Free Municipal WiFi: A Dream Deferred

A new journal article by Eric Fraser assesses what went wrong with plans to bring wireless Internet access to the masses, finding that a hostile regulatory environment trumps even the best-laid plans.
October 8, 2010, 5am PDT | Lynn Vande Stouwe
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In reviewing Fraser's A Postmortem Look at Citywide WiFi, Christopher Mims notes that the Federal Trade Commission highlighted municipal WiFi as a promising means to bridge the digital divide as recently as 2006. However, in a 2010 Federal Communications Commission plan Connecting America, municipal WiFi is not even mentioned.

The problem is not technological capacity but rather draconian 1985 regulations limiting the nature of the power envelope and spectrum range for wireless technologies, making WiFi as it currently exists unsuitable for covering large areas, according to Fraser.

Mims writes:

'The failure of municipal WiFi is an object lesson in the dangers of techno-utopianism. It's a failure of intuition - the sort of mistake we make when we want something to be right.'

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Published on Tuesday, October 5, 2010 in Technology Review
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