The man who put Wi-Fi in NYC parks

A profile of Marshall Brown, a very connected guy who is committed to making New York a wireless city.

The New York Times profiles Marshall Brown, the geekstah entrepreneur who put Wi-Fi in 18 Manhattan parks this summer.

“The first end of Internet expansion was about globalization,” he lectures — yes, he spent five years as a teaching fellow at Harvard — “but this second phase of wireless Internet is going to be about the Internet made local.” His niche: for example, “What we’re going to enable by installing our portals in the parks is for people to get more in touch with where they happen to be.” Cool.
His vision thing is ubiquitous Internet where "there is world-pervasive computerization, and people get all content all the time.”
“The challenge is to get from where we are now to that point; it’s as much a cause as a company,” he says of Wi-Fi Salon, the tiny company he formed in 2003 on, not by coincidence, Sept. 11.

Brown got the Wi-Fi contract after Verizon withdrew from the project in October 2004. Small wonder - Wi-Fi Salon will run the project in the red for the first half of the three-year contract.

This month Wi-Fi Salon activated the first of its wireless “hot spots” in Battery Park, and Mr. Brown says the portal there will offer a historical slide show, a tour of the Dutch gardens, and a video-cam hookup to the Statue of Liberty. In Mr. Brown’s wireless neighborhoods, connectivity is accompanied by educational content.

“People ask me, ‘Why the heck are you doing this? There’s no business model for it,’ and I tell them, ‘That’s exactly why,’ ” he says. “We’re very much at the ‘Gee whiz’ phase of this technology.” But he predicts that by 2007, 100 million WiFi devices will be in use.

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