Big changes are in the air in Philadelphia--literally--as a massive municipal Wi-Fi project gets underway. In a partnership with Earthlink, the citywide initiative will cover 135 square miles by fall 2007. It will be a milestone in the development of municipal Wi-Fi. "Deployments have gone from very small, rural towns that don't have DSL or cable to very large, citywide or countywide deployments," says Esme Vos, founder of MuniWireless.com
Other major cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco are in varying stages of municipal wireless projects. This trend can affect growing businesses on several levels. Vos says that regional and small ISPs have an opportunity to be active in the municipal wireless market. "A larger number of players can compete and bring down the cost of broadband," she says.
On another level, these projects can offer low-cost broadband for businesses. Access to the Philadelphia network is expected to cost about $20 per month. "It makes it so much easier for small businesses to compete with large companies," says Vos. It can also enhance mobile access for entrepreneurs.
It hasn't been all smooth sailing for municipal wireless. There are technical challenges involved in blanketing an entire city in Wi-Fi. There have also been challenges from telecommunication companies as well as political stumbling blocks to contend with. But with technology improvements and less political resistance, municipal Wi-Fi is looking to have a very healthy year in 2007.
Are You Wireless?
The top 10 states that invest in 802.11 wireless technology:
- Rhode Island
- New York
Soure: "CDW-G State and Local Government Technology Investment Curve" report, September 2006