Looking A Gift Horse In The Mouth [8:17 am]
[SF MayorGavin] Newsom forged a plan with Google Inc. and EarthLink Inc., under which the companies would build a Wi-Fi network offering two tiers of service: a free one, plastered with online advertisements, and a faster version without ads for $21.95 a month. They would pay San Francisco to put signal-beaming antennas on its light poles.
But in a city where suspicion of corporate interests flows as thick as the fog, the plan is meeting resistance at every turn.
Dissecting every bit and byte, techies call the free service too slow and are pushing for alternatives. Privacy advocates fret that the Internet companies could track users’ every move.
At one of the marathon meetings to debate the proposal, a citizen suggested that Google and EarthLink fork over more money â€” to supplement the electricity bills of San Franciscans who use their computers more as a result of the free access. Another suggested that Google use its vehicles to shuttle children to the local zoo.
More than two years later, the project hasn’t gotten off the ground. Newsom signed a contract with the Internet providers in January. But the Board of Supervisors, whose approval is required, last week declined even to consider the deal, deciding instead to investigate turning the project into a city-owned public utility.
“We never thought it would be so hard to spend money in a city â€” or such a hard sell to give something away,” EarthLink Vice President Cole Reinwand said.