On February 23, the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission voted 4 to 1 to allow AT&T to install WiFi antennas on a downtown apartment building. This vote gave AT&T lucrative and preferential access rights to public WiFi spectrum–for free.
Imagine the public outrage if a private hotel fenced off a public beach. Anyone can visit the beach but all the parking spaces and places to sit are permanently occupied by hotel guests. That’s exactly what’s happening on Palo Alto’s public WiFi spectrum: If AT&T customers are hogging up all the public spectrum then there won’t be any public spectrum left for the public. Executives behind the “WiFi offloading” market strategy even refer to it as a “land grab”:
Palo Alto residents need to put a stop to this land grab. I urge all Palo Alto residents to contact their city council representatives and demand that the Planning Comission 1) ensures equal access to the easements and rights of way for competitive offerings such as free community WiFi, 2) restricts the amount of public spectrum set aside for AT&T, and, 3) ensures that the public has open access to service offerings using public spectrum. Equal access promotes innovation that is the heart and soul of Palo Alto.