I was out at AOL a couple weeks back, talking to some of their Search folks about their business and product strategy — a truly WONDERFUL set of people, BTW — when the story about Philly possibly providing free city-wide WiFi access was circulating.
Sitting in AOL’s HQ lobby, looking at the huge flat-screen showing usage stats and pictures of their international data centers, it occurred to me that an ISP like AOL (and heck, many cable, phone and as recently announced, electric companies) must be dreading this news.
Sure, there’s still business in providing bandwidth to the city; and most businesses would want to have some type of backup plan vs. 100% reliance on the city for their connectivity… but clearly, the days of 30MM $19.95 subscribers are numbered.
Of course, being a bit of a sceptic, I expected that these behemoths would simply crush the movement by lobbying ($$$) in D.C. for “protection”, “consideration”, or some other such euphemism for gov’t subsidies…
But, reading Korby’s post… and seeing that at least in the case of Redmond, the initiative was coming from a savvy tech employee focused on actually trying to provide value to everyday citizens… well, that just warms my heart a bit and gives me hope that the common good just might outweigh the machinations of biggie corporations.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to watch.