Last month, New York City was hit by a tech revolution, with the deployment of free super-fast public wi-fi. I haven’t been to NYC since it launched, but it sounds as though it has the potential to dramatically change the way New Yorkers and visitors access the internet.
I proposed that Camden become the first borough in the UK to follow suit at the Council meeting on Monday.
New York’s proposal uses its existing network of phone booths and is costing the City nothing to deploy. Indeed, because of advertising, it will earn the City government $500m over the next 12 years. Per capita, that’s equivalent to Camden earning £1m a year.
Currently, Camden’s public wi-fi is low-speed, free for only 30 minutes, and limited in geographic range. Despite being upgraded in 2013, it’s so outdated that Ask.com – that is, the former Ask Jeeves portal! – is its default search engine. Not keen on Camden-based Google, are we?
As I said in the Council, “To paraphrase Frank Sinatra or Jay Z, ‘if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere’.” Ok, so there are differences – Camden doesn’t own the phone booths, BT does – but there are enough similarities that it should be a priority for the borough.
So it seems like a bit of a no-brainer. Because of our world-class universities, the Google Campus at Kings Cross, and the creative sector in Camden Town and the north of the borough, Camden has a natural advantage in tech, but we can build on it by following New York’s lead.
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