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Subject: [IP] Companies That Fought Cities On Wi-Fi, Now Rush to Join In

  • From: David Farber <>
  • To:
  • Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 17:52:44 -0500

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Frankston <>
Date: March 20, 2006 5:02:57 PM EST
To: David Farber <>
Subject: Companies That Fought Cities On Wi-Fi, Now Rush to Join In mod=hps_us_inside_today

Having tried to stop cities from offering cut-rate or free wireless Internet access to their citizens, some large phone and cable companies are now aiming to get into the market themselves.

Telecom and cable giants have traditionally been critical of city- sponsored broadband initiatives, questioning their financial viability and, in some cases, even pushing for state laws to bar or restrict them. Now, in an effort to compete with similar initiatives by Google Inc., EarthLink Inc. and others, some of the companies are changing their tune.


* * * *

This would be wonderful if these were just contracts to operate the facilities but I fear that they will be treated like franchises and we&#x2019;ll repeat the experience of Logan Airport which has tried to prevent competition from open access points. I expect the carriers to attempt to extend the idea of the billable Internet rather than providing a &#x201C;connectivity commons&#x201D;.

I very much support the concept of wireless connectivity but we&#x2019;re going to go through a period of adjustment as we attempt to treat it as just like another phone line or broadband connection. It&#x2019;s akin to franchising highways but selling rides instead of letting us just drive our own cars.

This quote says it better than I can &#x201C;For the cable companies, &quot;I think it really comes down to retaining the customer, and making sure if there's going to be a wireless broadband component as part of your portfolio, you can at least charge five or ten bucks incremental per month for it,&quot; says Rick Rotondo, director of marketing for the division of Motorola Inc. that provides Wi-Fi equipment used in city networks.&#x201D;

I wonder how much complexity billability adds to the networks.

The good news is that the carriers are likely to set in motion a dynamic they can&#x2019;t control as people start to explore connectivity and find the billing regimen incompatible with the most important applications. Will a pacemaker be able to connect home if the user (AKA human) is in the wrong billing zone?

Bob Frankston

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