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The City That Never Logs Off…

By Brian | August 3, 2005 | Share on Facebook

Via Instapundit, a call for New York to go wireless like Philadelphia tried to do:

Mr. Rasiej wants to see New York follow Philadelphia, which decided it wouldn’t wait for private companies to provide connectivity to all. Instead, Philly made it a city-led project – like sewers and electricity. The whole city will be a “hot zone,” where any resident anywhere with a computer, cellphone or P.D.A. will have cheap high-speed Wi-Fi access to the Internet.

Mr. Rasiej argues that we can’t trust the telecom companies to make sure that everyone is connected because new technologies, like free Internet telephony, threaten their business models. “We can’t trust the traditional politicians to be the engines of change for how people connect to their government and each other,” he said. By the way, he added, “If New York City goes wireless, the whole country goes wireless.”

Here, here. A citywide wireless network would quickly become as basic a part of the city’s infrastructure as the subways or the phone system. And the point about New York being a loss leader is right too: when employees of big companies can communicate wirelessly cheaply & easily in New York, they’ll start demanding it in their satellite offices; when marketers see the benefit of “always on” connectivity with consumers, they’ll start pushing for it in other urban centers; and when the non-techie consumer starts to see “smart” devices appearing all over the city, their understanding of the Internet will expand from web-browsing to real-time services. It’s all good…

Only one hitch that I can see: Wireless is a new technology, and as such, is still in the hyper-growth portion of its lifecycle. I believe Philadelphia never pulled the trigger because each successive plan to bring the city online was quickly eclipsed by another, soon-to-arrive technology that would make it orders of magnitude cheaper. Maybe it takes the population density of New York (more than twice that of Philly) to make it worth the plunge. After all, if the business case can be proven with current technologies, then cheaper solutions become no-brainers. And a working model will allow folks to figure out the break-even points for the more rural areas, too.

Now all the city government needs is a sub-contractor. Don’t Microsoft and Google have billions of dollars just sitting around???

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