Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


New Orleans mayor just announced free Wifi for the city.

John Dvorak says vested interests are just too great from telecom providers to let it last.

Can free Wifi survive?


In talking with the president of Tropos, Ron Sege, during the post-Katrina disaster response, he was very clear that Tropos wanted to donate equipment that wouldn't only be used in the immediacy, but would also provide longer-term services to the affected areas. I'm particularly intrigued by this initiative since the hardware was donated -- which means that the initial start-up costs have been almost entirely eliminated.

It is definitely ironic that LA was one of the states to de-facto outlaw municipal wireless systems (just a wee bit before Katrina hit) and that New Orleans has to rely on their "state of emergency" to allow it to provide their own free network. It would also, in my opinion, be a huge mistake to have a private firm take over the running of the system, especially since the startup costs have been largely donated -- far better to set up a non-profit to maintain the network and keep the network open.

Finally, I would love to see the City reach out to the numerous people who have been quietly setting up the NOmesh Community Wireless Network -- a free system, owned and operated by the community. This might be a starting place for creating a sustainable model that would help ensure that free wireless connectivity is maintained.

I believe free wireless networks grow best when started by a small group of strong willed individuals working together long enough to establish network policy and drink a few beers.

I prefer thinking like a turtle in this sort of race.

Macedonia, former Yugoslav republic will be the first wireless country of the world. Their goverment is teaming up with USAID and private company Strix System. Aprox. they will put up 3630 nodes and cover 9600 square miles that will serve 2 million people.
To me, wifi was always utility service and should be treated as a water and gas pipes because of its importance. Unfortunatly, that's not allways the case.

Orlando, FL had free wi-fi downtown and closed it down due to costs and absence of use (27 users per month). Anyway, it sounds like from the article I read the cost of the wi-fi network was huge although it also sounds like it wasn't a mesh network and they had connections going into ever router amongst other ineffeiciences. My point being, not all wi-fi networks work and realistically I'm not sure municpial wi-fi networks work well enough to justify their upkeep, although here in Hong Kong I've managed to swing from wi-fi to wi-fi all over the city with few problems and that's just leeching off home routers.


Wow. Great examples of Wifi experiments.

When does Macedonia go wireless?

Haha, as Andrew stated Wi-Fi is already free! Just don't get caught leeching, Andrew.... it's illegal there, too.

Free managed wifi makes sense when both parties, provider and end user benefit from it.