Is Muni-WiFi Really The Sign Of A High Tech City?

from the it-doesn't-need-to-be dept

We’ve always supported local governments’ rights to offer muni-broadband, if appropriate. However, suddenly it seems that offering muni-broadband, and muni-WiFi specifically, has become so popular that people in cities like Boston are complaining that without muni-WiFi, they won’t be considered a “tech city.” This is silly. Cities should make sure that such offerings are actually needed. In many cases they might be — but claiming that your city needs muni-WiFi to be considered a “tech city” is backwards. Needing muni-WiFi means that private business has failed to provide the connectivity that people want — which should be seen as a problem in a tech city, not the other way around. It’s reached the point that too many cities seem to be jumping on the muni-WiFi bandwagon just to have muni-WiFi, and that risks creating a lot of failed muni-WiFi projects. Too many failed muni-WiFi efforts would mean that the places that really could find such efforts useful will have a much tougher time convincing anyone that it’s worthwhile.

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Comments on “Is Muni-WiFi Really The Sign Of A High Tech City?”

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Scott says:


Having lived in Lowell, Mass for almost 6 years, the only reason the people in government want this is that they have found a comfy cushy job that can be given to someone they like. The article fails to mention a few key things, like cost to the citizens(0 to taxpayers to install), but there is no list on maintenance. When polls need replaced, does the city replace the wi-fi at that point? How much does it cost to access this network(believe me it aint $0.) The whole idea they use to run this up is access for the poor, who can choose a computer/laptop or food/rent.

the cpuguru says:

Wi-Fi just another gimic

Cities using wi-fi to attact tech companies is just the latest gimic from the same goverments that brought you tax reductions and tax abatements for x number of years.
Just another con for an un-educated public so the politicians can stand up and say “Look at what we are doing to attact new busines and jobs”. Then not to look at all the money they are spending to get that job done.

Rob says:

No Subject Given

Do you work for the phone company? Internet access through wifi is cheap to implement. The cost is 1/100 the cost of DSL or fiber to implement.
With the newer mesh technologies wifi/wimax will be even cheaper. Everybody knows that and the phone companies have been fighting this every step of the way. The phone companies themselves have gone to U.S. congress saying they are not sure they can sustain their local services if VOIP and muni-wireless combine to eliminate too many local phone lines (How much profit do phone companies make? If the answere 10-20%, a loss of 20% of the local phone lines takes out all of the profit). The low cost is the problem at this point. With cities like Boston having a metro fiber network, internet access is a fixed cost item. 10 years from now 60% of the cities and towns will have muni-wifi.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: No Subject Given

Do you work for the phone company?

Apparently you’re new around here. 🙂 We’ve been repeatedly attacking the phone companies for trying to block muni-WiFi. All we’re saying is that just because you can do it, doesn’t always mean you should.

No one is saying that muni-WiFi isn’t cost effective to implement — though, I think you’re over estimating how good the technology actually is for wide area coverage.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:


“Internet access through wifi is cheap to implement.”

I need to see a little more evidence of that before I believe this blanket statement. Philadelphia, for example, a leader in muni WiFi, has taken longer, changed the plan more, and increased the expected price from 0 to 10 to 20 dollars per month.

Perhaps it can be cheap (the San Francisco Google model), but does that leave you with a network more full of holes that Al Pacino at the end of Scarface? The San Francisco free model promises to scream along at dial-up speeds! (OK, slight exaggeration.)

On the other hand, perhaps once Mesh WiFi is successfully deployed at a high quality level with full coverage, it starts to be as complex and expensive as a DSL or cable networks — but also subject to interference in the unlicensed band.

There is no proof either way, for now. But what little evidence there is suggests more challenges than successes.

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