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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 2, 2007

Chinatown wireless access a smart move

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These days, any revitalization effort that does not take wireless technology into account is a missed opportunity.

So it's encouraging to see the city's plan to bring free wireless service to the Chinatown corridor as part of the mayor's effort to remake the area into a thriving hub for the arts.

Indeed, from San Jose, to Philadelphia, cities across the country have formed similar arrangements, recognizing the value of providing free wireless as part of a progressive city's agenda. In addition to stimulating economic development, the benefits of an aggressive innovation platform are well worth the investment.

The Chinatown coverage is part of a one-year pilot program done in partnership with EarthLink as the Internet service provider. The free wireless coverage, which could start as early as mid-June, will cover a 27-block stretch.

City officials will look into scaling up the coverage over time, with an eye on building a model that is fair to other service providers.

That's a smart move.

In the case of Chinatown, the wireless coverage will open new doors, said Keith Rollman, senior adviser for the city's department of Information Technology.

"Chinatown is a growing arts center and this might give them an opportunity to develop an online market for their artwork, like an online auction," Rollman says. "Those are the kinds of things that can stimulate economic growth and development in the area. It gives them a new capacity to get innovative."

That's a good thing.