Muni WiFi Is Bound To Fail When It's Based On Inflated Expectations
from the albatross dept
Many cities’ municipal WiFi networks have been plagued with teething problems that vendors and local governments are trying to work out. While the public-private model most of these networks use means that these issues should get resolved, it’s been clear for a while that muni WiFi isn’t a magic bullet that suddenly makes a city “high-tech” or solves all sorts of problems. But even as one city after another shows that the success of muni WiFi as a means of public internet access isn’t something that comes easily or automatically, it’s still attracting all sorts of hype, like in this op-ed from the San Antonio newspaper (via Broadband Reports), that paints it as a cure-all for all sorts of digital woes. What makes this one, in particular, even worse is that it uses all the success San Francisco has had with its citywide WiFi network (which the article says was deployed several years ago) as an example — when it’s still to get off the ground. Part of the problem with municipal WiFi are all the wrong ideas people get about it: that it’s paid for with taxpayer money, when most networks are paid for by private companies; that it will provide top-notch free connectivity, when free services are typically fairly limited; and that public internet access is the only worthwhile application, when all kinds of municipal service applications can offer far more benefits to localities and their citizens. Muni WiFi networks built solely to provide public internet access have a hard enough time launching and succeeding. Weighing them down with unrealistic and inflated expectations borne from mistaken facts only makes them more likely to fail.