The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

What's a town to do when neither the cable nor the telephone companies will provide broadband Internet service? It sets up its own wireless network and makes it available city-wide, like Cerritos, California is gearing up to do by early January.

Cerritos is in southern Cali, which is odd in that this sounds more like something that a city in the tech-mecca San Francisco Bay area, in the northern part of the state, would do. Then again, it's more likely that all the communities up there are wired to the hilt, so the need that spurred Cerritos' wi-fi network wouldn't be there--it would be more of a nice-to-have deal.

This brings to mind the proposed free wi-fi hotspots in my city, backed by Don Shea and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. That was supposed to have happened by now, but I haven't heard anything about it since. I'm guessing it's been sidelined. Perhaps the issues I brought up here were taken into consideration:

Of course, this idea seems to ignore the likely objections from providers of pay-for wireless access, like Starbucks (two downtown St. Pete locations, with more likely on the way) and various hotels. How would this free wi-fi spread coexist with those services? Would it even be able to get off the ground if it was perceived to be hurting businesses? I'm crossing my fingers.

I should point out that Cerritos' wi-fi access will not be free, but would work under a subscription model. Presumably, it would have to be fairly affordable to have the city's backing. Still, I'm guessing it would come into conflict at some point with any private establishments that would look to sell wi-fi access.

UPDATE: It looks like the news from Cerritos reminded someone else about St. Petersburg's announced wi-fi project. It turns out St. Pete's wireless dreams have been postponed indefinitely due to the lack of a sponsor to help pay for it. Bummer.