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A Look At Muni Wi-Fi's Rough Patches

September 20, 2007

An article in today's USAToday paints a bleak picture for Municipal Wi-Fi.

The spotlighted issues have lots to do with the seeming inability of muncipal governments to deploy the concept in their own infrastructures. It is those types of usage that Muni WiFi supporters have said would suppport free or very low-cost Muni Wi-Fi access to residents of cities where the technology is used to support interagency communications.

"All these big city projects were doomed to failure because they were too complicated," article author Judy Keen quotes Glenn Fleishman of Wi-Fi Networking News as saying. "Service providers, he says, want city governments to sign up as long-term customers to offset costs. Wi-Fi can help police, firefighters and inspectors access information quickly."

I, for one,  think the problems are largely driven by red-tape and turf battles. Governments at all levels here in the U.S. are often tied to time-consuming RFP and bid models that simply can't keep pace with the need for quick infrastructure deployments.

Keen then describes some instances of Muni WiFi rough patches and derailments:

Cincinnati shelved its plan last week for a citywide network because the market is too unstable.

The Silicon Valley plan for free Wi-Fi is at risk after providers decided local governments must be "anchor tenants" for the service.

Springfield, Ill., is looking for another partner after AT&T dropped Wi-Fi plans last month.

St. Louis is trying to figure out how to power Wi-Fi transmitters on 1,700 street lights when they're not illuminated without spending millions of dollars.

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