Free WiFi works as a public service
Free WiFi is most viable when it’s run by municipalities instead of by outside companies, according to a Washington Post article by Kim Hart. You should click through to read it, but basically her piece says that some places started building their own networks to create jobs and boost their economy, then learned that these networks were useful for running their cities. They can support police, building inspectors, paramedics and other government services, after which the excess capacity can be sold to businesses and even residents. Free WiFi can be used to attract businesses and consumers, too.
The story blames the profit-based business model for the failure of free WiFi networks to take off in the US, citing Sascha Meinrath, technology analyst for the New America Foundation. “These communications systems should not just be solely about profit margins . . . It’s more about providing a public service,” he said. “Look at what cities pay for landscaping and street lights. It’s a shame this hasn’t been made a higher priority.”
Hart also notes that the US is behind other countries when in comes to broadband speed and penetration, citing the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She doesn’t mention the relative expense for broadband, but anyone who lives in the Netherlands would love to compare their monthly bills with ours.