I received an invitation to an MSR-sponsored presentation about "Mesh Networking" today. The summary includes, “Community mesh networking is disruptive to the current residential broadband Internet access paradigm, which relies on cable and DSL being deployed in individual homes. It allows free flow of information without any moderation or selective rate control. Compared to existing systems that are centrally managed by ISPs, mesh networking is organic, where every participant contributes network resources and cooperates to form a self-organizing, self-managing network.“
This reminds me of Aspen, CO, among others, where Wi-Fi service is ostenisbly available for “free” throughout the city. Imagine that. No more warchalking. It also reminds me of Tacoma, WA, where the city itself has installed and manages a high speed internet and television cable service for all city residents.
In my role as planning commissioner for the City of Redmond, I've been thinking about proposing some sorts of policies, primarily for the Utilties chapter of the Comprehensive Plan but also in the Land Use chapter, that might someday lead the city to:
  • provide localized, free (possibly advertising-supported) wireless internet hotspots at transit centers, town squares, libraries, and other public spaces, especially in the two urban centers: Downtown and Overlake OR
  • provide ubiquitous, high speed Wi-Fi ala Long Beach inside city limits and sell network keys to consumers for a reasonable monthly or per-megabyte rate or provide it free of charge with advertising for residents who cannot afford to pay for access.
For many citizens, the idea of free or subsidized Wi-Fi is bound to sound a little radical.  My response is simple: Imagine having to *pay* to listen to radio broadcasts or to watch television with an antenna.  Can it really be that simple? Or am I just dreaming out loud?
What do you think?  Should the Public Utilities element of Redmond's Comprehensive Plan specifically call out invisible spectrum as a public utility that the city should, in the absense of higher authority, be regulated for the benefit of all residents?  Or should we allow ad hoc development of our invisible spectrum?
Also, is it completely insane of me to propose that the City of Redmond seek to provide unregulated, unpaid access to a munincipal wireless network from certain public facilities throughout the city?  If so, why?
Here are a few existing munincipal Wi-Fi projects in US cities and towns: Long Beach, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Salem, MA, Los Gatos,...and honorable mention to the National Mall, in Washington, DC.

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