City-wide wifi is good – but good for all of us?

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Tonight is another technology geek / non-profit group meetup with the Houston NetSquared group.

We’ll be meeting at the Stag’s Head Pub ( 2128 Portsmouth St.) at 7pm for drinks, munchies and discussion about Web 2.0 technologies and their role in non-profit organizations.

Here’s what I’m really excited about – Jim Forrest of Technology For All will be speaking to us on their Houston-oriented technology projects. These guys have worked on great initiatives like Community Technology Centers, Houston Hope low-income technology work and their free TFA-wireless network community program. Cool stuff for Houstonians that sometimes get the short end of the stick and for the city in general.

Thinking about wifi networks (and how much wireless Internet rocks in general) brought me back to last month’s wifi discussions – like Dwight’s on the Technology Bytes blog.

Wifi all across Houston is no doubt a great thing – not only will it make our city look more appealing to potential Houston-area businesses, but to me just makes sense in the long run looking at the future of digital technologies.

Two things have concerned me about the proposed wifi plan, however:

1) The Wifi project is going to cost a lot of money – probably more than I’ve seen discussed in most places. I think it’s totally worth it, but don’t appreciate feeling lowballed like that. (ope – here’s a link talking about just that)

2) There are an awful lot of Houstonians that don’t have access to wireless capable computers – who is going to get them hooked up with the hardware to use their newfound wifi access? Groups like Technology For All do what they can, but we’ve got a lot of residents to cover.

Am I missing something, or are we only wanting wireless access for businesses, government offices and rich people?

Sounds like great discussion for NetSquared, as well as the Houston Wireless group.

2 Comments so far

  1. shawn (unregistered) on April 11th, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

    This is not an easy matter. What makes it more difficult is the seemingly increasing opinion that everything on the internet should be free. As a result of “free” software (http://fsf.org) I have learned much more about programming than if I was forced into buying my education from Microsoft. In the software world, “free” is a bit easier to manage because business models can be developed and sustained, i.e., give the product away and charge for the service. I like this idea because you’re investing in people rather than technology.

    Should be fun topic tonite, looking forward to it.


  2. Luke Gilman (unregistered) on April 12th, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    Sounds like a great discussion. I haven’t heard much on the possible unintended side effects of free municipal wifi. I’m all for providing access to those who wouldn’t be able to afford it, and broadband is still prohibitively expensive for lower income brackets, so in that sense, it’s ideal. I think everyone would agree this takes money out of the pockets of the ISPs. The question is, does that make the internet connection market more or less competitive? There’s a good chance ISPs may cut back on developing infrastructure for markets in which they have to compete with muni WiFi for fear of not being able to recoup their investment. Are there any cities with track records in this yet? I know Philadelphia and San Francisco had high-profile programs underway…



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