San Francisco rolls out 3 miles of free Wi-Fi along Market Street

This is a pretty big deal.

“A quarter of a million people traverse Market Street every day, from all walks of life,” Mayor Ed Lee said of the new Wi-Fi service. “Now they can access information, find out when their next bus is coming, or peruse local job listings, all for free. This is a significant first step in my vision of connectivity for our city.”

If San Francisco somehow achieves its goals of free wi-fi for the entire city, cable and phone companies that serve the city will no doubt take a huge hit. I suspect that the rate of cord-cutting (people who drop cable and get the majority of their media-related services from the net) will increase dramatically. Cell phone data plans will become unnecessary. Free alternatives to for-pay cell and land-line phone, TV, and, of course, internet will be available.

I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth going on inside Comcast headquarters as they read this news.

  • Moeskido

    Speaking of Comcast:

    “It was simpler, faster, better to do it on our own… The quality is higher.”


  • Joseph Blake

    Free city-wide wifi isn’t really a substitute for a dedicated, at home connection.

    First, what’s the speed that the city provided wifi offers? What kind of security is implemented? Is it completely open? Is it authenticated in any way? What is the coverage like inside buildings, especially high rises and other larger buildings? What’s the coverage like outside the city limits of San Francisco?

    If I were AT&T and Verizon, I’d be cheering this on. The city is simply paying to offload some of the traffic from those networks, but no one will drop their cell phone plan since the free wifi, even when the network is complete, won’t extend beyond San Francisco proper. And, Comcast probably isn’t worried because the speeds and coverage indoors will be poor, making this mostly used for mobile devices on the street, not laptops and Netflix devices in houses and apartments.

  • Eric C

    How does anyone think this is free? This service is tax payer subsidized. I’m not saying it is a good or bad thing, but please don’t call it free. Nothing provided by a government, or a business for that matter, is free.

    I’d also be very curious to see what kind of performance this system gives.

  • Sigivald

    “Free” meaning … “you’re paying for it but have no control over it and no guarantees of quality or security”.

    I share Mr. Blake’s less-than-sanguine outlook for quality and speed, as well. I would be shocked if real-world quality compared well with DSL, let alone 50Mb cable or LTE.

    I mean, sure, this rollout has a donation of a gigabit of bandwidth, which isn’t bad at all – but I don’t think they’re going to scale that up so that every three blocks in the City has its own gigabit link to the backbone. And at some point Level42 is going to want money for bits.

    (What kind of impact is this going to have on local WiFi networks?

    There are only so many channels in both 2.4 and 5ghz bands, and the City will be using more than one, I imagine, to provide for not having gaps.)