San Francisco truly is The Special City. Not only has Mayor Gavin Newsom announced his plan for the city to provide free or cheap access to high-speed wireless Internet for all San Franciscans, he also has proclaimed wi-fi access a "fundamental right."
A fundamental right? I'm impressed. About one-quarter of students at San Francisco Unified School District score at "below basic" or "far below basic" on state reading tests. Those poor kids may not be able to read a book, they might not be able to afford a computer, but Newsom thinks they have a fundamental right to wi-fi. At least they can access free porn.
I presume a "fundamental right" to wi-fi means every San Franciscan has a right to a laptop computer and the chip that hooks laptops up to wi-fi.
Credit His Slickness with having the gift of the good stunt. Same-sex marriage? Ignore the law, and tell everyone that City Hall will approve them. The marriages won't be legal and the courts will be bound to invalidate them, but newlyweds won't blame the love-boat mayor.
Besides, I must admit, the Right to Wi-Fi isn't as embarrassing as other S.F. political fiascos, such as: the supervisors' vote to reject bringing the battleship Iowa to San Francisco. Then the whacko idea of making the battleship acceptable by turning it into a museum to the "don't ask/don't tell" policy on gays in the military.
Or the city ordinance that bans smoking outdoors on city property, including parks -- with a kindly exemption for golf courses.
Or the attempt by former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez to allow non-citizens to vote in school-board elections. Or the resolution by Supervisor Tom Ammiano praising protesters of a 2004 biotech conference "for their concern for the health, safety and well-being of the public and the environment." Or the vote to redesignate S.F. pet owners as "owners or guardians."
At least this stunt puts San Francisco not in the '50s or '60s or Stone Age, but in the future-looking pro-technology camp.
As Tim Cavanaugh, editor of the libertarian online voice Reason.com, noted, not too long ago city pols rejected adding new antennas to improve cell-phone reception "out of hysterical concerns that cell-phone towers would give brain cancer to children." In a sense, you could say the wi-fi scheme is progress in Luddite-town.
Google issued a statement that it submitted a proposal "to offer free wireless Internet access to the entire city of San Francisco." No doubt, many voters will believe there is such a thing as a free byte. After all, Google said so.