by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 16th 2007 2:44am
In the last few years, there's been plenty of talk and debate about the trouble many cities have had with offering muni-WiFi. There are a number of reasons why muni-WiFi has been troublesome, starting with technology that really isn't designed for wide-area coverage combined with poorly thought out business models. However, prior to the emphasis on "muni-WiFi" with widespread coverage, there used to be tons of stories about much more limited "Hotzone" offerings covering a a few square blocks, usually around a downtown area. It wasn't uncommon for some of these offerings to involve sponsored startup pages as well. With a narrower coverage area, these hotzones still have had some problems, but the challenges aren't nearly as big as covering an entire city. Still, it's somewhat amusing to see people get excited over the sudden reappearance of hotzones, kicked off by CBS's plan to offer WiFi over a section of midtown Manhattan, sticking access points on CBS buildings, billboards and (in coordination with the MTA) subway signs. Glenn Fleishman points out some of the nuttier statements in the announcement, including calling the offering "pre-WiMax" when it has nothing whatsoever to do with WiMax. The service will involve CBS getting to place ads on the start page, and apparently will offer up some local content, though it's unclear what that will entail. Either way, it's a bit amusing to see people suddenly back to being excited about covering a few square blocks with WiFi after years of badly planned out citywide efforts. And, we might want to wait before getting too excited. After all, five years ago, Verizon announced a similar plan, with access points built into old phone booths around Manhattan. Despite later calling the plan a success, it was shut down.
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