“WiFi Deal…”

by on January 26, 2007

Dear Editor:

The present San Francisco WiFi deal crafted behind closed doors by Chris Vein, Ron Vinson and Brian Roberts under the closed eyes of Mayor Newsom is not a very good deal for San Francisco for many reasons, but this being election time for Gavin, he desperately needs this deal to go through with no further delays whether its good or bad for the city he was elected to govern and improve. It’s a bad deal because it was crafted in isolation and ignorance with no public input or evaluation after Newsom eliminated the Communications Technology Commission and told his five person team to create an RFP and choose the handful of people who would evaluate the bids and then select the winner with no one getting a peek at the proposal or process.

It came as no surprise that his team chose Google and EarthLink since the Mayor had traveled with the founders of Google to Davos on their chartered jet and chose to make ‘free wi-fi’ an quality of live promise with no public scrutiny. The bid Newsom signed provides free WiFi at 300 Kbs to those who want it which will be provided by Google and carry advertising and collect data. Google will use this as an experiment to determine how to best profit in large cities from the poor. EarthLink will provide paid service at 1 MG for $22.00 per month which is more expensive and slower than what people can already get from AT&T and cheaper that Comcast. EarthLink will build out the system for approximately $18 million and own the system for a total of 16 years while paying the city 5% of net profits that they estimate will be around $300,000 per year. The Mayor originally said he wanted to close the digital divide and provide computers and software to the poor, disabled and disconnected populations of our city, but that is no longer part of the deal.

Communications technology, we have learned, is a major part of the 21st century infrastructure that all communities must and are building, and we appear to be giving away a unique opportunity to go state of the art and build what will help San Francisco the most in the long run simply to help a local politician get reelected and pay back his well heeled billionaire pals who have moved dramatically to the right as their wealth has grown. All the hoopla is because the Mayor did all this behind closed doors and now wants the board of supervisors and PUC to endorse his back room deal and give him what he thinks will help get him another four years to enhance his crusade to the White House.

Stu Smith

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