A few still believe in the old muni-WiFi model

Last year, a relative unknown newcomer to the muni-WiFi market appeared to be the only WiFi firm left willing to foot the bill to build networks for cities. Florida-based E-Path Communications had agreed to set up two New York pilot projects back in December in Long Island and Eisenhower Park. Officials in Suffolk and Nassau counties wanted to cover 750 square miles with a muni-WiFi network that their governments didn't have to pay for. E-Path had planned to build the network with its own money and sell services back to the city to recoup its investment.

At the time, I asked whether E-Path knew something larger players such as EarthLink and MetroFi didn't. Both of those firms have said to receive a viable return on investment, municipal governments needed to step up and become meaningful anchor tenants before construction.

Not surprisingly, E-Path has done none of the work since it can't seem to find anchor tenants or advertisers, according to Long Island BusinessNews. Trenton, N.J. is in the same boat since E-Path won a similar deal there in November. The mayor asked the city council at a meeting on March 6 for $250,000 to help E-Path start the build-out.

You have to wonder, were these city officials paying attention to the turmoil in the muni-WiFi business when they granted their contracts to E-Path, which had no track record building muni-WiFi networks? Why did they believe things would be different for them? Amazingly, Suffolk County still believes E-Path will execute its agreement even though the company has no money and can't seem to attract partners because it doesn't have a solid business case.--Lynnette