Saturday, March 05, 2005

'Free' Wi-Fi for all!

Lately, the issue of whether or not the FCC can forbid municipalities from offering 'free' Wi-Fi to their residents has been heating up. Philadelphia has been on the forefront, with plans to create a city-wide wireless network that everyone can access.

I'm going to expand on a post I made on Slashdot: These proposals are like "free fishing lures". Imagine that a city government decided to start up a program giving free fishing lures to any interested citizen. After all, the old saying says that to end poverty, you teach a man to fish, right?

The vast majority of Americans don't fish on a regular basis. This is not due to inability to afford it, but a simple lack of interest. However, there is a small group of Americans who do fish, and they can be quite enthusiastic about it. These people already know exactly what they want in the way of fishing lures, and probably already have it. If they don't have it, it's doubtful that the People's Ministry of Fishing Lures would be able to provide it.

Not only that, but a fishing lure is useless if you don't have a fishing pole, and the knowledge of how to fish. A 'free fishing lures' program wouldn't provide either of these things -- at best, it would provide a marginal benefit to people who are already interested in fishing, at the expense of everyone else who isn't. (Ironically enough, many of whom would be poorer than the fishing lure beneficiaries...)