NYC Parks Lose Free WiFi Deal

from the signal-lost dept

An ambitious effort to provide free WiFi in a large number of New York City parks — including the massive Central Park — has collapsed, after the company behind it couldn’t raise the funds to build out the networks and keep them operating. The company was unable to round up corporate sponsors willing to back the project, and it couldn’t afford the concession fee it had agreed to pay to the city. It also suffered from a difficult buildout, in particular getting backhaul for its WiFi nodes into the parks. The shutdown highlights, yet again, the problems providers can face in trying to set up large-area WiFi networks. It’s far more complex than a coffee shop plugging in a router, and requires a committed and deep-pocketed benefactor. For a coffee shop or business district, the benefits of sponsoring or backing WiFi is easy to envision, but for a public space like a park, it’s more difficult to sell sponsors (particularly companies) on the benefits. Local governments are likely losing some of their interest in paying, too, given the budget shortfalls many are experiencing. The big push for muni WiFi lost a lot of its steam in 2008, and it continues to look like the sponsored hotzone will continue to be the way forward for larger-scale free WiFi.

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Comments on “NYC Parks Lose Free WiFi Deal”

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Its Me says:

Creative Thinking

I do not believe that the idea of large scale “free” WIFI is dead but it will require a new and creative business model to make it work. There are ways to make money either through selling advertising or I’m sure an unpopular idea to gather browsing habits of users and sell that data. Perhaps they could sell targeted ads based on where you are on the network by using time of flight triangulation. your near so and so’s coffee shop stop on in and get a free cup etc… it just requires a little creative thinking and the money will show up

Adam says:

Obsolete in a few years

With handheld multimedia devices such as the iPhone having 3G internet access with full web browser support, I really don’t see why large scale free WIFI is even important anymore. The 3G technology will only get better, and with tethering you will be able to use your laptop with high speed internet access nearly anywhere anyways.

Any issues with Apple or other companys not allowing tethering of your devices will surely disapate once 4G or even 5G gets rolled out, it would be folly for any company to not take full advantage of such a technology for compadibility to universal devices such as a laptop.

Honestly, we have been past the old ‘wifi’ era for a few years now.

Dave says:


I’m in Philly now, and before getting here I was very interested to hear that they had free Wifi. As you say, it’s not a panacea… where I am in West Philly, it does work, but it’s slow and fades in and out. I’m not sure how it is in other parts of the city, but their website apparently at least shows coverage areas.

A few months ago, Earthlink pulled out of this, and all were saying that it would go dark, but apparently local investors took over. True, it must be really hard to make any money doing this. I can only imagine what a big deal it is to set something like this up in a big city.

What some cities have done is to work a deal where businesses pay to use the network and the public can use it for free.

Rory Conaway (user link) says:

WiFi Model

Triad re-evaluated the model and believe that the biggest problem with WiFi is the cost/benefit ratio. If cities would look at the big picture and could get departments to work together which is very difficult in some cities and easier with others, then it makes a big difference. However, given the price tag of most big mesh manufacturers, $50K-$150K per square mile. We redesigned the system and if you give up a few of the high-end features while getting up to 20Mbps, hen the cost drops to $3K – $6K per square mile with more complete RF coverage and excellent scalability. Unfortunately this design came after all the big failures. We have started to deploy proof of concept demos in a couple areas with some higher profiles like the Suprise, Az Baseball Stadium for the Texas Rangers spring training this year. At that price point and the status of our economy, a vendor could charge $9.95 to $19.95 per month and easily make a profit. This is the great digital divide breakthrough cities were looking for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why should the city get a concession

So why should NYC get a concession when someone decides to offer something for free to the residents of the city? One would think that the city might even should pay a little for the service, but at the least, only take money if the advertising revenue stream became profitable.
It’s just simply that there was too much greed to make it work.

austin says:

A novel solution

Why not do something similar to what happens in Cory Doctorow’s “Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town”? Basically, they salvage parts to build wifi repeaters and secure permission from businesses to stick a small black box in a corner of their establishment to create a wifi mesh. With a small investment and a lot of low-tech, you can easily blanket large areas (in the book, downtown Vancouver, I think.)

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