Chicago has said bye-bye to any muni-WiFi plans after failing to come to an agreement with either EarthLink or AT&T to build the network. Apparently, Chicago balked at the idea of committing to be an anchor tenant as WiFi vendors everywhere realize straight public access isn't a good business model and begin stipulating that governments pitch in some of the expense.
What a different story it was in April when Chicago attracted some heavy hitters to its proposed muni-WiFi project. EarthLink and AT&T were the leading bidders for the network, and bidders have been sweetening the pot. EarthLink had said it would cover the suburbs if it won the bid while NextWLAN made a proposal that included indoor wireless to supplement the outdoor WiFi system.
We noted then that Chicago could become an interesting breeding ground for wireless broadband given the fact that Chicago is one of Sprint Nextel's cities for early mobile WiMAX deployments. AT&T is able to offer DSL, mobile wireless and WiFi bundles. And that's part of the reason why Chicago pulled out of WiFi. The city cites the declining costs of Internet access and the advancement of other technologies as a reason for the deal going sour.
For more on Chicago's muni-WiFi plans:
- read this article from the Chicago Tribune