Will San Francisco pre-empt its own muni plan?

Even as San Francisco works to develop a citywide municipal wireless plan, plenty of wireless development is going on independent of a focused government program above and below ground. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday that Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) will become the first city subway system to support cellular service on all underground trains. The newspaper reported that contractors have completed the underground portion from the Embarcadero to the Civic Center. Commuters riding beneath Market Street are making calls, checking emails, and surfing the Web. BART lines running beneath Oakland are expected to be outfitted next, followed by Civic Center to Balboa Park, the Transbay Tube, the Berkeley Hills tunnel and the Berkeley subway, the Chronicle reported. The BART cell sites were installed by a private contractor. Five of the six cellular companies provide service, with the sixth in negotiation. BART receives compensation for use of its right of way. Meanwhile, today’s Chronicle noted Bay Area WiFi service provider MetroFi will set up free WiFi hotspots in the Civic Center Plaza, Portsmouth Square and the Ferry Building. In a link to the MetroFi story, WiFiNet News notes that efforts by Google, AnchorWireless and MetroFi, San Francisco has become “festooned” with free wireless. Seperately, Intel cites San Francisco has the nation’s most unwired city. With this much energy and market development going on already, it sort of makes you wonder why San Francisco feels the need to designate one provider as a favored carrier, imposing what amounts to a franchise model on wireless services within the city. For that matter, why should San Francisco city government get involved at all? Service is free and more widespread than ever. Sounds like the market seems to be doing the job fine by itself.