Municipal WiFi got hyped up to such ridiculous levels that it was bound to be seen as a failure, often by the same media that whipped up expectations in the first place. Now, in Toronto, the paper notes that the citywide WiFi network there has seen usage fall since its free trial period ended. What? You mean more people will use a WiFi network when it's free than when they have to pay? Shocking, we know. The company behind the network says that it's converting more free users to paid subscribers than it had planned, but that doesn't seem to placate the reporter of the original story, who manages to work in another yarn of hype by saying the WiFi network "may soon be irrelevant" because of the emergence of WiMAX. In reality, the approach of Toronto Hydro, the company that built and runs the network, seems pretty good. Its interest began with using WiFi for a pragmatic purpose -- remote meter reading -- and it then decided to extend its network to offer public internet access. The company's public network now covers only six square kilometers, and it's waiting to attract a sufficient number of users before expanding citywide, rather than jumping in whole-hog and experiencing the problems other providers have faced when launching much bigger networks. This relentless build-'em-up-then-knock-'em-down hype cycle doesn't help anybody, but when it comes to muni WiFi, it doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon.
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