Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The WiFi Hearing

At Monday's Budget & Finance Committee meeting, the Bayview/Hunter's Point folk and the Chinese seniors who had been brought in for the phony protest formed a long line of public commenters to tell the Board that they needed to "move immediately" so that they would no longer suffer racial and economic oppression from the digital divide as represented by the lack of free wi-fi.

Kimo Crossman is probably the first, and definitely the most stubborn, of activists on this issue mostly because nobody at City Hall would bother telling him the truth about anything when he asked for a little information as a would-be helpful citizen two years ago, and they stonewalled him in the most insulting manner possible. Because Kimo has a naive streak, it took him a while to realize he was dealing with knaves, but he finally asked the question, "What are these people trying to hide?" Quite a lot, as it turned out.

After the long litany of people who had been brought in as a public relations device, Kimo used his two minutes of public comment to concisely inject a bit of knowledge into the mix. Here's a slightly edited version of his public commentary on Monday (for a two-minute YouTube of the entire commentary, click here to go to SFWillie's blog):
“This isn’t a public/private partnership. This is a franchise agreement, just like the Comcast agreement. Also, we keep hearing this thing about “universal access.” Well, there’s no service level agreement in this contract. You look at the contract today, and it doesn’t say 90% indoor coverage, it doesn’t say 95% outdoor coverage. It says NO percentage committed coverage in it.

If Earthlink and Google think coverage is so great, and they have all the problems solved, up in the fourth and fifth floors, then why don’t you put it in the contract to require them to give free DSL to anyone who can’t get the coverage? Let them put their money where their mouth is, especially in poor district neighborhoods."

"The city would be wise to do as Philadelphia did and insist on a pilot before a contract is agreed to. That’s completely reasonable. Philadelphia insisted on the pilot, so why can’t San Francisco insist on a pilot?

And let’s remember, Google is giving one megabyte, 1,000K speed, for free to Mountain View. San Francisco’s only getting a third of that speed. What’s up with that? That’s not fair. We should at least ask for a thousand K."

After public comment, Supervisor Mirkarimi asked a number of questions to the mendacious Ron Vinson, who is the titular head and spokesman of the Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, and they were almost a point-by-point reiteration of Kimo Crossman's questions. Newsom's appointee and ally, Supervisor Elsbernd (above), waited for some answers but Mirkarimi bitterly said the questions were merely rhetorical since he doubted that anybody at the department would be able to answer them. Elsberndt then asked that there be a decision and a hearing on the contract soon so it could go forward as quickly as possible.

This is when Supervisor Chris Daly, the chair of the committee, who had been listening to a couple of hours of abusive accusations that he hated poor people of color and Mayor Newsom and that's why he was standing in the way of miraculous free wifi for all, finally lost his cool.

He'd been polite and patient with all the speakers, no matter how tweaked, abusive and crazed, but he pointed out that traditionally, as the chair, he was in charge of calendaring committee hearings and that there were a number of supervisors, including McGoldrick and Ammiano, who needed to be there, and the budget analyst really needed to do a more serious report than the Ed Harrington piece of nonsense they had been presented, and then Supervisor Bevan Dufty pleaded with Daly as a sympathetic fellow supervisor to set a near date, and Daly said, "All right, let's take a recess and I'll go to my office and we'll deal with this."

I have no idea what happened in the back rooms and hallways after that, but Daly returned soon after with the announcement that the next hearing on this issue would be TWO MONTHS from that date, on July 11th. Check, and checkmate.


kimo said...

In gamer/hacker terms - the Mayor got "owned"

greg said...

haha, kimo, I think it's spelled "PWNED" :-)

Mike this is why newspapers are losing readership to blogs and other media. I read none of these things in the hesaidshesaid coverage at the Chronicle and the Examiner. When will they realize that they're not a monopoly any more and will only retain readers by , oh I don't know, REPORTING instead of CAPITULATING?

awesome photos.

PS: Newsom's campaign on Flickr.com posted some pics of the "rally"....check 'em out...


Jon said...

Thanks, this is great journalism.

sfwillie said...

At least two of the seemingly bussed-in commenters spoke in favor of "Wi-Five."

Mathias said...

Great job, once again here is where I get the story behind the story.

And since we're talking WiFi, which brings us to Earthlink, need to say this much.

Earthlink is the devil. Seriously, go here if you don't believe it (or Google Earthlink Customer Complaints).


And can vouch personally for their devilness, their leaving my family without phone service for more than a week (after signing up for their DSL/Phone package), no DSL for a month, all this after just returning home from the hospital with our newborn, you want big fun try going through that.

A month later they slammed us, that is took over our DSL services from AT&T without our consent, once again leaving us without any kind of DSL service.

What I'm saying is Earthlink has no customer telephone assistance anywhere but faraway countries (who will put you on hold for sometimes four hour stretches), one or two actual real live human beings to cover the entire Bay area should you have physical problems with your hookup (and not being able to get to these problems often for weeks), representatives who will lie to get you off the phone and have no idea how to run things, it's a huge, huge mess and I can't imagine them ever taking control of our city's wireless services.

Having a company like this take on such a project as a city's wireless services is a disaster in the making.

Anonymous said...

I love your posts which have this soap opera element. A dramatic storyline, familiar characters, installments.

Does anyone have concerns about the unknown but not entirely dismissable health/environment impact of wifi (& etc.)? I keep looking and reading and asking. Adamant dismissal of concerns at one end and questionable hyperbole at the other. But plenty to question in between. Did anyone bring that up at the meeting? Does Kimo have thoughts on this?


Here are some of the lots of sources:




sfmike said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone, and the detailed delineation of Earthlink as Satan from Mathias.

To Ellen: I don't think Kimo has any issues with the health ramifications of wifi. In fact, he loved both wifi and Google before he started being demonized by the powers-that-be. Check out SFGate's Local News Blog where they write about how the San Francisco City Attorney's spokesman, Matt Dorsey, is going after Kimo personally. These people really are shameless.