Sunday, May 22, 2005

metropolitan wireless

0930, still sitting in the airport. We're fogged in so badly that nothing's landing right now. They've closed security because the gate area's full. An announcement just came over the P.A.: "Hello? God? Can you lift the fog please, so we can have an airplane? Are you there, God?" Everyone got a good chuckle out of that one. Anyway, there's not much to do at the moment except blog.

Here's a question for you: should cities provide municipal wireless services? I'm thinking the answer is yes, by analogy to the public interstate system. It used to be that we relied on a network of small highways and toll roads to get places. Then, during the Cold War, we created this new thing called an interstate so we could get troops quickly from one side of the country to the other. Turned out they had an interesting side-effect: suddenly, commerce increased a whole bunch because people could get places cheaply and easily. When commerce increased, so did the tax base, so the interstates paid for themselves and then some.

Right now, I'm hanging in the airport. If I want to get on the Internet, I can use the local toll service to connect. Honestly, I fly rarely enough that it's not worth my money to pay for the thing. On the other hand, it would be worth some of my tax money to have a fairly low bandwidth municipal wireless service that I could use from anywhere in the city. (I can get occasional access to high bandwidth networks for downloading large files. The big advantage to wireless would come from its always being available for IM, checking flight times, e-mail, that sort of thing.) And, while I haven't seen any studies, I'm willing to bet that the side effects on commerce would more than pay for themselves.

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