Newsom doesn't understand wifi

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By Tim Redmond

Gavin Newsom was on Forum this morning. Although Michael Krasny was easy on him -- not one tough question -- a few choice tidbits came out. One of my faves, when Krasny asked him about the fall wifi ballot initiative:

"There are 200,000 people in the city who don't have a computer or access to the internet at home." His wifi plan, he insists, will addres the digital divide.

But Mr. Mayor: The wifi contract with Earthlink and Google isn't going to give 200,000 people computers. Not even close. And many of those residents live above the second floor of a building (say, in the Tenderloin), where wifi won't reach. This isn't a digital-divide issue; if that was Newsom's concern, he'd talk about fiber to the door, more community access to computers -- and municipal wireless, which would be run as a public service, not for private profit.

I'd like to think Newsom is just dumb and doesn't get it. I'm afraid he understands it all too well, and has simply decided to cast his lot with private partners who will offer a crappy service that will benefit only those who want to pay for a premium version.

Meanwhile, he says he doesn't care what the supes do: If the board rejects the Earthlink/Google deal, "we'll find away around it."

Since I think Newsom's measure is going to go down to defeat this fall, maybe the progressives should plan on putting a municipal broadband measure on the June, 2008 ballot. Let's do it right.