The wi-fi elephant - Page 2

Instead of launching his reelection campaign, Newsom's wireless Internet proposal gets slammed for its shortcomings and lack of well-considered alternatives

While Rose concludes that it may be fiscally feasible to build municipally owned wi-fi, he notes the city would likely face competition from private interests and risk network obsolescence within a few years.

Rose suggests future proposals should provide wi-fi access for low-income residents that is "high-quality and free," including "state-of-the art connectivity that is at least equal in technological capability to nearby offerings," and "try to leverage existing public and private infrastructures." He also recommends such proposals include, to the extent practicable, the city's existing fiber infrastructure — and incorporate results of Civitium's and the CTC's studies.

"Google-EarthLink only seems to be there to sell the advertising and collect the fees," Sup. Jake McGoldrick told the Guardian, as he vented frustration over how the Mayor's Office and the DTIS focused exclusively on the Google-EarthLink deal.

"Every time they were asked for information that would advance other options, they stonewalled," McGoldrick said.

DTIS chief administrator Ron Vinson told the Guardian he hasn't seen the fiber study, which was expected at the start of the year. "It's not out yet. We haven't seen it," Vinson said Jan. 19, the day after Newsom told the Chronicle that the wi-fi deal was too important to be killed off by politics.

But as wi-fi activist Bruce Wolfe told the Guardian, "It's the mayor's introduction of an insufficient plan that's causing the situation to become political, when really it's a technical question."

Fiber is a more reliable and faster technology than wi-fi, and it serves as a better backhaul to a wi-fi system than the phone lines that Google-EarthLink plans to use. Wolfe said the deal is "like buying diesel buses when everyone's converting to hybrids."

He said San Francisco's hilly, foggy, and built-out terrain means residents will get spotty wi-fi at best and no wi-fi at worst, particularly if they're not within sight of a wi-fi node or on the third floor of a high-rise. Wolfe recommends that the city combine its preexisting fiber backbone and short-term contracts with groups of wi-fi providers to create a series of neighborhood access points, all managed by a nonprofit agency with technological expertise.

"If Google owned the city and needed to provide access to us, it wouldn't go for a wi-fi-only solution," Wolfe said. "This is no time to be building a white elephant." *