A need to go wireless

City-run wireless would help solve budget and maintenance woes for students.

University students who live in apartment complexes usually are required to use a certain cable or Internet service provider the building or complex is already set up with. This leaves apartment dwellers with virtually no choice as to what type of Internet service ” or cable, for that matter ” they receive. And although these companies are “set up” by building, residents usually do not receive any sort of group discount on their service. This means Internet service providers have monopolies within these small markets.

A good example is Comcast, which provides Internet and cable TV to many apartments in the Twin Cities. Basic cable for one television ” regular network and public access channels, not any of the good stuff ” and high-speed Internet for one computer runs about $50 a month. Add the cable channels students care about and that jumps to about $90 a month. For a student living in a single or double apartment, this is a ridiculous amount of money. But usually, students in this situation have no choice.

Technical service is another issue. If Comcast’s Internet stops working after regular business hours, its customers are at the whim of the technicians and maintenance crews’ schedules. Citywide wireless Internet in Minneapolis and St. Paul would solve this problem. If it were free or very affordable, it would allow those who have no ready access to the Internet the opportunity to use it and, depending on the model used, might lessen maintenance woes .

The Twin Cities could look into a contract model, such as Google’s offer to provide wireless to its hometown of Mountain View, Calif., and its negotiations with San Francisco to provide citywide wireless. Alternatively, the city could provide its own wireless network and make it a public service, with 24-hour maintenance and access everywhere within city limits. This latter solution is probably more work for the city to get going, but would ultimately be better for the economy and the city’s citizens. Affordable wireless is possible; the city must now realize its benefits and take action.