It's tough to get a feel for the status of the government-sponsored WiFi project in San Francisco.
Interestingly enough, the city has actually submitted
a ballot that asks: do you want free wireless access?
As far as I know, Earthlink
) is going to provide the infrastructure. There is also supposed to be advertising monetization from Google
To get some insight on the matter, I interviewed Craig Settles, who is the author of Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless
"First, asking people if they want free wireless in a measure that has no binding power is like asking a room full of 17-year old guys if they'd like a date with Angelina Jolie. Not only are you wasting resources asking a question with an obvious result, you're pandering to a desire for something not likely to happen.
"The upside to this exercise is that the resulting publicity should deep-six this fantasy of the 'free' muni network in whatever pockets of America that still believe. This is a good thing. Almost every article that covers this election is going to point out that vendors in the industry have decidedly turned thumbs down on freebies.
"What you should see happening as a result is that cities will start to seriously look at viable business models, if they aren't doing so already. With luck, they'll look at San Francisco's 3-year ordeal and learn some lessons on how to avoid a similar fate. Since Philadelphia is slowly coming online with its network and low income folks there are receiving bundles with hardware, training and highspeed access, EarthLink would do well to trumpet this success story at every opportunity to counter the painful experience with San Francisco."
Tom Taulli is the author of various books, including the Complete M&A Handbook and the EDGAR-Online Guide to Decoding Financial Statements.