15 years ago, I co-led a team trying to give 100% free Internet access to all of San Francisco starting with the poorest neighborhoods first. The network would be anonymous, with no ads, no cookies, etc. Approximately a $20-25 million gift. The result? We were chased out of town.
Replying to @teddyschleifer
Mike Moritz, the Sequoia billionaire who donated $25 million and helped broker the summer school arrangement, told Recode that he was trying to help local schoolchildren “and nothing beyond that.” vox.com/recode/2021/3/27/223…
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12:06 AM · Mar 28, 2021

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One SF Supervisor told us she would vote against it unless we promised to fund quarterly field trips (eg to the zoo) for the kids in her district. Another promised to vote against it because we wouldn’t give free laptops to all of SF.
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One Supe rejected it because poor people needed “training to use the Net.” Countless low/no-income residents spoke at hearings about how they had computers and knew how to use the web, but couldn’t afford Comcast. Supes mansplained back to those very people that they were wrong.
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We built a demonstration network in a public housing project in Hunters Point. It was saturated with use. Those residents testified that laptops and phones weren’t expensive, cable and data plans were the problem. The Supes just couldn’t accept that those people were Net savvy.
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Ultimately, one Supervisor told us straight up: He didn’t care what this meant for the people of his district, he was blocking it because it would give the mayor a win in a political year. He was the deciding vote and I will never forget what he said...
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“Stop lecturing me about the digital divide, because I don’t give a fuck. Now get the hell out of my office.” Our team walked out stunned, sat in the lobby of City Hall, and realized it was over.
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My partners and I had done Q&A sessions in every Supe’s district and in community and senior centers all over town. Support for the network was off the charts, particularly among those who needed it most. But it was clear that the Supes didn’t care about poor San Franciscans.
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They wouldn’t listen to their own constituents. They perpetuated racist tropes and demeaning stereotypes about their poorest residents. And for what? It was all a big game to the politicians. The winners were the Supes’ egos and the losers were the people they supposedly served.
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San Francisco is a wonderful city that I was lucky to call home for years. But I’ve never seen any place in the world better at cutting off its nose to spite its face. My heart aches for what that city was and could be. Cheers to those of you still trying to help.
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Epilogue: After SF rejected our offer, we built a free, city-wide network in Mountain View, CA. About 12-15,000 people used it every day for years. The majority of them spoke Spanish as their primary language and told us they couldn’t afford regular Internet access.
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Replying to @sacca
What the people in and around SF have accomplished inspite of the city / its government is mind blowing. Flying cars would be mass market today if SF city govt didn’t exist.
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