Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s main newspaper, ran my op-ed on wireless access on Sunday. The paper had previously quoted the mayor of Helsinki, who claimed that the city doesn’t need a municipal network. The mayor’s line prompted a response from a reader, Susanna Mukkila, who argued that the Finnish state should construct the networks. I wanted to flesh this point out a bit further. Here’s a quick translation of my comment.

Wireless Networks Create a Basis for Growth

Susanna Mukkila (HS 8.8.) suggests that the construction wireless networks should be funded with tax money. In light of history, the suggestion is wise.

Finland gained a lead in wireless because the state-owned operator Tele built the first mobile networks here. Meanwhile, the mobile communications industry got off to a wobbly start in the U.S. as the public sector lacked the will and the instruments to invest in network infrastructure.

Finns could concentrate on innovating texting culture, while in the market-driven U.S. it made no sense to keep the mobile phone on, as the network coverage was spotty and the receiving party paid.

Now there is a disruption going on in the telecommunications industry. People are calling and messaging each other for free on the internet. This is destructive to the teleoperators, but for innovations that spur economic growth, it’s not such a bad thing.

As the cost of access drops, the spending on content actually increases. One would think the money flowed into Hollywood, but it doesn’t.

Few people are willing to pay for ready-made content online. Instead, millions are subscribing to services created by new growth companies, that make it possible to self-publish photos, music playlists, and keep a blog for instance.

Many believe that the rapid spreading of Wi-Fi is a factor that helps to explain the growing popularity of these services. The industry agrees that wireless broadband will be an even more important driver of growth in the future.

History tends to repeat itself. New services spring up where consumers have terminals; and there is an incentive to buy terminals where an affordable, reliable network is in operation.

This has been noted not only by Finnish cities who offer a Wi-Fi network, such as Oulu and Lahti, but also by some Americans – wisened by their mistake?

For instance, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, promised in his speech: “We won’t stop until every San Franciscan has access to a free wireless internet service.”

Helsinki has know-how. It can offer a wireless network through its energy company, like many other Nordic cities have done, if it so chooses.

It can also collaborate with commercial operators, manage the network infrastructure, and let the operators handle the services.

If Helsinki doesn’t acknowledge its strengths, its position as the pioneer of wireless culture and economy becomes questionable to say the least.

Hs_mielipide_1

It’s nice to see the comment published… but can anyone tell me what the drawing is trying to communicate?

Comments

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Sulka Haro
August 15th, 2005 at 3:11 am (#)

For some reason, officials in Finland are hysterically trying to not to compete with the commercial sector.
This was quite evident in how the digital television network was built – with practically the same funding all Finnish homes could have been plugged with fiber optic cables with enough bandwidth to support HDTV broadcasts and two-way broadband. Instead, the officials opted for classic one-way DVB-T network which provides too little bandwidth and bad quality signaling, causing normal television programs to look worse on digital than on analog.
Rationale was not presented for the choice and when pressed about what strategies the officials would have for providing broadband coverage in Finland, the general public was told the “market forces” would take care of providing cheap and fast Internet access and that the government couldn’t possibly have competed in this sector. Not surprisingly, people who live in remote areas of Finland are having trouble getting broadband at acceptable prices – or at all.
And no, I don’t have a clue as to what the picture might represent. :) For the english-speaking crowd, the word in the drawing is “money”.

mymarkup.net
August 15th, 2005 at 1:35 pm (#)

Good for business, good for people

Jyri Engeström argumenterar för fria trådlösa stadsnät i söndagens Helsingin Sanomat. Texten finns på engelska i hans blogg: Few people…

Juan Freire
August 15th, 2005 at 4:53 pm (#)

Política y tecnología para las ciudades creativas

La creatividad y la innovación son imprescindibles tanto para sostener nuestro crecimiento económico como para crear ciudades atractivas y dinámicas. Jiry Engeström ha publicado un provocador y magnífico artículo hace poco sobre Cities, technology, and…

Juan Freire
August 15th, 2005 at 6:23 pm (#)

¿Cómo conseguir acceso a redes wifi en las ciudades?

Uno de las propuestas centrales del artículo de Jiry Engeström para las ciudades creativas (en Cities, technology, and ceativity) es el desarrollo de redes wifi abiertas. Ramón Sangüesa discutió en Reflexiones inseguras las propuestas de Engeström, y y…

Juan Freire
August 15th, 2005 at 6:25 pm (#)

¿Cómo conseguir acceso a redes wifi en las ciudades?

Uno de las propuestas centrales del artículo de Jiry Engeström para las ciudades creativas (en Cities, technology, and ceativity) es el desarrollo de redes wifi abiertas. Ramón Sangüesa discutió en Reflexiones inseguras las propuestas de Engeström, y y…

Jyri
August 16th, 2005 at 1:39 am (#)

Update: The pro-muni argument gets support from a member of Helsinki’s city council in today’s paper. Here’s the link to the article (requires login).

Preoccupations
December 4th, 2005 at 2:26 am (#)

Wi-Fi for all

BBC News:Wireless Philadelphia is a project that has been in development for several years, but which will not be finished until late 2006. It seems such an agreeable proposition to everybody involved – cheap wi-fi for an entire city. A

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