In an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronice called "Why Wi-Fi? Because we're the city that can," Adam Werbach, a member of the city's public utilities commission, lays out the rationale for San Francisco's fast-track plan for getting municipal wireless:
The entrance of the city into this world challenges the existing monopolies and will foster the competition necessary to provide universal high- speed, low-cost access. Today, cable and DSL providers control almost 98 percent of the residential and small-business broadband market in the United States.
... With these factors in mind, the mayor has put us on a two-option fast- track to a new network. The first option -- the public-private partnership model -- is for the city to work with nonprofits and/or private companies to build and operate a system on behalf of all San Franciscans. The second option -- the public model -- is to have the city build and operate our own system.
... The city could have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars creating the specifications for routers, transponders and hubs. Instead, it has produced a series of bottom-line demands for the network.
Werbach describes the core demands as affordability ("a lot less" than the standard $40 a month), nomadic access, open access (a private partner would allow others to use the network), and flexibility.
By the end of September, we'll learn who's able to make the best offer for the people of San Francisco. If no one provides us a good offer, we'll roll up our sleeves and look into building a city-owned network. In the weeks ahead, you'll hear from Comcast and SBC that the city is incapable of coordinating a complicated system. But water speculators said the same thing before the city built the Hetch Hetchy system. Seventy-five years later, the "city that can" is stepping in on behalf of the people.