Selling WiFi, one community meeting at a time

Google and Earthlink’s plans to unwire San Francisco have run into some heavy political fog, not a surprise to our readers. The two companies are hoping that by talking to the citizens of the city, they might get a much-needed boost and ward off the opponents who want to pull the plug on their plans.

The two companies will hold the first of 11 planned community meetings in San Francisco starting Tuesday night at the Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church, and Wednesday night at the Southeast Community Facility Commission.

Based on the tenor of Google’s Mountain View community meetings, expect a lively (probably even rowdier) event, with San Francisco residents, local business owners, and some very vocal opponents of the network. (We will be there to bring you an on-the-spot coverage.)

Though it has been in the works for a while, the project is not even close to getting started. Google execs have complained about the slow pace of SF city bureaucracy, and the city recently decided to fund a study looking at some kind of city-owned model.

A publicly owned network would be a major shift for the SF WiFi project. The city had awarded the project to the private partnership of Google and Earthlink earlier this year.

My favorite comment on the possibilities of publicly-backed SF WiFi come from reader Scott who jokes about city bureaucracy at its worst:

Before the paperwork gets signed there could be a requirement that all shopping carts in the possession of homeless individuals be equipped with wi-fi receivers that can only be installed by technicians who are members of a new labor union established just for this purpose.

Okay, that might be harsh, but perhaps a pretty accurate reflection of the quagmire that is San Francisco politics.

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