LA: City-Wide Free WiFi By 2009

From the LA Times:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outlined plans Tuesday to blanket Los Angeles with wireless Internet access in 2009, in what would be one of the nation’s largest urban Wi-Fi networks.

The L.A. Wi-Fi initiative would give Los Angeles residents, schools, businesses and visitors uninterrupted high-speed Internet connections — for work, research, Web browsing or even phone calls.

Hmm, do you hear that? That’s the sound of telcos quietly weeping.

“Verizon, which once joined cable giant Comcast Corp. to try to curtail Philadelphia’s wireless project, no longer stands in the way of municipalities.

“We urge cities to be cautious investing taxpayer money in such a venture where technology is changing rapidly,” said Verizon spokesman Jonathan Davies.”

Is the LA project feasible? One roadblock cities have encountered on the way to free WiFi nirvana is the need to place wifi equipment on electric poles. Southern California Edison doesn’t allow use of its poles. LA, however, owns its electric poles, meaning free (possibly ad-supported) WiFi may be closer than you think. —MEGHANN MARCO

L.A. mayor wants citywide wireless access [LA Times]

[Photo by Dave Bullock]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Could this, in theory, be used to get free internet access from home? For home computers, gaming consoles, and such?

  2. Sudonum says:

    A couple of years ago the voters in the city of Lafayette Louisiana voted to allow bonds to be issued to pay for running fiber optics throughout the whole city, for the City to provide an alternative for phone, cable and internet. The issue has been tied up in the courts since then, First by Bell South and Cox and recently by 2 private citizens. These 2 people have never shown up at any of the court proceedings. They refuse to make themselves available to the press or anyone else. One of the judges at a hearing even took notice of the fact that the plaintiffs have never set foot in his courtroom. And the basis of the suits have been arcane Louisiana laws relating to the repayment of the bonds. Based on this experience I would not expect to see city wide WiFi anytime soon in LA.

  3. mikesfree says:

    Call me crazy, but I dont want the government controlling my communications.

    Also, I dont think that the goverment ever implements the best technology or does it efficiently at all.

    This way at least, the people of LA, no matter how rich or poor, can pay for a system through their taxes, if they use it or not.

  4. chimmike says:

    let the porn-downloading-in-public begin for LA.

  5. bluegus32 says:

    Actually, city-wide wi-fi is possible. Google has done it for its home city of Redwood City, CA.

    As for Jonathan Davies, the Verizon spokesperson who said “We urge cities to be cautious investing taxpayer money in such a venture where technology is changing rapidly,” I have this to say — shut up! You’re motivations are so transparent. Don’t even pretend that you give a rat’s ass about taxpayers. You only care about this because it takes money out of Verizon’s pocket. Free internet is the wave of the future. Get used to it.

  6. CaptainRoin says:

    I have a feeling they’re going to vastly underestimate the useage or bandwidth required and it’ll be slow and suck. Or it’ll be a hacker’s heaven. Either way? Not-gonna-happen.

  7. JuliusJefferson says:

    People are already risking their safety and freedom to steal electrical cable for copper. What do you think is going to happen when you put a wireless router on every lightpole?

  8. CaptainRoin says:

    @JuliusJefferson: haha! I could just see a little Linksys router on every pole. LOL

  9. Binkley says:

    Isn’t Google’s hometown Mountain View, not Redwood City?

    I’m curious to see if this actually happens.

  10. stephen5 says:

    Our city board is scheduled to vote on something similar here in Saint Louis.

    AT&T will do the install, everybody gets 20 hours a month free.

    The yearly cost to our city for electricity is estimated at $50,000.

    We are much smaller and flatter than LA.
    Last time I heard Los Angeles was bankrupt or very close to it, where is the extra couple of hundred thousand dollars going to come from? Who will get the maintenance contracts?

    I hate to sound like a pinko-commie but aren’t there better ways to spend the money in a city where dumping patients on skid-row is a common occurence?

  11. Tonguetied says:

    Free is such a relative term. Someone will be paying for it that’s for sure.

    How is Saint Louis going to monitor the 20 free hours? If I have to log in then that means they have a record of every web site I’ve visited and maybe my emails…

    Hello Big Brother.

  12. mikesfree says:

    Quote –
    Free is such a relative term. Someone will be paying for it that’s for sure.

    How is Saint Louis going to monitor the 20 free hours? If I have to log in then that means they have a record of every web site I’ve visited and maybe my emails…

    Hello Big Brother.

    End Quote –

    No Joke.

    Plus, the telcoms arent weeping! This is a way to get everyone to pay for a service they may or may not use. And now they dont have to collect the bills, the government does it through taxes. I love local government, always thinkin it through. Its good to know that my grandma will now be paying for something she will never use.

  13. I think it is Mountain View, and not Redwood City. My friend in Sunnyvale is part of some free city-wi-fi. However, he pays extra and gets a higher speed service. I think the ‘free’ is 256Kb perhaps, good for simple surfing/email but not crazy for work from home that he does.

    But free is relative – someone will pay – through higher taxes or ad revenue, or something.

    I don’t believe free internet is the way of the future. Nothing is free – everything has a cost. It’s how we hide thoses costs is how the future will unfold.

