Will we ever go wireless?

Today we can all breathe a sigh of relief as the attempt to change the way California’s electoral college vote is counted has apparently collapsed. But never let it be said that we don’t have enough issues to worry about. San Francisco’s painfully slow attempt to become a wireless city also seems to have collapsed. A thoughtful column in Slate.com points to some of the reasons why offering wireless access to all residents has not worked well in any of the cities that tried it. As frequently happens, city government has learned again that there is no free lunch. Providing free access throughout a city requires expensive infrastructure and no one is willing to pay for it. The phone and cable companies already have that infrastructure in place, so they can offer service for less than a municipality or a public/private partnership can provide. Many people can well afford to pay for their own access, the real problem is providing access for those who cannot fund their own. That’s government’s real job–leveling the playing field. Let’s turn our attention to that instead of worrying about building a whole new system.

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