Doubts about Public Provision of Philadelphia Wireless Access

The city of Philadelphia is trying to become the first major US city with public-provided wireless access.

Here are a few possible shortcomings

  • It isn't free. Most people forget this. In fact it will probably cost about as much as wired internet, except for low-income people who will hopefully get a price break (of 50%).
  • Nobody has done a similar project so it is likely to cost several times more than expected.
  • If we wait a couple years, the project cost will dramatically decrease each year, we'll be able to better estimate how much it would cost, and get more bandwidth.
  • The city is trying to appeal to businesses - to be hip for conventions and appeal to the middle class techies. It doesn't really care about providing computer skills and access to low income people.

    Instead the city could get into the wired access business. It could challenge the existing phone and cable companies, replace a lot of uneccessary duplicated infrastructure and do a better job of providing services (ex. replacing Verizon's complex phone bills with the truth about why phone service is so expensive). Some cities control their power ultities (ex. San Diego I think) - why not have public telephone/cable?

    De-commericializing the phone/cable companies, would stop a fair deal of the wasteful advertizing on TV (and other means) telling you to consume more and more...

    I suspect the city isn't doing this because it would cost a lot more money to start, alienate corporations (oh dear!) and there might be a couple laws against it.