Following in the footsteps of other cities around the world, the City of Los Angeles is considering offering free, citywide Wi-Fi service to its residents. If the city does move forward with the plan, it would become the largest city to offer free Wi-Fi service in the United States.
The topic came up during a recent city hall meeting, and city councilors have asked the city’s information technology agency to conduct some research on the costs and logistics of setting up free Wi-Fi access for L.A. residents.
“We live in a world where success is increasingly tied to the ability to access information,” said Los Angeles Councilman Bob Blumenfield. “Providing universal access to the Internet is a natural and necessary extension of these efforts.”
Blumenfield said free Wi-Fi service would benefit government officials, businesses and visitors, as well as people who "cannot afford private high-speed services.'' The city already offers Wi-Fi service at libraries and LAX airport.
"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," he said.
The cost of such a project is unknown, but would probably not be inexpensive. Back in 2007, the Los Angeles Times estimated that citywide Wi-Fi would cost more than $62 million. The city would need to invest in hardware and antennae to reach residents within its 498 square miles.
The city council plans to revisit the issue again next month when the technology agency staff members come back with their research.
Los Angeles has plenty of examples to look to, as nearby cities like Riverside and Burbank have free city-wide Wi-Fi service for residents. Other large cities have implemented free Wi-Fi access, including Houston, Minneapolis and San Jose. However, Los Angeles would be the largest U.S. city to provide residents with free Wi-Fi service if the project is approved.