Another Muni WiFi Network Gets An Early Thumbs Down

from the good-idea-bad-execution dept

Earlier this month, the city of Corpus Christi, Texas launched its municipal WiFi network, which its vendor said was the largest of its kind, covering more than 100 square miles. However, like some other muni WiFi projects, early reviews don't sound too encouraging -- complaints echoed earlier this month in Portland as well. It's the same sort of thing early users in other cities have reported: weak signal strength, low speeds and difficulty connecting. Many of these problems occur when people try to use the services indoors (as one does), highlighting one of the drawbacks of using WiFi for this type of application: it doesn't penetrate buildings well, particularly when the router's at some distance away. Many of the network vendors say users need to buy repeaters to overcome this, something that takes away some of the "free" aspect of these networks, as well as something that takes away from their attraction to visitors. While we remain bullish on the general idea of municipal broadband, it's still not clear at all that WiFi is the best way to deliver it. Many of the muni WiFi "success stories" raise as many questions as they answer, and the truth of how well these networks are working remains pretty muddy. Again, municipal broadband is an idea with a lot of merit, but it looks like a lot of muni-WiFi rollouts are based on the wrong reasons, and are possibly just using the wrong technology.

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  1. identicon
    Lucas McDonnell, 27 Dec 2006 @ 1:41pm

    The thing about free muni wifi is...

    ...it's rarely, if ever, permanently and openly free. While it's often billed as offering very democratic, costless web access, the opposite usually ends up being true.

    Toronto's plan for muni wifi is a classic example of this. Much like Bill Adams' statement above, it started out with a plan to read electricity meters. They have offered a service that was free for 6 months, and that they now say will be 'competitively priced'.

    While it is wireless, and whether you agree or disagree with the politics of the matter, it really is just another offering from another ISP.

    I don't know of a place that has completely free, open muni wifi access (although I'm not saying that one doesn't exist). Does anyone else know of anywhere that does?

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