Ambitious plans for big Wi-Fi networks to provide free or low-cost wireless Internet access are being abandoned or scaled back by US cities as the economics of the deals turn out to be more challenging than expected.
In Belfast, there were two efforts I was aware of, going back a few years now.
One was spearheaded by BT. They had the money and the locations for the access points (inside the BT telephone boxes. I mean – does anyone use them for making telephone calls these days???). They wined and dined the City Council and went head with their proposal which is why Belfast is blanketed with BTOpenzone at Â£6 an hour (yes, you can subscribe and get it cheaper…)
The second was from a much smaller outfit. They proposed a mesh network, almost grassroots in it’s uncommon simplicity and solicited information from the City Council as to obtaining their assistance. As a startup providing their own equipment, there wasn’t enough money in the pot to wine and dine and so their pleas went unheeded.
So, we’re left currently with BT. Brilliant.
“Too many municipalities continue to focus on large, ambitious public wireless projects that have no clear path to profitability.”
I don’t think that government bodies should get into this sector at all. They certainly have no understanding of the complexities of technology and even less understanding of commerce.
I know the second group is still working behind the scenes, having secured some funding from a local company to help them buy more equipment. When I asked them about their business model this time they said:
This isn’t about money. It’s about creating a wireless network in our local city that will better enable people to use online services like those provided by Google, Facebook and other companies. It’s our opinion that the current offering is not only a monopoly but one that is dedicated to squeezing every last penny out of the mobile consumer.