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Municipal internet access broadens…and will grow even wider October 30, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Innovation, Technology.

Lots of information about municipal internet programming is bubbling up…

Convergence reader Laz Sanchez refers us to a MuniWireless.com report indicating that American municipalities are planning to spend $3 billion on public wi-fi internet infrastructure. Why? Try this rationale from Esme Vos of MuniWireless:

“We are now long past the stage where municipal wireless was something primarily for small communities that had been bypassed by incumbent service providers,” Vos said in a statement. “Cities and counties throughout the country–and around the world–have begun to get it: Public wireless networks are an essential part of local quality-of-life and public-policy strategies.”

As if on cue, My UrbanCity reports that the City of Atlanta has started planning to offer a citywide, wireless internet service:

The initiative was launched by the City of Atlanta to partner with a service provider to deploy a citywide wireless broadband network called the “muni wifi” program. Wireless Atlanta will offer residents, visitors, and businesses the ability to access the Internet anytime and anywhere within the city and is expected to be deployed in 2008.

In providing city-wide wireless internet access, Atlanta, like Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco and other cities in U.S., hopes to promote tourism, economic development, stimulate technological innovation, and improve the quality and efficiency of city services.

Proposals of three applicants are being evaluated and after a provider is chosen, contract negociacions are expected to be completed no later than the summer of 2007. Deployment of the network is expected to be completed sometime in 2008.

Smart move by Atlanta. As urban centers face the challenge of differentiating themselves from their suburban neighbors when attracting potential residents, services like municipal wi-fi are critical. Simply put, cities have to continue to offer compelling reasons to live in town.

But these defining characteristics won’t last forever. Here are a couple examples:

  1. The innovations will eventually migrate to the ‘burbs, blurring the distinction between cities and suburbs: The City of Fort Wayne, Indiana introduced a downtown wi-fi service (PDFs of overview presentation, informational brochure) and then worked with telephone provider Verizon to offer FiOS (Fiber Optic Service), delivering fiber-optic service to the premise of every phone customer (business and residential) in Fort Wayne and New Haven, Indiana. Today, the City of Auburn, Indiana announced that they have partnered with Wave7 Optics to deliver FTTP (Fiber To The Premises) service in their town, which is in the county just north of Fort Wayne.
  2. Not all great programs are destined to live forever: The City of New Orleans established a free wi-fi service in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and it now is going dark. I learned from the IP Democracy blog entry that Louisiana has a state law prohibiting free municipal wi-fi, and the free service was a special exemption whose window has closed.


1. tom sedor - November 3, 2006

I was pleased to read these articles and is a much needed service. But sadly I live in the only state that will not allow a municapality to be part of a Broadband service such as this , unless they were grandfathered into it.
So this is just another reason there we need a sweeping change in the laws that govern communications industry.
Tom Sedor
Northampton, Pa

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