Give it away

There are interesting recent developments in the deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas in Australia and the US (and probably elsewhere but I haven’t got any references). Wi-Fi is wireless Local Area Networking — basically wireless Internet on laptops.

In Too Cheap to Meter, over at VentureBlog, Naval Ravikant notes

it’s more of a bother to charge your customers than it is to procure and run a wireless network.

and ends with this point:

Hint — people providing free access to sell burgers, and financing their equipment from Best Buy, can usually outlast people charging by the megabyte and financing their purchases through junk bonds.

There is money to be made in Wi-Fi. There is also money to be made in shoelaces. But shoelace manufacturers realised shoemakers bought more laces than the public. Just because you can see a way to charge for something, does not make it worth the effort.

The businesses providing wireless internet for free are distinguishing themselves from their competition. Like the first cafe’s to provide papers and magazines to customers. That’s thinking outside the square. Eventually papers and magazines became ubiquitous. The underlying Wired story to Too Cheap to Meter ends with the comment

Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury or even a commodity. It’s a condiment.

Business incurs an overhead of billing systems, customer service and support, quality assurance and control, corporate and government regulation. These add to the cost of any service.

I’m often asked how much this website makes me. This question puzzles me more than the answer puzzles the questioners. I make nothing from I do this for the discipline of writing; to keep a journal; to think out loud, to refine a philosophy, to document my journey. I may one day write a book. Maybe I wont. If I charged for it, I’d need billing and customer support. That would cost money. Your expectations would change. So it is more “valuable” to me to give it away.

A point for another post is the certain evil of free content. The Internet generation doesn’t value content enough to pay for it. And anything free is undervalued.

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