Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
7/23/2007
01:52 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante
Commentary
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Dark Linings In Those Municipal Wi-Fi Clouds

More news that the already controversial municipal Wi-Fi projects are getting bogged down by technical, administrative, and political challenges came in the form of reports that the Wireless Silicon Valley project is in big trouble.

More news that the already controversial municipal Wi-Fi projects are getting bogged down by technical, administrative, and political challenges came in the form of reports that the Wireless Silicon Valley project is in big trouble.What would be the largest municipal wireless network in the world -- costing between $100 million and $150 million and serving several million residents and businesspeople in 44 cities -- is now undergoing a major review and cost-benefit analysis by six of the participating cities and the county of Santa Clara to determine if they should proceed with the project.

This follows on an April announcement by EarthLink that a $29.96 million loss in its most recent quarter is causing it to re-evaluate its Wi-Fi projects in Philadelphia, Anaheim, Milpitas, Calif., and New Orleans before it moves forward with other, similar projects.

And in general, people are questioning whether municipal Wi-Fi is all that good an idea -- or a solution in search of a problem. Bad news that some of the most eager advocates for the concept of municipal Wi-Fi are now backing down.

As one of the people (and small businesses) that would benefit from Wireless Silicon Valley, I was disappointed to hear about delays in implementation. Nothing sounds more attractive than being completely untethered wherever I go in my community. And the possibility that I would have more cost-effective broadband options than those very expensive ones currently offered by my cable and telecom providers is very welcome indeed. As Paul Krugman points out in today's New York Times, the United States is rapidly falling behind the rest of the world in its adoption of broadband -- and thus leading-edge Internet-based applications -- due to our lack of provider options. (Registration required.)

What are your thoughts on this? Does your city currently offer free Wi-Fi? Would you like it if it did? How would that affect your professional and personal use of the Internet? Let us know by responding to the InformationWeek blog.

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