Free wi-fi coming to Los Angeles?


That's exactly what City Councilman Bob Blumenfield is envisioning. The problem is that no one knows exactly how to turn such an ambitious vision into a viable reality. That's why he's asking for input from industry experts and residents alike.

"This is not pie in the sky. This is something very real and tangible," Blumenfield said.

Blumenfield and other city officials announced at a news conference Monday in front of City Hall the release of a "request for information," a formal question-and-answer period for people or companies interested in helping the city build the high-speed network.

"We want a partner in the private sector to create high-speed access for every home in Los Angeles," Blumenfield said.

Creating a high-speed municipal network that would serve all of Los Angeles would cost anywhere from $60 million to $100 million.

Supporters said private industry would absorb the costs, so long as they could monetize their investment. Other cities, for example, have offered free-wifi in exchange for advertising.

"We have to have a suite of solutions, of different technologies and different companies that can meet the needs of Los Angeles," said Rick Cole, deputy mayor.

Critics said the city should be focused on providing basic services, like fixing roads. But others feel that giving everyone access to the internet is an investment in the city.

"Eighty percent of jobs are now online. So it's really about how do we make sure that people are connected and make sure they have access to those job opportunities," said Norma Fernandez, an internet access advocate.

About 30 percent of Los Angeles residents do not have access to the internet, according to city estimates.

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