incentive for War Driving. And I would like to know what this will do to existing networks.

Re:Politics as Usual (1)

Skidge (316075) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356070)

Isn't it really the mayor's job, when you boil it down, to plot to get re-elected? That's really the only incentive that a mayor has, even one in it for altruistic purposes--more than one term gives them more time to make the world (or city) a better place.

Re:Politics as Usual (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356243)

In this particular case, it's probably not much of an incentive: Mayor Gavin Newsom has a sky-high approval rating. He will be elected over and over again.

He handily beat the green party candidate in his first election, and it's only going to get easier. He married gay people, dammit. San Francisco loves him as much as we love puppies.

Re:Politics as Usual (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356244)

Isn't it really the mayor's job, when you boil it down, to plot to get re-elected? That's really the only incentive that a mayor has, even one in it for altruistic purposes--more than one term gives them more time to make the world (or city) a better place.

What about presidents? I mean... Bush, right now... he *knows* he can't get re-elected (no more than 2 terms).

What is his incentive to not be a total fuckup?

Re:Politics as Usual (1)

hungrygrue (872970) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356078)

So if an elected official does anything for the good of the community that they represent (which is their job), then it is a "political plot"? Wow, that attitude ought to really encourage people to serve.

Gay Marriage. (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356257)

The guy who brought gay marriage to San Francisco needs free wifi to get re-elected?

His fate has already been decided one way or the other.

Re:Politics as Usual (1)

dbrower (114953) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356259)

plot to get re-elected?

Probably not; Newsom is close to a lock anyway. Unless there is a kickback/corruption scandal associated with this project, it probably won't affect his support in any meaningful way. He probably just thinks its a good idea.

The dude is really well liked in The City as it is.

-dB

How? (3, Insightful)

Antimatter3009 (886953) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356040)

I still don't understand how they're going to cover that much area using current technology. The signal just isn't good enough. The only way I can see this being possible is if they use WiMax or something like that.

Re:How? : In other news.... (1)

flatass (866368) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356345)

The city of San Francisco is reportedly looking at using street light technology to light the city street at nights...

Residents are concerned... "How are they going to cover all the street in light with just one streetlight? A flood ligth might work better..."

Re:How? (1)

Palal (836081) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356452)

We have HILLS! And if you place wifi points on hills, you can easily save money in terms of coverage. That's what cell phone companies do.

Political plot? (4, Insightful)

tarp (95957) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356041)

I don't think the vast majority of the population cares enough about WiFi to vote for a particular candidate based on that. Yes, San Francisco has more techies per square mile than most American cities, but I'd wager that this isn't a political move. Promising better schools, better roads, public transportation, less crime... those are political moves. Free WiFi, feasible or not, is NOT going to win votes. Most of the computer geeks are too busy playing CS in their parent's basements to hit the polls anyway. (not a troll, but based on my actual observations!)

Again (1)

cmdrTacyo (899875) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356043)

This comment is almost first
Mod me down and I won't curse but you'll end up in a hearse
No way it could be worse
Now cats talkin bout free wi-fi
SPread my album over it or else I'll-Cry
Hitting stores soon with slashdot rhyming
No waiting it's crash dot rhyming
GOnna get slashdotted as it goes platinum
Gonna have to mirrordot it as it starts flashin

A failing of American Liberalism (3, Insightful)

setzman (541053) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356044)

Do these low-income residents have PCs with wireless capabilities? Or does the SF government give them to the poor residents? Don't you think they have higher priorities than free WiFi, maybe food/shelter/clothing/etc?

Re:A failing of American Liberalism (1)

tont0r (868535) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356082)

While I'll agree, they should care more if they have food/shelter/clothing, but there is still a boundry between not being able to afford luxuries and damn near close to being on the streets. I think its nice that people who might be able to spring for a cheap computer can now afford internet. Especially now that you can get one for around $200-$400. In fact, there are some places where you can get a internet capable computer for damn near close to free from charities. So its sorta nice that families with kids can now get a computer with an internet connection.

