Critics of municipal WiFi networks -- often incumbent broadband providers' hired guns -- like to trot out the argument that the networks can't be profitable as ISPs, and therefore shouldn't bother with building or supporting their networks. The problem with this argument is that it ignores all the other applications such networks can offer cities and focuses solely on the ISP element. Public internet access often isn't the main motivation behind the network, but rather an added benefit to the internal applications for which a city uses a wireless network -- and those applications can reduce costs for the localities in other areas, making the threshold for profitability less severe and less important. Case in point is the newly announced plans for a network in Burleson, Texas, a small town outside Ft. Worth: and it's chosen Chevron's Energy Solutions unit as its partner. That may sound like an odd choice, but it highlights the primary functions of the network are applications like automated meter-reading, maintenance and monitoring, with the sale of public internet access secondary. These sorts of unintended benefits popped up when offices installed WiFi networks and quickly found that they could offer a lot more than simply the elimination of ethernet cables. Cities and muni-network vendors are likewise realizing there's more to offer than citywide internet service, and these side benefits can make muni WiFi worth the investment for local governments -- and make profitability much easier.
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