November 30, 2005

Municipal Wi-Fi > New New Orleans to have Free Wi-Fi

Big Easy Launches Free Wireless System:

n an attempt to boost its stalled economy, the hurricane-ravaged city of New Orleans is starting the nation's first free wireless Internet network owned and run by a major city.

Mayor Ray Nagin made the announcement at a late morning news conference.

Similar projects elsewhere have been stalled by stiff opposition from telephone and cable television companies aimed at discouraging competition from public agencies.

Nagin said the system started operation Tuesday in the central Business District and the French Quarter. It is to be available throughout the city in about a year.

I'm equivocal on municipal wi-fi. Depending on how it's done, it might be the next advance in civilization, or it might be a pork barrel cockup like the Seattle monorail. But free wi-fi from the nation's most corrupt and incompetent city government? Sounds like a bad idea to me.

LATER: Here's some fresh equivocation! During the rebuilding phase, this is probably a good idea. It will take a long time to get hard-wired Internet access up. Many third-world countries are skipping landlines and going with wireless phones because the wireless infrastructure is cheaper and quicker to build. Likewise, if you're looking for a way to build an Internet infrastructure from scratch wi-fi is your buddy.

Downsides? Sure. If the city is rebuilt with free govt. cheese Internet, there's not much incentive for private companies to offer ISP services in New Orleans. So in the next hurricane, everyone will be dependent on the city's Internet services.

Posted by lesjones | TrackBack


"Free" is a relative term.

I guess when you have federal disaster-relief dollars and charitable contributions to pay with, most anything could be made to seem "free". ;)

Posted by: Tam at November 30, 2005

And everybody knows that you can trust the city of New Orleans as a service provider.

Posted by: homebru at November 30, 2005

Having a government give something away for "free" is probably the best way to assure that nothing better gets developed. If the gov't had handed out 486s for free, why would anyone (well, most people) buy a pentium? It wouldn't be worth (for most people) the large increase in cost (full price vs. nothing) for the small increase in performance. Without the competition, the system wouldn't have improved, and we'd still be using 486s. I don't know what might be better than current WiFi (other than the usual faster/cheaper/smaller), but having a government give out WiFi for free is a darn good way to make sure we don't find out.

Posted by: at November 30, 2005

Well, for what it's worth (exactly what you paid for it, maybe less), I posted the last one--didn't mean to be anon.

Posted by: Nate at November 30, 2005

If this was pre-Katrina, I think it would be a terrible idea Under the circumstances I can see why they did it. When circumstances change I certainly hope they'll rethink their decision.

Posted by: Les Jones at November 30, 2005
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