America is regarded as a leader in the tech world. Many countries around the world look at America for guidance in the use of new technologies. However, many American cities are grappling with the issue of deploying Wireless Fidelity, popularly known as Wi-Fi. This technology is not new, but its deployment in public has been slow. The only cities that considered the use of public funds to deploy Wi-Fi for public service are Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia. These cities had proposals for the implementation of Wi-Fi via the use of different sources of funds. Some of the projects were to be implemented through public and private partnerships. The forces driving the deployment of this service in cities and municipalities are strong and vocal. One of the reasons is the relative low cost of deployment of Wi-Fi networks. The deployment of the networks can take advantage of exiting city assets such as street lights.
The deployment of Wi-Fi networks by local governments has sparked a political and legal battle among city authorities and the public. Those in the local governments are fighting for their right to implement their plans while proponents opposing the plans are up in arms. For instance, some of the private network providers in the country were up in arms against municipal Wi-Fi networks. The giant network corporations and their supports have been putting up a spirited fight against the local governments.These companies argue that municipalities and cities enjoy an unfair advantage over them.
The argument centers on legality of the local governments’ involvement in business while acting as the regulators. Basically the local governments are seen as being in a position to avoid fees and taxes and at the same time obtain low cost finance. The municipalities and cities are also to enjoy subsidies that allow them to provide their networks to the public at very low prices. It is no surprise that fourteen states in the nation have enacted laws prohibiting local governments from providing broadband internet services. The debate about the legality and suitability of the local governments’ provision of Wi-Fi services has moved to the national level.
Failure or Success
The most common benefit linked with the establishment of Wi-Fi services in public is its low cost and economic sustainability. Unfortunately, no up-to-date data has been provided to support this claim. Since this is an assumption that is not backed by empirical evidence, it can be safely assumed that the networks are not economically self-sustaining. In addition, no evidence has been provided to support the assumption that Wi-Fi networks can be used for emergencies and provision of utility services. Unfortunately, consumer applications and city or municipality applications cannot co-exist without raising security concerns.
Results from several research studies conducted show that free wireless networks in public places are normally exploited by hackers. Users who are not careful may find themselves connected to the wrong networks in places marked as hotspots. The deployment of the Wi-Fi networks in public is largely seen as experimental. Municipals and cities deploying Wi-Fi services to the public are going to provide real-life environments for the testing of this system. For the time being, the controlled Wi-Fi networking is provided by the local governments for experimental purposes only.
This article was penned by Karl Stockton for Insurance Swami.