Mayor Gavin Newsom’s agreement with two high-tech giants to blanket The City in a free wireless Internet network is coming under attack as city supervisors focus on another option — a city-owned network.
The Board of Supervisors will ultimately have to decide whether to approve the agreement with Earthlink and Google to setup a wireless, or Wi-Fi, Internet network in San Francisco at no cost to The City, but there clearly is opposition mounting among city supervisors.
The Board of Supervisors was slated to vote Tuesday on a nonbinding resolution authored by Supervisor JakeMcGoldrick that requests more study of a city-owned Wi-Fi network before moving ahead with the private partnership. McGoldrick, however, requested to postpone the vote until March 20 in what he called "a gesture of cooperation," although earlier in the day McGoldrick had sent a memo to board members requesting their support of the resolution. Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Tom Ammiano and Chris Daly have co-sponsored it.
During the hearing, Daly came out in support of a city-owned Wi-Fi network and requested that the Controller’s Office identify by next week money to pay for a city-owned Wi-Fi network.
McGoldrick says The City could offer the best possible service at the lowest possible cost since it would not be profit-driven, only needing to break even. A Budget Analyst’s report shows The City could build a Wi-Fi network for $10 million, with a $1 million annual price tag for maintenance.
Chris Vein, director of The City’s Department of Technology, which negotiated the deal with Earthlink and Google, said The City would face a sizable financial risk in moving forward on its own and perhaps would never break even. He added that The City issued request for proposals at the outset to have the "best and brightest minds in The City and the country to tell us which way to go."
The postponement of the resolution vote to March 20 was approved in a 6-5 vote. The board will have 180 days to make a decision on the agreement from the time that San Francisco Public Utilities Commission signs off on an unresolved piece of the agreement, the use of The City’s light poles. The commission is expected to come to an agreement during the next few weeks, according to Vein.