December 7, 2006

$1M for 3 Square Miles of WiFi?

I'm a big fan of wireless Internet access, but not big enough to support spending a million dollars in public money to offer town employees WiFi in a 3-square-mile section of downtown Framingham.

According to the Globe, "Kathleen McCarthy, Framingham technology services director, last week briefed selectmen on a plan to provide Internet access for town employees in a 3-square-mile downtown area at a cost of about $1 million. It would cost a total of $2.7 million to $4 million to expand wireless service to the entire town, she said.

"McCarthy said the primary goal of the proposal is to 'extend municipal services out to the field.' "

OK, so we can't afford to replace the terribly inadequate branch library in Saxonville, but we have a million dollars to spend so "Police, fire, public works, and health inspection services personnel all could work away from the office more efficiently with laptops and wireless Internet access"? Um, I don't think so.

And by the way, Framingham is 26 square miles, not just 3. If the service is for public employees, what possible rationale could there be to spend a million dollars to offer wireless very close to town offices, and not offer it in areas of the town more remote from town hall? If this is so useful to, say, more quickly map and fix a water main break, why give the service only to downtown?

If we're going to be investing money in downtown infrastructure, how about first improving the streetscape? Make it a compelling pedestrian environment, and you'd help attract new business activity, boost property values and improve quality of life. Wifi needs to come after that, not before.

I would, however, like to see public WiFi access at both town library buildings.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like something that Natick would do. How about WiFi at the golf course?