Thursday, March 5, 2009

Free neighborhood Wi-Fi bringing us together again

Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Author: RICHARD KELLEHER , The Republic

Months ago, I suggested whatever country or community offers free Wi-Fi will end up as the world leader in new technologies and businesses. I am surprised businesses worldwide are not rushing to locate in Tempe, the first city in the nation to offer citywide free Wi-Fi.

But from the looks of new buildings around Town Lake, and the call centers springing up throughout that city, it appears Tempe is not suffering for job growth. As a loyal Phoenix resident, I'm still waiting for our own City Council to get in gear and duplicate Tempe's smart attitude of the future. With several new council members coming in January, it could happen.

For a year, I've been taking advantage of a neighbor who had unsecured Internet. Problem was I had to go to my parking lot or swimming pool for reception. Try doing that when it is 110-plus degrees out.

Another neighbor saw me and suggested our homeowners' association band together and provide free Wi-Fi to residents.

Turns out there is a program called "Practical End-host collaborative Residential Multihoming" that allows security and sharing for neighborhoods like apartments and townhouses.

Don't tell telecom companies about this idea. Having worked nearly 20 years in marketing for the largest telecom firms in the world, I learned each of them wants to be your single provider and take $100 monthly from your wallet. Think of the impact on telecom, which took a major hit at the turn of the century, if people share Wi-Fi.

Internet phone services could replace phone service. Have you checked television broadcast Web sites recently? Most of your favorite shows are on the Internet, free. That includes video news on sites like I recently taught my son that you can text message all day for free using the Web site of the person you want to text's cellphone provider. Then there is Web cam. I am communicating face-to-face with clients and friends.

Free Wi-Fi would eliminate the need for cable, phone service and texting, saving each homeowner about $1,200 a year. Think of thousands of Phoenicians donating that amount to local charities.

It is ironic. The 20th century's industrial revolution isolated neighbors in contrast to the Agrarian Age, in which everyone had to know their neighbors to do business and survive. Now, in the Technology Age, we are reverting to the Agrarian Age of community involvement.