The Paradoxes of Public WiFi

My apologies for my short absence from this blog. I have spent most of the past two weeks “in the field” as it were, first at the International Security Conference (ISC)-West in Las Vegas, then at a policy forum at Microsoft in Seattle. Entries on both will come over the course on the coming days and weeks. For starters, however, the two trips marked the first time since last fall I’ve had a chance to get out on the road and experience the dubious wonders of near-ubiquitous Wi-Fi the tech elite can’t stop gushing about. For me, however, the experience brought to mind two popular epigrams. The first is an observation attributed to Yogi Berra, who, asked to comment on a popular New York night spot, said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” The second is an old Borscht Belt joke about an exchange between two disappointed restaurant patrons: “The food is so bad here,” says one. “And in such small portions,” replies the other. As a technology, WiFi is simply ill-designed for wide area, large-scale Internet connectivity. I have always wondered why so many cities were intent on pursuing it as a broadband solution. Now having experienced both municipal and commercial services, I’m still left scratching my head.