Ted Leonsis says free WiFi is now an essential utility - Technical.ly DC

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Feb. 23, 2016 12:58 pm

Ted Leonsis says free WiFi is now an essential utility

In fact, Leonsis argues that WiFi is “the new running water.”
Like this, but all over D.C.

Like this, but all over D.C.

(Photo by Flickr user Wesley Fryer, used under a Creative Commons license)

The DMV region needs to come together to figure out a solution for free WiFi for all, Ted Leonsis says. It might look something like NYC’s attempt, he reasons, where the city is installing WiFi-enabled terminals at the sites of (now antiquated) pay phones. LinkNYC, Leonsis adds, show’s how the Big Apple is “kicking our collective butt.”

“I think we need to internalize more and more that wireless infrastructure for free is the new running water,” Leonsis told the Washington Business Journal.

But the infrastructure, and the cost, of such an endeavor won’t come easily. “However we pay for it, we need to have it,” Leonsis argued. “For the people who don’t have access to it, they will fall further and further behind.”

This sentiment is shared by others, including D.C. council member David Grosso. In a conversation with Technical.ly about open government, Grosso was careful to point out that opening the government to more citizens requires not only posting data online, but also giving many more District residents access to the internet itself.

Grosso is pragmatic about the idea of city-wide, free wireless internet access, though. “That is something I also support but I am not sure if we are even close to that,” he told the Washington Business Journal.

It’s not unimaginable that D.C. will work towards a goal of providing free WiFi at a growing list of locations throughout the city. Free municipal internet access is a growing trend — Business Insider has this list of cities with the best free WiFi. Philadelphia was an early bellwether of the difficulties of establishing municipal WiFi. Technical.ly Philly took a retrospective deep dive on municipal broadband last March.

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