By City News Service
A Los Angeles City Council committee asked earlier this week for a report on how to go about setting up free, citywide wireless Internet service.
The Innovation, Technology and General Services Committee instructed city staff to draw up an "inventory of existing WiFi within the city," investigate ways other cities have implemented free WiFi and make recommendations on developing the service in Los Angeles. The report is due back to the committee in a month.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, the committee's chair, likened citywide WiFi service to other city infrastructure, such as roads and highways, and said he felt sure it would also help the city save money and become more efficient.
When the city last looked into a citywide service in 1992, it was found to be "prohibitively expensively," but "a lot has changed in those years both in terms of the technology making it cheaper, and we have seen other cities ... successfully take it on," he said.
"Conceptually, it can do a lot for the city as far as bridging the digital divide," Blumenfield added.
Councilman Mike Bonin endorsed the idea, saying it was "ridiculous" and "embarrassing" that Los Angeles does not yet have citywide WiFi.
"We are one of the most cutting-edge and wired cities in the world," he said.
In his motion, Blumenfield said free WiFi service would benefit government officials, businesses and visitors, as well as people who "cannot afford private high-speed services."
The city already offers WiFi service at libraries, job resource centers and Los Angeles International Airport. A citywide program would make Los Angeles the largest city to provide universal 'WiFi service. Minneapolis, Riverside and San Jose already have free citywide WiFi.
"We live in a world where success is increasingly tied to ability access to information," Blumenfield said last week. "The benefits of wireless Internet access across the city are numerous, from reducing startup costs for new businesses to ensuring that every student is able to access essential tools for learning."