Re:A failing of American Liberalism (2, Insightful)

Bimo_Dude (178966) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356174)

While I too agree with the GP regarding food/shelter/clothing, I do think that by providing wifi (and hopfully computers with which to use it) to those less fortunate would give them access to many resources that had been previously out of their reach.

Their kids will be able to do better in school (provided they don't always play games), and maybe the kids and the parents may be able to learn skills that would provide them a better standard of living. It could well be a good way out of "the hole" for them.

Re:A failing of American Liberalism (2, Insightful)

saider (177166) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356218)

From what I have heard, at least from our local politicians, this is a marketing ploy to show the world what how techno-cool your city is. Mayors tend to have these grandiose schemes that they feel will have people clamoring to get into their city. This extra publicity and talk may attract more tourists and businesses to the area, which ultimately boosts tax revenue. Not because they have free wifi, but because everyone is simply talking about City X.

The poor rarely benefit from government programs. More often than not the programs simply make life slightly more bearable instead of actually improving their lives.

Re:A failing of American Liberalism (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356474)

More often than not the programs simply make life slightly more bearable instead of actually improving their lives.

Making someone's life more bearable is not improving it?

Re:A failing of American Liberalism (1)

lightningrod220 (705243) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356489)

San Francisco must be fairly "techno-cool", since Apple has their developer conference there every summer, and Steve Jobs is always keynoting that. Several thousand Powerbooks would need something to connect to, right? Oh... and the fact that SF isn't too far from Cupertino. That might be a good part of a marketing ploy to keep Apple coming.

Don't be cynical (5, Insightful)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356065)

Whether or not a politician's actions are based on his desire to get re-elected, I think it is imperative that we support initiatives that are what we would like. In the long run, giving credit for a certain thing to a politician is just part of how history works.

It's not the engineers who get the credit for bringing forth new technologies, it's the managers who do. So too do the politicians get credit for the work of their underlings. The main point is that the benefits are realized, not that someone who had a leadership role gets all the credit.

So yeah, let's get San Francisco unwired up (is that the right way to say it?)! If it works there, at a reasonable cost, maybe we can get initiatives moving in other big cities. The internet is one of those utilities that ought to be available to anyone looking for it. Putting the government in charge of distribution may not be the best choice, but it is a quick fix until private enterprise can compete.

Re:Don't be cynical (1)

hshana (657854) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356347)

Um private companies are competing. Ever heard of NetZero. It's government allowed monopolies that block access and keep the prices higher than they should be that is the problem. Giving it away for free (at the taxpayers' expense) isn't going to make it cheaper or better...

Re:Don't be cynical (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356475)

To my knowledge, NetZero isn't providing wireless network services. I am not in SF, so I don't have any firsthand knowledge, though.

But I don't think there's anything preventing the government from working with private companies in setting up these wireless networks. Whether the government provides subsidies to the providers, or whether the government turns management of the networks totally over to the private sector, there isn't really anything that prevents this from being a profitable, private enterprise.

We aren't talking about communism here. Government policies do not necessarily have to restrict private enterprise.

who is this really for? (4, Interesting)

AnonymousJackass (849899) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356068)

Here's what concerns me about this. Offering free wireless is going to cost money (obviously). Is this really how low-income families would like that money to be spent? Wouldn't they prefer cheaper health care? Better accomodation? Nicer schools? Nicer communities? Did someone actually poll these people and say "we've got $XXXX to spend on you guys -- what do you want?" and the low-income people say "ooh free-wireles would make our lives so much better!"

I'm not trolling -- honest! I just wonder if this isn't, as the blurb suggests, more about PR for the mayor than actually helping people.

Re:who is this really for? (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356113)

It blows my mind that US is complaining about the lack of finance available for lighting up the dark fibre underground.

Then here we are, providing a free service. Isn't this another political stunt?!

Re:who is this really for? (1)

DK777 (908817) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356144)

I think that it is quite clear as to who this is going to benefit the most, and it isn't the low-income earners. However, historically it hasn't been the low-income earners who cast the most ballots.

