I know. I know. Montesano business owners are expected to hoof the line. March lock-step in the Visneyland Parade. Chow down on the latest load of hooey coming out of city hall on “free” Wi Fi.
They’re not supposed to chime in. Speak out. We all know what happens when they do.
Fortunately, not everyone is so easily cowed. Or buffaloed. (Take your pick.)
Conservelocity received the following from a Montesano business owner with some actual spine. Doggone if this person isn’t turning cart wheels over The Vinster’s “Free” Wi Fi shell game. Here’s what said individual had to say on the subject:
The Vidette would be a nice place to read about decisions being made by our city government, and the rationale behind those decisions. It seems like it would be pretty easy to do. It’s not like there’s a nuclear launch code, or looming threats to our municipal security – Huns at the gate or some such. Picking out rugs is generally not considered a huge security issue, so a lot of finger pointing about that could make an observer wonder what else might be too sensitive for us stupid voters to deal with.
Free WiFi is one of those decisions that seems to be a hush-hush issue. Lots of secret handshakes and back-room back scratching that we who actually live here aren’t privy to. A few questions spring to mind. Why has there never been anything written for business people to review about Free WiFi? There should be a cost/benefit analysis somewhere that the city provides to the business people of Montesano. I’m absolutely sure all the business people haven’t seen one if there ever was one. That cost/benefit analysis should start out with some benefits. The benefits should be measurable by some objective criteria. Here are a few benefits that could be quantified:
- An estimate of how many people we expect to come for this service.
- How will this financially impact the businesses of Montesano? Dollars and cents or a percentage of increase.
- How will the businesses of Montesano be able to use this to their advantage?
- What is the demographic we’re seeking and how do we ensure the proper marketing focus?
- How does the Montesano businessperson profit from this?
Those are a few of the benefits that need to be explained. Essentially, how, exactly does a blanket of WiFi over the town make our businesses more profitable?”
Then we need to balance those benefits with the costs.
- The first person to say “Free” deserves to be slapped. When anyone in commerce or government says “free,” get nervous.
- The individual who is “donating” the WiFi, Rich Hartman, has an expectation of a return on his investment – exclusive advertising on the system for two years. That’s not a donation, it’s a trade. Donations don’t have strings attached. When you drop $5 in the Salvation Army pot and keep walking, that’s a donation. Giving $5 to the barista at Starbucks is paying for a cup of coffee. We have a business in town who competes with 5-Star. How does Whitney’s benefit from a free WiFi system that exclusively advertises a competitor in another town? That looks like more of a cost than a benefit. (Emphasis added.)
- After the two-years of exclusivity have passed, what locks the “donor” into perpetual maintenance and upgrades of the system – increased bandwidth, upgraded hardware, expanded coverage, repairs? Will there be a long term contract? If not, at what point does the City of Montesano take over, and at what cost? What is each business’s share of that cost? Again, the words “free” and “donated” are not permitted in the discussion of these costs.
- Then there’s the issue of letting the people of the world know that we have free WiFi in the streets of Monte. Do we have a mechanism or a process figured out for that? Is that process free? Probably not. We need a reliable estimate that cost and each business’s share.
- When throngs of people who want free stuff show up in town, what effects do we expect from them. Will they behave respectfully in our little town? Will they affect traffic flow and safety? Will they pick up after themselves? If not, what can we expect from increased automobile and foot traffic downtown? What are we going to provide for waste receptacles for their trash? Who picks up the trash? If this brings in a significant number of people, where will they park? Where will they sit? Where will they go to the bathroom? What will they do besides clog up free bandwidth and get in the way? If they’re here because the WiFi is free, how do we have an expectation that they’ll spend money on other things? If they clog up the place and don’t spend money, that’s a cost in terms of increased burden on the city and businesses. We need some estimate of that cost, and each business’s share of it.
Estimates for all of this needs to be generated and disseminated to Montesano businesses.
After all those things are quantified, we can accurately weigh whether Free WiFi is actually a good idea.
If we are expecting the rest of Montesano residents to chip in, they need to know what it’s going to cost them. Everybody needs this before we start deploying anything.
Well, whaddya know? Someone making sense and asking the right questions. When will The Vinster and Co. do likewise?