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January 14, 2005
The publicly-funded Wi-Fi debate
There's definitely pent-up demand for wireless Internet access in New York City (thanks Gizmodo, for helping to draw attention to the issue). At the same time, there's also a growing realization by elected officials that wireless Internet access can generate economic growth and solve a number of public sector problems. So why aren't more people jumping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon? The problem is that broadband providers view Wi-Fi as a direct economic assault on their bottom line: "The idea of local governments giving wireless access free to citizens has drawn fire from high-speed, broadband service providers, which believe the move encroaches on their business."
Philadelphia faced a number of bureaucratic problems in rolling out a citywide Wi-Fi network (hint: Verizon wasn't too keen on the initiative), and cities like New York would likely face the same kinds of roadblocks and obstacles if they decide to opt for publicly-funded Wi-Fi access. There is help on the way, though: "New York is on the verge of awarding multiple pilot projects to systems integrators that would serve as the precursor to a full-scale rollout of a citywide mobile wireless network. The pilot projects would be awarded to teams led by IBM, Motorola and Northrop Grumman IT... The full-scale project is estimated to be worth between $500 million to $1 billion."
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