Re:who is this really for? (0, Flamebait)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356262)

Or how about free electricity, free water and sewer, etc. I don't really understand why Slashdot groupthink is that the government should supply free broadband when all of the aforementioned services are pretty much basic necessities in the modern world and have a much bigger impact on quality of life, yet no one is suggesting they be made free. I think lower income families would appreciate that alot more.

Giving it away? (3, Interesting)

hshana (657854) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356069)

Usually when the big telcos/ISP's say that muni-wifi is anti-competitive, I tend to laugh. Why would SF need to do this as a city? NetZero already offers free internet access. Is that access not deemed sufficient or fast enough by the city? Do less affluent people really need to watch TV over their computers? One of the nice things about living in a major metropolitan area is that you can usually walk to the library or get there easily. I can see offering free access in the library, but to the whole city?

What About Topography (1)

ndansmith (582590) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356080)

Covering 49 square miles in Iowa would be nice and easy. But San Francisco? The topography may present a challenge.

Re:What About Topography (2, Interesting)

rivvah (593732) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356363)

This can't be stated enough -- we already have massive problems with cell coverage in this city, I can walk two blocks from my current location and go from 6 bars of signal to 0 bars, dead. All carriers, all areas, if it ain't flat it has problems.

Two questions:

- how is coverage in this hilly city going to be addressed?
- how are you going to keep from stomping on existing networks (11 APs in range at work, 9 in range where I sit right now) like sflan?

The idea is good, but it's going to have some serious hurdles. But all in all we like Gavin, he tries to do good things.

Re:What About Topography (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356500)

Ah, so what you are saying is the Free Market (TM)(R)(C 2005) that exists in wireless phone service has failed to provide you with good service? I'm shocked. Surely the slashbot libertarian parrots will be unable to appreciate the nuance of your situation.

If its going to be done, SF is the one to do it. (2, Informative)

Suburbanpride (755823) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356091)

San francisco is really a pretty small city, at least compared to some place like LA. Getting completle wireless coverage to the importnat areas ( downtown, the hisght, the filmore, noe valley, the castro.) wouldn't be to hard. although to get every inch of the city woudl be a bit more of a chalenge.

It would certianly look good on a mayors resume to say that he provided the whole city with internet access, but for some reason I have a feeling that the people who would benefit most from this are the upper middle class who already have wireless enable commputers. I don't see this doing a lot for those who can't already aford access themsleves.

Re:If its going to be done, SF is the one to do it (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356369)

important areas (downtown, the haight, the fillmore, noe valley, the castro.)

Nah. The "important areas" are SOMA, the Marina, Pacific Heights, China Basin (the new biotech area), Telegraph Hill/Union Square, and Fisherman's Wharf.

Re:If its going to be done, SF is the one to do it (1)

NilObject (522433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356398)

...I have a feeling that the people who would benefit most from this are the upper middle class who already have wireless enable commputers.


But those who can afford wireless-enabled computers already have internet connections. So, this benefits... Almost no one!

Well, tourists. Tourists might be able to get something out of this. But we just wardrive anyways.

Re:If its going to be done, SF is the one to do it (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356481)

Well, let's see: the police department, the fire department, the DPT, the DPW, MUNI, the libraries, and the schools. All these can cancel their existing expensive proprietary licensed radio other telecommunications service in favor of cheap commericial off-the-shelf technology.

Two problems... (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356431)

1. "It would certianly look good on a mayors resume to say that he provided the whole city with internet access, but..."

...it would be patenly false. The mayor isn't giving anything. Taxpayers are.

2. "the people who would benefit most from this are the upper middle class who already have wireless enable commputers. I don't see this doing a lot for those who can't already aford access themsleves."

Hence defeating the original intent of the mayor's generosity.

So what this really comes down to is a taxpayer-funded campaign for the mayor.

802.11n (1)

SunCrushr (153472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356110)

It would be smart to wait for the official release of the 802.11n spec, as it promises many advantages to a MAN (Metropolitan Area Network), including higher speed, more throughput per client, more clients per AP, and much larger coverage by each AP.

I wouldn't begin implementation of such a project until official spec equipment for 802.11n is ready to be tested, not this Pre-n stuff either, but the real deal.

