The New York Times editorial board says nyah-nyah to Long Island's Wi-Fi network: The editorial posted on the Times masthead blog, The Board, notes that a "no-name" company with "no track record" was awarded a contract, and that citizens shouldn't worry because "the government wouldn't be spending anything." (The Suffolk County executive Steve Levy was quoted by the Times in August 2007 saying precisely that: "No taxpayer dollars will be spent.")
The money grafs in this article: "No tax dollars, no risk, no problem. Now it looks like no wi-fi, either."
As I, Craig Settles, Esme Vos, Craig Plunkett (a local wireless provider), your crazy uncle, and John McCain could probably have all told you (and many of us did), a $150m network from a firm that hasn't built such a network, with no municipal commitment for the purchase of services means no network will be built. I'm not saying that Wi-Fi is the answer or any answer, but it's become clear that if a city can't move some of its dollars from one vendor to a Wi-Fi provider in order to secure service, there's no way a network gets built. (See: everywhere.)
From left to right: Internet Explorer logo, E-Path's logo as of a few weeks ago, E-Path's new logo
Taxpayer dollars are already being spent on incumbent services for voice and data. Moving expenses from one firm to another is only a risk if there's a cost involved that can't recouped, and if the city is on the hook for services if a network goes defunct. That can happen, and has happened. But it's a different issue than spending "taxpayer dollars." In fact, through better controls and more efficiency, spending on wireless broadband of all kinds (Wi-Fi, public safety 4.9 GHz, WiMax, and cell data), fewer taxpayer dollars could be spent or more services obtained. Think about police officers being in the field 10 percent more per day if they can file reports from the field, electronically. It's been shown to help in cities that have tried this even with older wireless systems.
The Times editorial board isn't content to ridicule the potential deployment, however. They note that directory services lacks a listing for E-Path, that no phone number is on the company's site, and that email to the four principals isn't responded to--except a bounce message from the COO who apparently left the firm on 14 April 2008.
I'd also note that the company must have seen my post on the similarities of their logo to the Internet Explorer icon. The new logo is entirely different, and new in the last few weeks. (See inset figure.)