On the Chicago wi-fi negotiations collapse, and two FCC things...

Posted by Mitchell - September 5, 2007 (entry 566)

Okay, this is genius. No, it's not. What's the opposite of genius? Rank stupidity! Yes, that's it.

I'm referring to the collapse of negotiations for a proposed wi-fi network in the city of Chicago. Two years ago, CMA and a host of grassroots groups and citizens urged the city to set up a public wi-fi internet network, encompassing the city of Chicago - kind of like the public service proposed for Philadelphia, Boston, and dozens of other cities. We got somewhere in the negotiations; the city even held a number of hearings on the topic.

The city then opted to do what it does all too often: offload the work to the private sector. The city had announced an RFP, but only two serious bids were submitted (Earthlink and AT&T). Now the announcement has come down that both bids were rejected by the city, which is now evidently stuck.

I'm wondering about the exact details of the negotiations. But it seems that, in reading the proceedings, the city painted itself into a corner early by assuming that private industry was the way to go, and now we're finding that wi-fi networks on a large scale are hard to make profitable. This could open the door for some alternative set-up models to gain more of a toehold and hopefully become sustainable.

In other news, the FCC is considering making some good policy: a cap on the number of applications, to prevent some of the godcasters from seizing more radio stations than they frankly deserve, in attempts to set up their own radio networks. But the FCC is considering making a cap - max 10 applications per entity. Help the FCC make their minds. Don't delay - You have until September 6, 2007 to chime in.

And speaking of the FCC, you might have heard that they're coming to town on September 20, and are coming to Chicago's south side. Get ready!

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