Why Muni Wi-Fi Never Happened And Never Will

What happened to all those big citywide Wi-Fi projects announced a few years ago? Slate writer and Columbia Law prof Tim Wu has a concise explanation for their failure: They were expensive — and few cities wanted to foot the bill themselves. Meanwhile there’s little incentive for private companies to take on the work:

Setting up a large wireless network isn’t as expensive as installing wires into people’s homes, but it still costs a lot of money. Not billions, but still millions. To recover costs, the private “partner” has to charge for service. But if the customer already has a cable or telephone connection to his home, why switch to wireless unless it is dramatically cheaper or better? In typical configurations, municipal wireless connections are slower, not dramatically cheaper, and by their nature less reliable than existing Internet services. Those facts have put muni Wi-Fi in the same deathtrap that drowned every other company that peddled a new Net access scheme. Slate

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