Time Magazine surveys the Municipal Wireless phenomena:
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 (pdf), summarized below.
Type of network Jul 2005 Feb 2006 Apr 2006 Jun 2006 Sep 2006 Dec 2006 Region/citywide 38 56 58 59 68 79 City hotzones 22 29 32 32 43 49 Muni or public safety use only 28 32 35 35 35 36 Planned deployments 34 59 69 121 135 149 Total 122 176 194 247 281 312
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.
DailyWireless is a big fan of Municipal WiFi. But expectations of ubiquitious connectivity should be tempered with pragmatism. Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi. It’s unlikely to penetrate most businesses or be available inside homes without an external antenna and client.