Guest Post by James Protzman
The idea of communitiy wi-fi is emerging as a potential local election issue -- and would seem to warrant broader public discussion as well.
Some say wi-fi should be a purely commercial undertaking left to the private sector. Others (like me, for example) see wireless connectivity as an increasingly critical part of community infrastructure -- similar to sidewalks, parks and public safety -- services that support the common good.
My view is simple: we cannot allow the issue of connectivity to become yet another element in the growing "digital divide." That is, no one should be disadvantaged for not having resources to buy high-speed access for their homes and families.
There are plenty of ways to think about this and many experiments going on around the country. Some of them are reported here . . . and I'm sure there are other good resources. If you know of any, please share them.
One more thought: Could funding for wireless infrastructure be factored into discussions and proposals about new developments? For example, negotiated "payments in lieu" need not go only to open space, sidewalks, or curbs and gutter. They could also go toward funding the kind of wireless connectivity that helps build community.