To Live and WiFi in L.A.

Looks like our Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa wants to blanket our city with wireless Internet coverage by 2009 to enable universal access, reported by the LA Times.  Cost is estimated at $54m-$62m, which sounds pretty cheap to me – to cover 10 million residents.  Here’s a radical suggestion:  forget the WiFi, just help make my cell phone signal strong enough that I don’t have to walk out on my patio to receive a call.  And I live only 200 yards from a major freeway.

Universal WiFi sounds good, but I suspect with the technical challenges of providing enough speed, coverage, bandwidth, customer service, etc. that this is an overly ambitious goal.  A noble goal, to be sure.  Some 300 municipalities have tried.

I suggest improving the infrastructure we already have and which supports millions more devices we already rely on:  cell phones.  Cell data speeds are already approaching or exceeding DSL and WiFi anyway.  There are already networks in place and private companies willing to build them out.  What they lack is dense enough coverage.

Why is it, that I can travel to Europe, use my American cell phone in some parking garage basement and get good coverage, but I can’t get the same sitting in my living room in LA?  How many times have you told a caller, “wait, can I call you back on a landline?”  Either I’m too far from an antenna, or the power is too low.  Should be fixable.

The City of LA proposes using city buildings, light poles and other city-owned structures for the antennas.  Fine – let’s use those for more cell phone antennas instead.  In my neighborhood, residents occasionally complain about unsightly cell antennas – let’s figure out a way to build them on the visual blight we already have (e.g. light poles), rather than make more structures.

Anyway, enough rant.  I have to return my calls, but I’ll have to go outside.  Thankfully, it’s 80 degrees and sunny here in February…  Can’t beat that in a euro parking garage!

Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2007
“L.A. mayor wants citywide wireless access”

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