Louisa McCune asks why is there no free downtown-wide wireless network?
The answer requires a bit more context than what can be provided through a 140-character response on Twitter.
There was a time when such a system was contemplated. Consider this story from Oklahoman archives:
Downtown to have wireless ‘hot spots’
Chamber dangles $150,000 incentive
By Steve Lackmeyer
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Edition: CITY, Section: BUSINESS, Page 1B
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber is dangling a $150,000 incentive as part of a request issued Wednesday to Internet providers to create wireless “hot spots” downtown and along the Oklahoma River.
The request for proposals proposes establishing the “hot spots” — places where wireless Internet connections are available to the public — in Bricktown, the Arts District and Myriad Gardens, the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the Oklahoma River and the future American Indian Cultural Center.
Chamber president Roy Williams said the “potential” $150,000 assistance would come from community partners — possibly including the city — and is meant to show a willingness to share in the risk.
“In the event that would make a difference, that someone saw the community being a partner as being critical, we would consider that,” Williams said. “We want to make sure people understand there is some infrastructure assistance.”
Williams hopes the hot spots can be in place by later this year. Responses to the request will be due July 31.
Wireless hot spots were ranked among the city’s top needs in the fall 2004 “Project Next” forum at the Cox Convention Center, and is touted by the chamber as a key to promoting tourism and convention business.
Rhonda Hooper, chief executive of Jordan Associates and co-chairman of chamber’s Wi-Fi committee, said planning for the proposal request started in January 2005. Discussions initially focused on possibly of expanding use of a citywide municipal wireless system being constructed for public safety.
But that idea was discarded, Hooper said, when the committee learned of quality assurance issues and risks to the city’s system.
But the urgency of establishing some “hot spots” grew with recent listings ranking Oklahoma City 82nd among 100 major cities in providing wireless Internet access.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people, we’ve done our due diligence,” Hooper said. “Technology has changed rapidly — every month it seems. We didn’t want to just jump into this.”
Hooper said the chamber’s request envisions a system that is supported by advertising or sponsorship revenues, and would be self supporting.
Efforts already are underway to create hot spots at State Fair Park and the Cox Convention Center. Access is already in place at Will Rogers World Airport.
Williams said potential contributors to a system could include downtown housing developers and businesses wishing to enhance services to customers.
“We believe Oklahoma City is as technologically savvy as any place in the nation,” Williams said. “This project will help display the ingenuities and knowledge of our community.”
SO, WHY IS THERE NO DOWNTOWN FREE WIRELESS FIVE YEARS LATER?
In April, 2009, I got the following explanation:
“We got involved thinking it was something we needed to do because Oklahoma City had to have it,” said Drew Dugan, who oversaw the project on behalf of the chamber. “Once we got into it, we realized the bottom line was the private market was already providing that service. With all the 3G technology coming online, people can get connected with any device they want with a pretty low cost.”
The chamber’s decision to drop the wireless effort was followed by announcements in Philadelphia and San Francisco that provider Earthlink was going to cease service that was similar to that of the service Oklahoma City was hoping to establish.
“The bottom line is, if you look around the country, most of the folks who spent time doing wireless systems found out it’s a waste of money,” Dugan said.
Now, all that being said, two major wireless providers provide free connections in Bricktown. And I can’t remember a time since either system went live when I could rely on either signal for very long.