Plagued by poor signal strength, low subscriber numbers and generally botched installs, municipal WiFi is looking like the monorail of the 21st century. Most subscribers complain that not only do signals often drop or fail to get inside of their buildings, but the speeds experienced are slower than traditional DSL or cable modems. Since WiFi only supports Internet access, the investment takes many more subscribers to break even than do FTTP networks that combine voice, video and data. While some municipalities hope to boost subscribers by luring in cell phone users that can take advantage of built-in WiFi, it's a gamble that some cities just aren't willing to take.
Even with the high-profile failures and big losses reported to Wall Street, Earthlink is plunging ahead with WiFi in Philadelphia despite its uncertain future in San Francisco and cutting back on the number of projects it intends to tackle. With its dial-up business riding off into the sunset and co-branded DSL services not being widely available, you have to wonder how long the well-known ISP can continue to run in the red.
Let that be a lesson: when you try and do something cheaply as opposed to correctly, it'll get you in the end.