Dvorak: Muni WiFi Will Die



Municipal WiFi efforts are unlikely to survive, says John Dvorak.

Every few months we seem to hear about another initiative by a U.S. city to deploy free wireless Internet access.

The latest entry, New Orleans, is still struggling just to get the lights back on, months after Hurricane Katrina caused massive flooding, destruction and death. Nevertheless, New Orleans looks to be the first and only big city to actually implement a WiFi plan.

This will provide great access for an entire (reduced) population. It should help New Orleans to recover. But the likelihood of it becoming a larger trend is nil and you can be sure it will eventually be killed there too.

Too many people are making money on connectivity.

This will come to a head when a newer form of wireless communications called WiMAX appears in the next two years. It’s being pushed hard by Intel which hopes to benefit by selling WiMAX chipsets.

WiMAX has a single point connection radius of approximately 10-30 miles. Thus it should become a favorite technology for municipal Internet connectivity. Many believe it will relegate the weaker 802.11x WiFi networks with their smallish 300-1500 foot radius to only local area network status.

In an ideal world you’d have a municipality covered by WiMAX for the connection to the Internet. That connection would then be redistributed through homes and offices with WiFi. The two technologies do interoperate.

The best effort to create universal free municipal access previous to New Orleans was in Philadelphia. These efforts were quickly foiled by Comcast and Verizon, two companies that would have been hurt by local government offering free connectivity service.

Philly’s cloud (which is being built), is not free, of course — their wireless service will probably cost $20/month or so with credits given to low income residents.

But that’s Dvorak — he speaks in hyperbole to make a point.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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