  14. Sudonum says:

    The Lafayette proposal was not “free to every home”. It was to allow the city utility to compete with Cox and Bell South and provide another alternative to these two. the question then becomes can a local utility compete with the big boys and provide superior service so as to actually make a profit to pay off the bonds? I for one would like to see an alternative to Cox. And no, I am under no delusion that a city run cable, phone and internet service would be any better. However it would provide some additional competition, and I am all for that. However I would hate to see it built and then sold to some other telco.

  15. stephen5 says:

    Here is a link to the Saint Louis Wi-Fi story.

    It’s pretty vague. I particularly like this passage:

    Down the road, building inspectors will use Wi-Fi to send in their reports. Hospitals will get a new way to monitor a patient’s vitals before an ambulance arrives. The city could place Wi-Fi-enabled cameras to monitor high-crime neighborhoods.

    I know a building inspector, it’s a patronage job. He and the other inspectors spend most of their day in bars, everyone knows it, none of their supervisors care (or could do anything about it if they did.)

    The alderman quoted is a the son of a long time “reputed organized crime figure”, google Saint Louis and Car Bombs to find more on his family and friends.

    The spy cameras sound like fun though, you could actually watch while the routers are being stolen.

  16. Chairman-Meow says:

    Oh goodie, have the city provide internet service. I cannot wait until some governemnt dope starts demanding they censor Pr0n and everything else for the sake of the children…bleah!

  17. bluegus32 says:

    Front_Towards_Enemy said: “Oh goodie, have the city provide internet service. I cannot wait until some governemnt dope starts demanding they censor Pr0n and everything else for the sake of the children…bleah!”

    Not gonna happen. Congress has tried mightily to censor porn on the internet and the Supreme Court has shot down every single attempt. Of all the things to be afraid of this is not of them. I promise you that the continued existence of prolific porn is virtually gauranteeed.

    I’ve been following porn legislation for nearly a decade. Not necessarily for my own prurient needs, but out of fascination. Porn has been responsible for a ridiculous amount of social evolution and technological advances. It is here to stay.

  18. kenposan says:

    WiFi will eventually be municipal utility like water and garbage. We’ll all have it and we’ll all pay our monthly bill. Free? Not exactly. :/

  19. Don Roberto says:

    The city of Houston also announced citywide wireless internet, of the pay-for variety, to be implemented with the help of earthlink making it the biggest wireless internet network in the US (perhaps north america) with over 600 square miles. They would be using mesh network technology and charge around $12.

    The story:

  20. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Wow. Bad idea. Instead of spending/wasting money on public wifi, how about fixing the city’s existing problems? Congested freeways, overcrowded schools, understaffed police departments, the list goes on.

    And for a large city like Los Angeles, wifi probably isn’t the best technology for offering free wireless internet service. WiMax seems to be more suitable. Unfortunately, that technology has yet to be released on a wide scale.

    And yes, we all know that “free” isn’t really free. The money to pay for all this has to come from somewhere.

  21. acambras says:

    Sudonum — is that like EATEL (East Ascension Telephone) in Gonzales, LA? Are they still around? When I lived in Baton Rouge, Bellsouth seemed to rule the telco industry in Louisiana, except for that little area served by EATEL. And they seemed to be getting into stuff besides regular landlines (like DSL). I don’t know if they’re still a player or not, but in this age of giant companies gobbling each other up, it was refreshing to see a small company still surviving and growing.

  22. Sudonum says:

    Acambras, I believe Eatel is still around. I still see their logo when travelling through that area. This is the “City-Parish Government” trying to get the fiber cable layed. They believe it will spur more commercial growth with an added bonus of being able to provide services to tax/rate payers. You’d get a bill for bundled or alacarte services from the same people who supply water and sewer.

  23. acambras says:

    Huh. I do remember Lafayette was at the forefront of curbside recycling, quite a few years before Baton Rouge got around to it. I understand that BR has free wifi in its airport and downtown, but not throughout the city-parish.

    Anyway, good luck!

  24. BotchedJoke says:

    Awsome! Mayor Re-Conquista will tax the hell out of the people to get this implemented. Why should the taxpayers pay for your broke ass to look at my space while collecting your welfare check?

  25. ELC says:

    bluegus32, this is funny: “Free internet is the wave of the future. Get used to it.”

    What about the part of “taxpayer money” do you not understand? NOTHING the govt does is free – it can’t be. The money is taken from the wage earners and redistributed through “services” or whatever. NEVER free.

    I prefer to decide where my money goes, not give it to a govt body to use in a way that I have no say over. ALL levels of govt spend way to much of our money without ever giving us the chance to discuss it via referendum or other means.

  26. Maulleigh says:

    Wifi for New York now!!! Someone should run on that campaign.

  27. Mikesfree: You don’t think the government controls your communication NOW?

    Also, I agree with the above comment that LA should work on a fix to some greater problems. Like, hi, bike lanes and bus routes and traffic control and green-incentives and carpool lanes. However, if there’s one very effective way to distract me, it’s with free wifi. Serious.

  28. mikesfree says:

    At least there is a chance of due process, and if I dont like how one company treats me or my privacy, I can use another. If companies have no reason to invest in a community anymore (because they cant make a buck) then the government becomes your new monopoly and your sole source of information. It should never be this way.

  29. poornotignorant says:

    Botchedjoke: Maybe if your government provided equal access to internet and things like schools, there wouldn’t be as many people on welfare. Take the average schoolchild in the innercity and put him into the school you went to and he most probably won’t need welfare. I believe that is the reasoning behind governments funding access to the internet for everybody.