Muni-WiFi battle essentially over, incumbents lose

Remember the many stories we published last year about the not-always-honest campaign incumbent telcos launched against muni-WiFi? That effort consisted of paying obscure entities calling themselves "research organizations" to publish factually anemic studies on how muni-WiFi would not make business sense and would violate the spirit of free competition. The other part of the campaign consisted of donations to politicians' coffers in return for legislation which would prohibit city-sponsored wireless Internet access.

It is good to report that the battle is essentially over but for the shouting (or grumbling). Leading the march into the future are the cities of Philadelphia and San Francisco, each reaching new milestones on the path toward muni-WiFi. Philadelphia received 12 proposals from industry giants to do the work and in the final round selected EarthLink over Hewlett-Packard to build the network. The deal will be finalized by the end of November. The network would cost about $15 million to build and $2.5 million per year to maintain. San Francisco has received 26 proposals to build its network. Google is among the companies submitting proposals.

It is not clear whether access would be free. Philadelphia is contemplating a monthly $20 fee ($10 for low income residents), while San Francisco is still undecided.

Read more on the state of muni-WiFi:
- in Brad Grimes' GCN report
- see this report from TheRegister on the Philadelphia-EarthLink connection
- and this discussion on the different approaches different cities take

ALSO: Google wants to offer San Francisco free WiFi. The move, however, is not about transforming Google from a search engine into a communication company. Rather, it is about selling ads. Analysis