Last year, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced his vision of providing free WiFi throughout the city, I scoffed. Now Newsom is setting out to prove me wrong. (I should say he's trying to prove me wrong for a second time, because I also thought Gav and Kimberly were a match made in Heaven.) "It is to me a fundamental right to have access universally to information," Newsom says, announcing that the city has received 24 bids to build a municipal wireless network.
The most prominent bid has come from Google, and Newsom says taxpayers will pay "little or nothing" of the $8 million to $16 million cost. No word on whether it will be WiMax or some other wireless model, but since they seem to be intent on this thing, best of luck to them. I still think the plan will founder—if nothing else, on the likelihood that the network will support itself through some kind of targeted advertising. If you don't have to suffer through advertising for such fundamental rights as food and water, why should you have to do that for free internet access? I would not be at all surprised if our board of supes let this plan die out of some undergraduate horror of corporate promotion (not that letting it die would necessarily be a bad thing).
In a skeptical column on the plan, Debra J. Saunders has the insight and good breeding to cite my earlier article on SFWF.
And a coalition of EU governments are looking to take control of root servers, raising the question of whether there will be an internet by the time Frisco gets its network up.