NEWS: City wi-fi plans under scrutiny

More and more cities are cutting their wires and going wireless.


But some analysts claim that few citizens are using public wi-fi while other call for more cautious rollouts.


Wi-fi networks could be an excellent way of bridging the digital divide, reaching out to the socially excluded and offering those that remain unconnected entry into the digital world.

Because of this, there is a keen political motivation for local governments to offer networks to citizens for free.


In the US, more than 150 cities have some form of municipal wi-fi network, with hundreds of others in the pipeline.

Corpus Christi in Texas was one of the pioneers and provides an interesting case study to the tensions between free and paid for wireless networks.

The city spent 18 months and $7.1m on its 147-square mile wi-fi network, which includes 1,300 access points. Initially it offered the service for free but in March the network was bought by EarthLink which started charging for access.

According to Ron Sege, the chief executive of US-based Tropos Networks, when wi-fi was first rolled out in the US it was seen as a cheap alternative to fixed line broadband.

"The expectations of wi-fi as a replacement to DSL have not been met," he said.

He thinks that networks in the US were rolled out too quickly ...

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John Navas
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