It's a charming idea: Why not have municipal Wi-Fi in your town or city, just like municipal water? Well, a lot of municipalities are giving it a go --424 according to industry cheerleader Esme Vos of MuniWireless LLC--and they're discovering that it's expensive, and it doesn't work very well.
Some municipal officials whose cities are launching Wi-Fi projects said
they remain buoyant about the prospects for success. They added that
they see political and economic concerns as being more important than
possible technology roadblocks, although that’s partly because their
projects are still in the early stages.
But Michael Merrill, a selectman in Brookline, Mass., noted
that creating a Wi-Fi network isn’t easy for a town like his. “There’s
no packaged product out there for how to build a Wi-Fi system,” he
said. “We had to invent it.”
And Carl Nerup, a vice president of business development at
AT&T Inc., warned that municipal Wi-Fi can be an expensive venture.
The annual cost of managing Wi-Fi access points and related technology
is about $40,000 per square mile, Nerup said. He added that AT&T
has seen costs go much higher when tall buildings or hills necessitate
additional access points.
“All of these programs cost money,” Nerup said. “Bring your Platinum card.”
Hmmm. $40,000 per square mile so Britney can text Ashley OMG BRAD IZ WEARNG CUTE SHORTZ OMGLOLBBQELEVENTYONE!!!!11111!!1 without paying for Instant Messaging access. Great. The VoIP overload potential boggles the mind. Imagine water use in your town if they took out the meter. I'd start my own hydroelectric plant. The water is in a series of tubes, too, and about as well understood by the local politicians as Wi-Fi. But at least they're smart enough to charge more for it if you use more of it.