Muni Wi-Fi Is A tough Sell

For the past several months I have been following the muni wi-fi situation in many US cities and it seems that there are mixed results being reported from some cities who have gone the wi-fi route. I personally would love to see the city where I live opt in for wi-fi but if one looks at the success and failure rate that some cities have encountered, it might be a tough sell for any muni government to taken on the challenge and expense of wi-fi.

Some insight first. We here in the US are entering into a new communication era, in which all of the major teleco’s, cable folks, and anyone one else with a communication device, are gearing up for the Internet to handle the majority, if not all, of our communication functions. There is going to be a major battle from all of the big players to scar amble for our consumer dollars when this happens, and some tough choices may be ahead.

Recently I found 3 men with a ditch witch and boring machine roaming around my neighbors yard. What brought them to my attention is that the idiots had cut not only my cable tv/internet line but also my phone line as well. Grrrr! Fortunately the repairs were simple and I was back in service fairly quickly. What I found of interest was that the work was being done by the cable company who are updating the junction boxes and cable for both HD-TV and also telephone service via the Internet.

There is where muni wi-fi is going to face it biggest challenges. Competition. ATT is offering a multi-pack of services which includes unlimited local/long distance phone with service, DSL broadband connection plus Dish TV all rolled into a tight affordable package. Options are available to add cell service as well. Where some cities now offer wi-fi at $19.95 a month, some competitors have lowered the DSL rate to $14.95. This forces some cities to drop their own rates even lower which means the city ends up supplementing the service via their tax revenues.

A recent article over at Information Week by Richard Martin cited the problems being experienced by the town of Lompac, CA. With a population of 44,000 the city introduced wi-fi starting back in 2004. The city fathers felt that wi-fi would offer their citizens ready net access at a affordable rate of $19.95 a month. Here is the bad part. The city has only 281 subscribers to the service and must cut rates to drum up business. Competition from DSL and Comcast has siphoned off customers who might of used wi-fi before these companies introduced their new services.

Full Information Week article is here.

So how is your city handling this problem? Or are they just sitting back waiting for the smoke to clear?

Comments welcome.

[tags]muni wi-fi, cable, tv, phone, services, att, [/tags]