San Francisco’s Wi-Fi Plan on November Ballot Proposal

Even while Earthlink seems to be stepping away from municipal wi-fi projects, San Francisco is introducing a non-binding ballot proposal to gauge citizen interest in blanketing the city in Google/Earthlink hotspots.

Nathan Weinberg dug up a copy of the ballot initiative, which includes requirements for privacy protections (emphasis added):

Declaration of policy supporting a wireless broadband network that provides free high-speed internet access for all San Franciscans and protects user privacy.

It is the policy of the People of the City and County of San Francisco that:

(1) The City should provide a wireless broadband Internet access network (‘Wi-Fi Network”) serving all parts of San Francisco equally;

(2) The Wi-Fi Network should provide free Internet access for all of the City’s residents, businesses, institutions, and visitors;

(3) The Wi-Fi Network’s free service should operate at a high speed that fully supports typical home, educational and civic uses of the Internet;

(4) The City should initially provide the Wi-Fi Network through a public-private partnership that utilizes expertise of the high technology sector and minimizes financial risk to the City;

(5) The City should ensure that any private entities with which it contracts to provide Wi-Fi service adhere to privacy policies that offer strong safeguards against the unauthorized sharing of personal information with third parties and against the unnecessary retention of information about WiFi users’ locations; and

(6) The City should approve all agreements necessary for providing a City-wide Wi-Fl Network and should implement such agreements as quickly as possible consistent with applicable law.

(7) Private entities negotiating with the City and County should consider in good faith adopting the strongest privacy safeguards against the unauthorized sharing of personal information with third parties and against the unnecessary retention of information about Wi-Fl users’ locations, adopting clear service standards for Wi-Fi users prior to finalization of a contract with the City and County, and adopting a reasonable term of contract that avoids a franchise relationship between private entity and the City and County and is beneficial to both parties.

If course, I would prefer language stronger than suggesting that the ISP “should consider in good faith” adopting string privacy safeguards. And who gets to decide what is “unnecessary retention of information”? Nevertheless, it’s good to see it out there for the voters to consider.

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