Cupertino Councilwoman Brushes Off “Free WiFi” Question as Joke

When Councilwoman Kris Wang asked Apple CEO Steve Jobs for free WiFi for her city, it gave cause to Internet pundits and critics far and wide to blast the attempt as feeble, silly, and awkward. BusinessInsider asked Ms. Wang why she had asked the question, and in a detailed response she said that while it clearly fell flat, she was merely joking with Mr. Jobs in an attempt to draw from him more positive comments about her city.

Artist's rendition of Apple's proposed campus

Artist’s rendition of Apple’s proposed campus

The exchange came when Mr. Jobs presented the Cupertino city council with a proposal for a massive circular, spaceship-like office building (see the image above) the Mac maker wants to build in Cupertino. After he was finished with his (masterful) presentation, members of the city council, including mayor Gilbert Wong and Councilwoman Kris Wang, asked him questions about the company’s plans.

In our own coverage of the meeting, we wrote:

The second thing we’ll note is that the entire city council appeared to be made up of massive Apple fanboys and fangirls. They did their best to ask a couple of softball questions, but Mr. Jobs was more than their match in every conceivable fashion.

For instance, when one councilwoman [Kris Wang] asked Mr. Jobs if Apple would provide the city of Cupertino with a free WiFi network, like Google did for the city of Mountain View. Mr. Jobs flat out said no, noting that his company is the largest tax payer in Cupertino.

“I’m a simpleton,” he said, putting on his most folksy moment. “I’ve always had the view that we pay taxes and the city should do those things. That’s why we pay taxes. Now, if we can get out of paying taxes, I’ll be glad to put up a WiFi network.”

It was exactly the right thing to say, and the council members and audience laughed and smiled. More importantly, the point was almost immediately conceded, and it was clear that not only would Apple not be building said network, but that it was not necessary for Apple to do so to get fast track approval for its plans.

According to Ms. Wang, her question was indeed intended to be a softball question, but her intent was to draw Mr. Jobs into a broader discussion about how great Cupertino is.

“I was hoping he would talk not only about the fact that they are the city’s largest tax payer,” she wrote, “but also that Apple reciprocally enjoys calling Cupertino its home. […] I was hoping to draw out more dialogue on Cupertino and Apple’s mutually beneficial relationship.”

She added, “I’ve joked with Steve in previous conversations (unrelated to Apple’s new campus) about Apple doing the same thing for Cupertino [that Google did for Mountain View]. So, my follow-up was admittedly a flat attempt at going along with the same joke.”

In other words, she was hoping that by extending a private joke, she could draw out more from Apple’s iconic chief executive.

As one of the sites that was critical of the exchange (privately, TMO staff members had remarked that she asked the question knowing the answer would be “No,” and that Mr. Jobs was merely accommodating that expectation), it seemed only fair to present her side. Live TV cameras can be harsh in their treatment of most people’s actions, unless you’re Steve Jobs.

In the meanwhile, in case you missed it, you can view the the full meeting below. We also published detailed coverage of the meeting that includes all the main slides, facts, and images of the proposed office building. You can read her full response at BusinessInsider.

Steve Jobs presents Apple’s plans for an amazing office building in Cupertino, CA