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New Orleans gets free Wi-Fi

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New Orleans remains under a state of emergency, but the intrepid blogger can now enter the city to suck up an RSS feed, ping a trackback, or fiddle with a Wiki. That's thanks to a new, municipal Wi-Fi network which launched to the public today.

The mesh-style network begins operation in the historic French Quarter and the central business district offering 512kbit/s download speeds, courtesy of $1m in equipment donations from Intel Corp., Tropos Networks and Proto Networks.

Mayor Ray Nagin said Wi-Fi will help to revive the local economy.

Which may bring a wry response from cafe owners who recall the Wi-Fi Bubble of 2003. Originally the technology was hyped as a way for cafes to attract more business. But instead, tight-fisted net mavens nursed a single cup of expresso all day long, forcing cafe owners to introduce time limits to expel the anti-social squatters.

Even now in the vibrant city of San Francisco, one can find cafes packed wall to wall with Wi-Fi users, where the eerie silence is broken only by the sound of mouse clicks as the bloggers commune with the Hive Mind.

It's good to know where these are, if only to avoid them. What's needed is some form of identification that can alert the rest of us, so perhaps a type of "bore-chalking" will evolve to meet the need.

Fears of an influx of new Wi-Fi users upsettting the Big Easy's legendary reputation for hedonism and diversity should be put to rest by this photograph, taken at a Blogging Conference.

The system will slow to 128kbit/s once the state of emergency is lifted. ®

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