[Cu-wireless] Keep Wi-Fi Free (Austin) - NYT (fwd)

Zachary C. Miller zach at chambana.net
Tue May 4 11:48:39 CDT 2004

Just a random article from a friend.

> http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/04/technology/techspecial/04SCHW.html
> The New York Times
> May 4, 2004
> In Austin, Paving a Way Past Invisible Tollbooths
> AUSTIN, Tex.
> ALL the big social movements can be summed up on a T-shirt: "No 
> taxation without representation"; "Libert?, egalit?, fraternit?"; "Make 
> love, not war."
> Now there's one more: "Keep Wi-Fi Free." Richard MacKinnon is wearing 
> the T-shirt (white letters against a blinding orange background) and 
> leading the charge.
> In Austin, you can pick up some rays just about anywhere these days ? 
> 2.4 gigahertz radio waves, that is. This central Texas city has become 
> something of a hot spot for hot spots, with hundreds available in 
> businesses, restaurants and parks. In many of them, anybody with a 
> Wi-Fi-equipped laptop can turn on and tune in at no charge.
> "Austin is the freest unwired city in the world," Mr. MacKinnon said, 
> sitting in BookPeople, a large bookstore, with a fellow project leader, 
> Jon Lebkowski, a technology consultant. "It's like a road ? the best 
> way for a community to flourish is if the roads are free. The quickest 
> way to squelch it is to charge for access."
> Austin already had hundreds of volunteer hot spots (not even counting 
> home users who share their networks), but Mr. MacKinnon is trying to 
> push the idea further still with the Austin Wireless City Project. He 
> is evangelizing for a movement that blends free wireless, free software 
> and even free computers into a growing citywide network. The movement 
> rebels against the practice of charging for hot spot surfing the way  
> Starbucks and other businesses do.
> So seven months ago, Mr. MacKinnon and like-minded geekerati started 
> their project. The premise: they would install a Wi-Fi hot spot ? free 
> ? in any business that had a high-speed Internet connection. They use 
> recycled computers donated by a local company, Image Microsystems, to 
> give the project a green halo: "By saving the environment, we also 
> found a cost-effective (free!) way to put hot spot servers in our 
> venues," Mr. MacKinnon wrote in an e-mail message.
> They also keep costs down by loading the machines with free software 
> like the Linux operating system and other programs that they developed 
> to enhance the network for users. Anyone who is connected through the 
> network can see who else is logged on and send Web-based e-mail or chat 
> live with them, wherever they might be in town.
> In the seven months that Austin Wireless City has been around, the 
> group of about 30 volunteers has installed about 40 hot spots. It has 
> signed up 7,200 users, Mr. MacKinnon said ? far more than T-Mobile and 
> Starbucks locally, according to an analysis in Wi-Fi Networking News, 
> and growing at a rate of about 30 percent every two weeks.
> For its part, Starbucks, which now has hot spots in 2,700 stores, is 
> not perturbed by the rise of free wireless, a spokesman for the 
> company, Nick Davis, said. "We believe that the increase in Wi-Fi hot 
> spots is a good thing ? it builds awareness and helps increase customer 
> adoption of Wi-Fi across the board," he said.
> Joe Sims, the vice president and general manager of T-Mobile hot spots, 
> with 4,600 sites nationwide, including those in Starbucks, said that 
> free and for-pay hot spots could coexist. Some people will pay for 
> access because they want to know that they are getting something that 
> is safe and dependable, he said, adding, "Why is there demand for 
> bottled water?"
> Mr. MacKinnon says there are about 100 businesses waiting to join. 
> "We're Santa Claus," he said.
> As one example of what the network can do, during Austin's recent 
> "South by Southwest" music festival, the project made songs by more 
> than 600 artists available to users.
> Is there a business in such a network? Members of the project say they 
> hope so, but they do not yet know what that will be. They know that 
> there will be innovation, and they know that there will be surprises, 
> for good or ill.
> That might sound a little like the unfortunate 
> if-you-build-it-they-will-come fantasy of the dot-com bubble. But Gary 
> Chapman, the director of the 21st Century Project at the Lyndon Baines 
> Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, has written glowingly about 
> the network and Mr. MacKinnon's company, which he sees as "kind of an 
> anti-dot-com, or perhaps an Austin-weird way of doing things, but a 
> model that could take off."
> In an interview, he said, "They've obviously latched onto something 
> that's picking up steam." In fact, he said, it could change the way 
> people look at the wireless market. "I think the presence of the free 
> spots in town is making people sort of expect that that's the way 
> things ought to be."
> Copyright 2004?The New York Times Company

Zachary C. Miller - @= - http://wolfgang.groogroo.com/
IMSA 1995 - UIUC 2000 - Just Another Leftist Muppet - Ya Basta!
 Social Justice, Community, Nonviolence, Decentralization, Feminism,
 Sustainability, Responsibility, Diversity, Democracy, Ecology

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