LA leaders push for free Wi-Fi citywide

Photographer brings everything he needs to work online at the local coffee shop.

The Los Angeles City Council is considering a plan to provide free wireless Internet for all of Los Angeles, a move that would make the city the nation’s largest with free, universal access.

Some South L.A. residents say they aren’t sure if they agree with expanding the city’s hotspot. Still, the need is apparent.

Destiny Walker, 21, rides her bike about twelve blocks to the nearest Starbucks on Slauson and Western Avenues to get online.

“If I could just be wherever I want with free Wi-Fi, I’m going to be, like, everywhere,” she said.The average L.A. household pays about $75 to $100 a month for Wi-Fi. Walker, who lives in a low-income area, says not many people in her neighborhood that have access.

“There’s probably like two people in the radius of like fifteen miles that got Wi-Fi,” said Walker. “There’s probably, like, three Starbucks and a couple McDonalds that have Wi-Fi, but who wants to sit in McDonalds?”

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Ruben Lizardo, associate director for Policy Link, says the project estimated to cost $6 billion will have another price for South L.A. residents — a bombardment of advertising. “The folks who use the internet this way will actually be subject to all the advertisements and all the different things that come with having a vendor like this,” Lizardo said. “We shouldn’t give South L.A.’s consumer power away for nothing.”

The new fast internet access system will require installation of fiber-optic cables in all homes and businesses, and the city is taking bids to build the system. Some residents say they are skeptical, worrying that the winner will benefit more than the users.

Community organizer Bobby Buck says widespread, fast internet access for free could carry consequences, saying, “Big Brother is getting very clever.”

Shauna Sterling and Shaisha Houston, both healthcare organizers, meet at their local Starbucks to access free internet. Sterling said she worries about increased exposure to questionable influences. “The bad thing is that our kids are already exposed to a lot, and that’ll give them more free range on…the things they don’t need to get a hold to,” she said.

Houston has a different issue on her mind. “It’s just another scheme to get into the homes of everyone in America and use something free as a reason to invade people’s privacy,” she said.

Nearly 70% of american adults have a high-speed broadband connection at home.

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