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Do We Need a Public Option for Online Access?

Wireless Internet

Can you get online in your conference room? Or your cafeteria? How about at your dentist’s office? If not, why not?

As partners to clients in numerous different industries, we routinely visit corporate HQs for meetings and presentations. And we routinely lug around laptops, projectors, and other gadgets and gizmos because we’re never sure of how the facilities we’re using will be equipped. Even with the pervasive nature

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Wireless Internet

Can you get online in your conference room? Or your cafeteria? How about at your dentist’s office? If not, why not?

As partners to clients in numerous different industries, we routinely visit corporate HQs for meetings and presentations. And we routinely lug around laptops, projectors, and other gadgets and gizmos because we’re never sure of how the facilities we’re using will be equipped. Even with the pervasive nature of the web, we’re still not guaranteed that we’ll even have online access when we enter a meeting room.

Why is that? As we move more and more to online applications and cloud based computing one would think that wireless access would be the standard rather than the exception. The recent news that Google will be providing just this kind of access in airports during the holiday season is a clear signal that the public expectation of being able to get on the web anywhere and everywhere is continuing to grow.

I’m actually going to be at a series of government hearings over the next couple of days and (even though the presenters will all be talking about social media) the room where the sessions will be held has no wireless or cel phone accessability. The reason? I’m told it has to do with Federal concerns about network security.

That’s perfectly understandable. Just like company concerns about the security of their internal networks is understandable too. But in practice, these concerns hamper productivity and lead to frustrating technology workarounds.

The current prevalence of closed networks is actually a business opportunity for someone. As digital consumers, we need a second network. Something that companies, government organizations and small businesses can offer their clients without concerns about hackers or viruses invading their valuable private systems. It could be government sponsored (as has been suggested in cities like Philadelphia or New Orleans) or even better, privately administered by a company like Google or Microsoft and subsidized by ad revenue.

With the millions of handheld devices, netbooks and laptops sold every year, such a service would have a built in audience. Now who is going to step up to the plate and serve the needs of these consumers?

Will it be you? Is your company doing what it can to empower clients and employees with online access?

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