Excerpts I wrote for mayoral candidate Andrew Grant Houston’s campaign policy proposal:
We’ve reached a point where internet access is a utility: it’s required for job applications, housing applications, school research, and more…we require digital access for nearly everything, including school attendance, without providing that access for those who can’t afford it.
If we are going to be a city that …provides opportunity for all residents, we need to increase internet access. One of the best ways to do that is to establish a free public Wi-Fi system.
The best part?
We already have a plan.
LINKING THE CITY
In 2018, we had a potential agreement in front of us, that the mayor essentially ignored until it went away. I say, we take action now.
Modeled after LinkNYC, the most successful public Wi-Fi model in the US, our proposal would be a public-private partnership agreement that uses advertising revenue to subsidize an extensive, fast, free Wi-Fi network across the city via kiosks. This is particularly helpful for folks living on the street, not only providing internet access but a place to charge their phones as well. In New York, CityBridge Consortium took on the cost of designing, installing, connecting, and maintaining terminals in exchange for the sidewalk uses and sharing their ad revenue with the City. They guaranteed at least $500 million to the City over an 11-year period, which if we get even a fraction of that, could be a great investment directly in installing and upgrading our sidewalks.
BALANCING FREEDOM WITH PRIVACY
The kiosks are particularly attuned to generate more ad revenue than normal because it gives advertisers access to data, so I am extremely cognizant that we must negotiate hard and be extremely protective and mindful of the data shared within an agreement for public Wi-Fi.
Still, inaction is no longer an option in the digital age. If we are going to be a city that provides resources and access for those that need it most, we need to be able to dig into the hard conversations and work out the details on Free Public WiFi. That’s how we embrace our tech hub status and become a CleanTech Capital.
No more Comcast with hefty prices and unreliable service—which just so happens to spend thousands lobbying City Hall—and no more CenturyLink. By enacting public wifi, we tell these corporations Seattle isn’t for sale and that we support net neutrality. These private providers get to pick and choose which houses and neighborhoods they wish to provide service. With public Wi-Fi, service would be equally provided to every resident in the city.