Will Los Angeles become the country’s biggest city to boast free, city-wide Wi-Fi? Such a plan may be in the works, based on recent discussions at a city hall meeting last week.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who heads up the committee on technology and innovation, has asked the city’s Information Technology Agency to research how to set up a program as a way to help more Angelenos connect with the digital economy.
“We live in a world where success is increasingly tied to ability access to information,” Southern California Public Radio reported him saying at the end of July. “Providing universal access to the Internet is a natural and necessary extension of these efforts.”
But municipal Wi-Fi programs can be hard for cities to pull off–penetrating so many buildings requires a serious investment in hardware and antennae. Also, free Wi-Fi can be surprisingly controversial CNET Senior Editor Dan Ackerman told SCPR, largely because telecommunications companies see it as a threat to their business and have lobbied against it for years.
In 2007, the Los Angeles Times estimated that citywide Wi-Fi would cost more than $62 million to cover L.A.’s 498 square miles. Currently there’s (often very spotty) free Wi-Fi in the city’s libraries and at LAX airport.
The city council is expected to revisit the issue again next month when the technology agency comes back with its research.