Wi-Fi Die in San Francisco

By August 31, 2007Communications, Innovation

On February 28, the Pacific Research Institute released a study, Wi-Fi Waste: The Disaster of Municipal Communications Networks on the inevitable failure of government-owned, citywide wi-fi networks. The summary:

San Francisco—Government-run municipal telecom networks erode private investment, slow high-tech innovation, mislead consumers, and serve the interests of politicians according to a report published today by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a California-based free-market think tank.

That was February. This is today. From the Chronicle:

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s high-profile effort to blanket San Francisco with a free wireless Internet network died Wednesday when provider EarthLink backed out of a proposed contract with the city.

The contract, which was three years in the making, had run into snags with the Board of Supervisors, but ultimately it was undone when Atlanta-based EarthLink announced Tuesday that it no longer believed providing citywide Wi-Fi was economically viable for the company.

So PRI has a proven and keen understanding of how regulation of communications and technology works, or rather, doesn’t work.

A recommendation, then, of PRI’s brand-new report, Net Gains or Net Losses? The Net Neutrality Debate and the Future of the Internet. From the news release:

San Francisco – Imposing a regulatory regime of “net neutrality” would harm consumers, quash innovation and investment, and prove difficult or impossible to change in the future, according to Net Gains or Net Losses? The Net Neutrality Debate and the Future of the Internet, a new report released today by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI).

“At its heart, the net neutrality debate is about price controls, and net-neutrality advocates want government regulation—rather than the open market—to determine what we pay for using the Internet,” said K. Lloyd Billingsley, editorial director at PRI and author of Net Gains or Net Losses?

Report available here in .pdf.

PRI’s analysis was dead on about the faults of municipal wi-fi. Seems like we should pay attention to the institute’s analysis of net regulation, too.

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