The best thing about municipal wifi (1)

hungrygrue (872970) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356128)

is that it is useful only in the urban core where population densities are high enough to make use of it. The cost to user ratio in the suburbs and exurbs would make such a project far from attractive. Almost anything that helps to bring people to and keep people in the downtown core is worth trying.

Re:The best thing about municipal wifi (1)

Raelus (859126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356161)

However, on the flip side, you're going to have quite a few windows users connected who have no firewall and NetBIOS enabled...not that brillant of an idea.

Free access (2, Insightful)

matt me (850665) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356145)

By free access, as before, we may soon discover that their 'full access to The Internet' is blocking every port but 80.

Re:Free access (1)

baadger (764884) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356372)

And blocking all outgoing connections to websites that aren't family friendly?

How are you going to stop young kids seeing things they shouldn't if people in the streets can surf pr0n? Rely on personal responsibility? NEVER! :o

Sour Grapes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356213)

I see alot of cynics dissing this proposal, but in SF, it actually could work.

The area is small enough, the populace is affluent and liberal enough to want to stick it to corporate interests, just for the sake of sticking it to them! This proposal will be hard to stop, once it gets going...

Personally, I would like to GET something tangible in return for all the money that I give to the city/county of San Francisco in taxes, parking fines, etc.

Could it be that some slashdotters just don't want to see somebody get something for free that they HAVE to pay throught the nose for?

yeah, politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356231)

since the whole gay-marriage thing didn't quite work out for him, he's doing the 2nd most important thing to SF residents by giving them free access to the internets :rolleyes:

What is all this going to result in? (3, Interesting)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356279)

All of these people are putting up free WiFi access with different levels of service. Some only allow web and mail, others are wide open and still others only provide custom content with no access to outside resources. Individually this is all fine and dandy. But, if WiFi is slated to be the "next internet" as a lot of people like to claim that it is, we need a lot more standardization than we have. Not to mention that there are a lot of people who are working very hard to try and stamp out these initiatives because it hurts or could hurt their businesses (telcos, cell phone providers, cable and satellite operators).

It's nice to see the free hotspots popping up here and there, but other than checking mail and looking at some web content, how useful is it? Why isn't there a national or global cooperative that would define the services that hotspots should offer in order to create a truly national or global network that parallels the internet? How do we keep the telcos and their ilk from ruining this? It's not like they're going to die overnight because landlines are still going to be necessary for several reasons, with bandwidth and reliability being the most important.

Keep the free WiFi coming, but really what does it all mean? It's not like this is becoming anything particularly useful yet.

Politeracy (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356293)

Oh, no, actually leveraging the critical mass of the city into a more economical and reliable public service isn't the way for a mayor to get reelected. No, that's just politics. Like publishing stories about a candidate's qualifications and record, right in the middle of the election, when everyone is paying attention, trying to decide who to vote for. Sleazy political ploys.

No, reelections are legitimately based only on glowing recommendations from paid actors, speeches from pulpits subsidized with "faith-based initiaves", and strutting flight suits. That's our democracy: demediocracy.

Free Wifi (1)

gkozlyk (247448) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356323)

We sure could use Free Wifi up here in Vancouver. If we had that and a Wifi phone using VoIP, then i could drive over my cellphone and save $50 a month too!

politics? hah! (4, Insightful)

aggieben (620937) | more than 8 years ago | (#13356357)

Don't kid yourself. While internet access is the lifeblood of any geek...

geeks are a underwhelming minority of any general population, particularly among the uneducated (and one assumes that the uneducated largely have lower incomes than those who are educated and therefore concludes that low-income residents of a city would have an even smaller proportion of geeks than the city at large).

Far, far more people are interested in how much in taxes they pay each year. Offering free wifi would certainly have an impact on those figures.

How, then, does offering free wifi help him politically (other than for brownie points with an interest group here or there)?

I don't know who the mayor is or what his ideological positions are, and I also don't care. I just thought I'd point out that ./ shouldn't make the mistake of thinking something is far more important than it really is.

Free WiFi Trend Continues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13356422)

What a statement.

There have been more retreats from Free WiFi than advancements lately.
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