Will city-wide wifi survive lawsuits?

Great news that cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston are on the verge of setting up city-wide wi-fi networks.

We live in a lawsuit-happy world.  Technology is an easy target because it is often difficult to understand.  It took about six weeks between the Northwestern University announcement of iPod earbuds causing hearing loss to the first publicized lawsuit against Apple.

With Google potentially involved in SF’s wifi buildout, being the world’s most recognized brand, you can hear the ambulance chasers getting tuned up there and in cities across the nation.  Hopefully cities and tech companies are prepared to legally defend against issues such as:

  • Health risks
  • Access equality
  • Competition from incumbent telcos

It will be interesting to see this play out, as wifi is a public win for politicians, who get to look progressive, and consumers who own devices that will have greater access.  But the majority of urban consumers – people who have a vote, don’t own wifi devices, and may not see a meaningful tax break from a privately owned and operated network – may have a valid Luddite-style opposition movement and rightly so.