Making free wifi pay—at no cost to ratepayers

Victoria Street billboard backs Jack

With the first billboard going up in town, I’ve been asked about whether my free wifi programme will cost ratepayers.
   In a word, no. The wifi programme will be supported by selling the space on the home page.
   Upkeep of such a service, and I am looking at several alternatives, is in the low five figures, though considering the benefits to Wellington’s GDP is measured in the millions, it’s a sound investment.
   Where it could wind up costing Council is in the expansion of such a network. However, there are low-cost ways of doing that. The high figure is NZ$250,000 to roll it out to different areas, but lower figures have been proposed.
   I would like to roll out free wifi to more than the central city, targeting neighbourhoods that could benefit from the educational uses of the internet. Newtown and Johnsonville seem to be communities that could benefit most greatly.
   I’d do this after the central city programme was successful and I think the figures will support my intentionally conservative estimates. There will be rates’ gains to Wellington City thanks to productivity, improved businesses, and new businesses. If all indicators look good, then the rollout will continue to cost ratepayers the grand sum of zero dollars.
   There are other ways, too, to make free wifi pay. Last week, two of my supporters sent me an article on Starbucks’ plans to capitalize on its free wifi service.
   In Starbucks’ case, it’s launching a network that has premium content in news, entertainment, wellness, business and careers, and ‘My Neighborhood’.
   No money is changing hands: instead, the companies, such as Apple, are paying Starbucks for the opportunity to get new business.
   And if Starbucks can do it, why can’t Wellington City? The idea of opening up the home page to advertisers (incidentally, there is already interest, and we haven’t even launched) is the same principle, albeit in a limited way. Expanding it during year one to include premium content from Kiwi creatives can only be a good thing for how we see our city.

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5 thoughts on “Making free wifi pay—at no cost to ratepayers

  1. This is wonderful, but please make sure you study the failures of other metro wifi rollouts.

    Make sure you are talking to people who actually understand the technical challenges of such a roll out. And if you partner with a “for profit” 3rd party company make sure that if they run into problems that Wellington isn’t left back where they started but with much less money.

    The Portland (Oregon) MetroFi roll out is a perfect example of what not to do.


  2. Thank you for your good advice, Adam. We’ve been shown some case studies, and we’ve identified a few likely firms with good track records that we can partner with. I will definitely be alert.

  3. Good one Jack,

    250K isn’t a lot when one considers the lost revenue our greedy telco’s will have from their 3G networks.

    Free Wi-fi is a no brainer.. Higher levels of service like speed and traffic allocations could possibly be paid for also.

  4. Paid services for a greater allocation might work, but I don’t know enough about the technology. Absolutely brilliant idea, fucking stupid we don’t have it already, but yeah – make sure someone reads all the case studies before we leap in – so we do it right. :)

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