A few weeks ago I wrote about efforts in Lafayette, Louisiana to create a municipal WiFi network for their town. It seems that the idea of WiFi for the masses is growing, according to this Time Magazine article.
Municipal wi-fi will be coming soon to a city near you, from tiny towns like Adel, Ga., to sprawling locales like Boston and San Francisco. Municipalities are promoting competition to drive down broadband prices and bring high-speed access to rural areas stuck with dial-up. Big telcos such as Verizon and AT&T, having first tried to fend off wi-fi in state legislatures, have also joined the battle to own and operate these systems. More than 300 communities nationwide plan to have wireless ventures in the next year, according to MuniWireless.com a portal on city projects. Several dozen small cities–including Corpus Christi; Tempe, Ariz.; and Chaska, Minn.– already have full-blown systems in use. If 2006 was the year of making deals, 2007 promises to be the year of going live.
..Big questions remain: What will consumers pay for citywide access? Will advertising sustain free models? And will users really be attracted to a network that lacks speed, security and privacy? The risks are considerable–up to $25 million in capital costs per system plus operating funds. “Half the cities run into funding barriers,” says Peter Orne, Wireless Internet Institute’s editorial director. “We’re still waiting for an unqualified big-city success.”