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Wireless in the Park...I just don't get it!

Logo_wireless3910 Not sure if y'all know, but the City of Kirkland is in the process of spending $114,671 of our tax dollars to run a 15 month pilot project to offer wireless access in two downtown parks. Did you know it was live right now?   After I heard this I started to wonder why this is going on and who really wanted it?  Did the citizens all petition our city to get this done?  Is there huge demand for wireless in our parks? Perhaps this offers the city a new revenue source to ease our burden a bit?  Was this the best use of of 115 big ones?  I just don't get it! 

First let's get some facts down (click here for an overview of the project and access to the FAQ).  Here is why the city is saying you might use Wireless in the Park:

  1. Perhaps you are a local parent and need to answer email while your children play in the park.
  2. It's one of our fabulous sunny days and you can't resist moving your meeting outside. 
  3. You are a visitor and want to find out about the restaurants in town. 

Now let's break this down a bit.   Janis and I take our kids to the parks all the time (read our park reviews if you don't believe me).  The last thing Janis or I want to do is bring our laptops along, ignore our kids, and sit there doing email (besides, a blackberry device works much better if you really must do email that often--you don't need the city to provide wireless either).  OK, so let's suppose you do bring your laptop to the park and it's one of those nice sunny days the city references above.  Have you ever tried looking at a laptop outside, during a sunny day?  You can't see a damn thing unless you are sitting in a covered/shady area--which are not abundant in either Peter Kirk Park or Marina Park.  Better yet, let's take the "visitor" benefit statement.  Yup, I see visitors all the time just walking around our parks with their laptops wondering where the heck they might find a restaurant around Kirkland. Then they get all frustrated because we don't have wireless in our parks.  I just don't get it!   

So why is the city spending our hard earned tax dollars on this project?   Many of the local businesses already offer WI-FI for free.  Kahili is a great example.  The city mentions the likes of San Francisco and Philly as examples of other cities that are putting in wireless networks.   Is that the reason we are doing the pilot?  So we can be like San Francisco?   I just don't get it!

OK, here is my last rant on this topic.  I have been going to a few of the City Council meetings lately, and have read some of the requests for new funding for various projects/investments/human resources, etc.  Every time I go to these events all I hear is how poor the city is, how understaffed we are compared to other cities our size, and how we need more greenbacks to run the city properly.  Then I see the spending for "Wireless in the Park" and several other projects where we just seem to be throwing money around (e.g paying an architect firm 50k to do a study on the old Kirkland Cannery--does the city even own the building?).

So I guess my point here is that I hope the city is doing things we really need and providing services people are really asking for--versus just doing things just because they can.   We all pay a lot of taxes here especially if you own property in Kirkland.   Let's make sure we are spending it wisely or saving it for the future.   Again, I just don't get it. 

Please provide your opinion by adding comments.   I am happy to be convinced this is a good use of funds...Steve   

Comments

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scott

i was pretty excited to see K-town offering free web access... as a graphic designer this lets me get outside, or sit at a restaurant and work instead of being stuck in my 'office' all day.

i also work downtown and we actually do have a lot of people, out of towners & locals, looking for internet access... i don't think you get it...

Eve M.

I occasionally use the wi-fi at Kahili and at other establishments with my laptop, and my husband does this all the time. He's tried the "public" wi-fi and concluded the quality wasn't good enough to make it usable. It seems that, so far, they're wasting their (our) money even if one agrees that it's a good idea.

By the way, we're net connection addicts, and often cruise the web or check mail using our palm devices while we wait for restaurant orders to arrive. Your point about Blackberries is well taken.

So, my feeling is: It's a wasteful and unneeded project. The private venues do it better, and obviously cheaper.

Jason Sanchez

This is a waste of tax payer money.

There's plenty of wi-fi available at local businesses where one is more likely to need/want it (and be able to use it in the evenings or in when it's raining). Why spend money on something that the private sector is going to do anyway?

If we had an indoor public area similar to Crossroads then something like this might make sense. Even then, I think the merchants that populate such a place would be likely to get together and offer the service as an attaction to customers. No need for public money.

How many trees could the $115,000 have bought us? I know City Hall talks big about wanting to increase the tree canopy of the city and I'm all for it. How about using this money to further that goal?

Another use of the $115K could have been for 2 bike patrol policemen to cover downtown (especially at night) and get a grip on the bar scene and the drugs and fighting that are going on around there. This, to me, is a much higher priority that actually falls directly under the auspices of the city and its obligations.

What a waste of money.

Andrea Hanefeld

I love the new wireless in the parks!! I used it during Summerfest while sitting at my booth. It was really convenient and easy to use and #1 FREE! As a “poor” student, I can’t afford to pay for wireless service at Tully’s or Starbucks. With this great weather, wireless in the parks is a wonderful, free way for me to get homework done and enjoy our fabulous city.

sublevel

I agree- Free wifi in Kirkland is fantastic. What a good way to draw more people to the downtown and parks! I use it almost on a daily basis! Great work City of Kirkland!!

Jeff Barr

I don't live or work in Kirkland, but I do know that trying to use a laptop outside (even during the winter) is pretty much a non-starter. It really doesn't take that much natural light to totally washout a laptop's screen.

My local park (Marymoor in Redmond) is blanketed with WiFi courtesy of Microsoft / MSN. I can't figure out why and where anyone would actually want to and be able to use it.

david

I agree with Jason 100%, the city needs to address the downtown problem...with the late night bar fights and drug activity (in broad daylight!) at the transit center in downtown by a bunch of hoodlum teenagers (many of which do not even live in Kirkland). I still can't believe that the activity at the transit center is allowed to go on.

Alex

Many cities get outdoor wireless to provide a uniform, cost-effective network access for first-responders. That's not something you can do with the local-businesses. Perhaps that's why Kirkland really wants WiFi outdoors. Oh yeah, and the citizens get free WiFi too - what's wrong with that?

Madan Musuvathi

I am using the Kirk WiFi right now. The quality is very bad for decent browsing experience. This is the quality I would expect from any WiFi service provided from 'public' money. Private organizations with profit interest would provide a better quality of service.

Steve Rabuchin

I have noticed handouts lately in several Kirkland businesses with info on how to logon to Kirkland Wireless in the Park. Is anyone really using this? It's winter--who is sitting in the park with their laptop? Well, in case you are going to try here is the SSID: KirkWiFi

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