Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wired city: Plug Shreveport into the world

Anxiety over last-minute decisions at the office weighed on me during a family trek to Mt. Rushmore. When we pulled into a highway rest stop in Iowa, a sign declaring free Internet access was a godsend.

Disappointing my wife who declared the trip a mostly-electronic-free vacation, I popped open my laptop and logged into e-mail. After a short exchange with the office, my mind was clear.
"Can we turn it off now?" she said. We returned to the license plate alphabet game and High School Musical sing-a-longs.

In the middle of the country, business was enabled, encouraged. Traveling around, you begin to see some advantages for Shreveport to set up public-supported free Internet access. (This is being considered by the City Council).

Just like food and water, Internet connectivity is seen by the next generations as a basic need. As the global economy evolves and breathes online, we can help put our city on the fast track now. The time is nigh for us to wrap our arms around the future by investing in it.

If you want young professionals to remain and thrive, provide the kind of services they seek -- and make it easy.

It isn't necessary to blanket the city with WiFi. We could implement a phased plan. The Texas Avenue corridor, the area around courthouses and government buildings and Red River District are good places to start.

Spotlight our new services with signs announcing, "Entering a public access WiFi zone."
Imagine a passerby on I-20 looking at a billboard that says, "Free Internet access in 5 miles; Connect in Shreveport's downtown."

When conventioneers and tourists visit, they can explore and make business deals at downtown eateries or meet partners to review presentations. They'll feel unencumbered.

Make Internet access free at the local airport as a business calling card. That service will be like a mint on the pillow to high-powered executives traveling to and from Shreveport.

Phoenix offers this. Why shouldn't we? (Check others.)

An introductory step into a city-supported wireless venture would do much:
g Locals may be drawn downtown for lunch or stay downtown to work outside their cubicle.
g Internet access would serve as an incentive for small businesses to locate downtown.
g Build-it-and-they-will-come infrastructure philosophy might attract wired young professionals and some technology companies that will serve Cyber Command.

Imagine overhearing college students: "Hey, let's go over to the District and meet. We can hook up for free while we eat." If you want young professionals going downtown, give them what they seek.

Once we expand WiFi access, imagine real estate agents, city workers and sales people becoming faster and more efficient in a city supporting new ways of working. Ah, this is a quality-of-life feature we can celebrate.

As we build more roads and highways, we should build an on-ramp to the new economic and information superhighway.

While sitting on the bank of the Red River, a young woman opens her laptop to make a business decision that adds another Shreveport business to the global economy.


Tour de Shreveport said...

I won't argue that WiFi access is important. But I'll argue that Highland is where it should go.

After a summer of conducting walking tours in downtown Shreveport, it became very clear how little we offer to visitors on the weekend in downtown. Finding a restroom that's open on the weekend is very difficult. A place that sells bottled water? Impossible. Who knew there would ever be a Subway restaurant that wouldn't be open on the weekends?

I'm not complaining. I love this town and wouldn't live anywhere else. But I think more folks would get better use out of WiFi in the Highland neighborhood where there are plenty of restaurants and shops open on weekends (and weekdays). And the Highland neighborhood is still the number one choice for living space for the young and creative.

Anonymous said...

Incredibly good journalism! To paraphrase others it has been said, "For every good man, there is a good woman supporting and encouraging him." The same can be said for a city, regarding it's newspaper. For so many years we have suffered through negative news reports which seemed to delight the editors of the Times. It seemed we were always last in everything we did, in Louisiana.

You are in a position to help Shreveport to move into the future with a positive attitude or to continue with a negative attitude. I am delighted to see you have chosen the more positive approach, in this matter. I commend you and hope you will chose to continue on this path.

Joebagadonuts said...

Let's get this straight, Alan...there is no FREE anything, WiFi or otherwise. Somebody pays for it...like the taxpayer in most cases.

You want "young professionals" (are they still called yuppies?") to have access to this "FREE" (read paid for by somebody else" service. Aren't most of them employed, in full time jobs, perhaps even making good money? Why don't they pay for their own service? You can get a card for your laptop from many cell phone providers that will let you "connect" just about anywhere! (I assume these yuppies have cell phones).

Why should I, a retiree, living on a fixed income, have to pay for my OWN internet service, and also have to also PAY for some employed yuppie's also? If I send you my monthly bill, will you pay it for me? If not, why? Don’t you think I, an old person living on a fixed income, deserves it? Am I no longer a worthy contributor to your yuppie society?

Enquiring minds and all that!

As for the “passerby on I 20” seeing “Free WiFi zone” signs…so what? Do you really think someone on I20 will leave it and come to downtown Shreveport, with limited FREE parking, traffic congestion, endless streets under construction, and crime just to use their laptop? Yeah, sure, uh, huh?

Or the “mint on the pillow” for that “high powered executive”! C’mon Alan, give me a break. Again, why should the taxpayers provide something FREE (remember “FREE” means “paid for by taxpayers”)? Can’t this “high powered, mint loving executive” afford such things?

FWIW go check out an article in last Saturday’s Dallas Morning News about cities and WiFi. Seems most are finding the cost is higher than thought, and the use lower! Amazing! A government entity actually discovering that if something is a money losing proposition, private enterprise will not provide it.

Apparently you and your yuppie colleagues don’t realize that concept applies to Shreveport too, and as a result you want we taxpayers to fund your money losing product or idea. If there is a true, valid DEMAND for WiFi in the “Texas Street corridor” or anywhere else for that matter, don’t you think some group of bright young professionals would realize it? Perhaps even form a company to make a lot of money to provide it. Then they can pay for their own WiFi!

See? Free enterprise works!

Anonymous said...

To joebagadonuts: it's an attitude like yours that keeps this city and state at the bottom of the statistics in this country (except when it comes to crime). we need change, technology, and to move as fast as the rest of the country.