This morning, I read in yesterday’s Ann Arbor News (I was teaching last night so I didn’t get a chance to see it when it was “fresh”) this Scott Anderson article, “Wireless initiative touted: Washtenaw officials pitch plan for blanket coverage.” Follow the link to read the whole thing, but here are the opening paragraphs:
Washtenaw County officials on Monday formally pitched their concept of a public/private collaboration to make wireless, high-speed Internet as commonplace as running water and electricity to the county’s 340,000 residents.
But the county could face a hard sell to telecommunications and cable companies, which have poured millions of dollars into building local networks of their own and cultivating thousands of Internet customers.
County officials and other advocates outlined an aggressive timetable to roll out a wireless Internet, or Wi-Fi, network to blanket the region. Tentative plans include opening up the project for vendor bids as early as May, selecting technology providers by July and establishing three pilot programs by November. Dubbed “Wireless Washtenaw,” the initiative aims to build the countywide network by late 2007, allowing anyone with a wireless-enabled computer or handheld device to log onto the Internet for free in certain zones, or from their home or office for a still-undetermined monthly fee.
Oh, in case you haven’t figured this out: Washtenaw county includes both Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, among other fine towns and cities.
For me, this falls into the category of “I’ll believe it when I see it” because as I noted back on March 14 and earlier (though I can’t find that entry now), the unholy alliance of the cable companies and the telecom companies (the ones that are making money hand over fist by providing quite expensive broadband internet access now) has worked hard to stop these “public utility” model of Wi-Fi networks from happening. Maybe the county can get this to work, but while I will root for Washtenaw, I wouldn’t bet against big businesses that stand to lose big bucks.