Gavin Newsom, who’s spent the last 9 months ignoring a non-binding resolution asking him to appear before the Board of Supervisors, has now decided that they are important and has put a free wi-fi measure on November’s ballot.
I think it unlikely that the measure will fail. Almost nobody (except SNAFU) is against free wi-fi, as such, although there are many of us who think it’s not the best way to get internet access to everyone. Equally, nobody’s against free ice cream, although it’s certainly not the best way to get nutrition to everyone.
But c’mon, really. What’s the point of this measure? I’d prefer Newsom, and Peskin, and whoever else is involved in this to spend their time actually, y’know, getting us free, universal internet access.
The proposition may be moot, in fact. It appears that EarthLink is having doubts about its entry into the municipal wi-fi arena. It turns out that what looked too good to be true (free wi-fi! for everyone! And people will still pay for slightly faster wi-fi!), probably is. It seems that these networks are not viable without an anchor tenant willing to guarantee EarthLink a yearly payment (estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars). San Francisco has refused to be the anchor tenant for a network here, claiming that the city is not prepared to use such a network. Google, of course, has committed to funding free access on the network, but it’s unclear whether their contribution will be high enough to make the network worthwhile for EarthLink. It seems likely that EarthLink will bail out of its offer to provide a network for San Francisco, probably using the Supervisors’ proposed amendments as an excuse.
Still, despite Gavin’s well-documented distaste for “political theater” in the Question Time case, he’s put a proposition on the ballot that can only be described as bad political theater. Anyone who’s seen Prime Minister’s Question Time on C-SPAN can tell you that at its best it can be some pretty quality entertainment. Not to mention informative. Perhaps it’s good political theater Newsom objects to? It’s not like we have a legislative body that’s trying to hammer out a good deal with EarthLink, or anything.
Anyway, why stop at asking us about free wireless? Why not free ice cream? Or free unicorn rides in Golden Gate Park? Pet baby seals for everyone!