We "deserve" free Wifi?

I really think it's cool that Google is funding free Wifi access in the Bay area. I assume there's a business value behind it - the more people are spending time on the web, the more hits Google's Search Engine and AdSense products get. A nice, innovative approach to driving business. Kudos to Google.

I enjoyed the quick read on their blog this morning until I got to this line:

we continue to hope that EarthLink and The City will find a way to enable all San Franciscans to enjoy the free WiFi network they deserve

Maybe I'm being petty, but I really hate the entitlement mentality for luxury items (after all you need a device capable of Wifi before using it). Wifi is not an entitlement, although I would suggest there are legititate reasons municipalites would provide such a service to their communities for free.

When I ran my consulting businses out of Michigan City, Indiana, I was part of the Michigan City Technology Task Force that decided that free wifi in Michigan City made sense. But that wasn't out of entitlement for the residents, it was purely a community economic development decision - the benefits for the community outweighed the costs of providing the service. And my friends in the Seattle area would be shocked to learn that we proposed such a solution without proposing to raise taxes!

Google's innovative approach to driving web traffic is good. Let's not oversell what it is, though. You can, and will, damage a brand that way.

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