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Friday, May 11, 2007 | I remember the fond hopes of several downtown coffeehouse owners who hung their hats — and businesses — on the “Bandwidth Bay” concept. They gleefully told tales of how their places would be paperless; of how the public would be connected online, all the time, to the web as well as the nearby espresso machine. The idea of downtown’s central netscape, with their businesses as a conduit, was a sure path to riches, they said.

What those coffeehouse owners didn’t count on was the yawn factor; the speed with which the net became just another part of the common infrastructure, like phones, running water and electricity. Everyone soon had a Blackberry or an enabled laptop; everyone could pick up signals from nearby office buildings as downtown became saturated with connectivity.

This of course is a good thing, much like the gold rush was, but like the gold rush, the discovery of usable bandwidth was secondary to using it, much like how the discovery of gold was of secondary importance to those who like to wear jewelry.

I doubt the blame lies with San Diegans who have little follow through, as one source in your story expresses. Perhaps the net is actually too mundane to get excited over, or to put it another way, the excitement comes from what you can get out of it, not from the system itself.

Those failed downtown coffeehouse spots are still empty and serve as a reminder that business needs a purpose, not a gimmick, to survive.

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