The MuniWireless07: Silicon Valley conference in Santa Clara concluded yesterday with the release of the Municipal Wireless State-of-the-Market Report. The survey of U.S. municipal wireless networks states that cities across the nation will spend more than $329 million this year on municipal WiFi. The report also states the municipal wireless market is growing at least 33% per year, though many major efforts have stalled.
In California, the most notable example would be San Francisco. With its tech savvy residents and access to Silicon Valley, one would think this would be the low hanging fruit for such efforts. Unfortunately, the lead vendor for the project, EarthLink, has suffered a series of setbacks leaving the City by the Bay wanting for free WiFi.
In Sacramento, plans to build a 90-square-mile WiFi network have also stalled due to a lack of funding, word is it would take about $9 million to get that project off the ground.
Orange County is currently exploring options for a countywide WiFi project, though that’s in the beginning phases. If folks are working on this in their cities, please let us know. Specifically, I’m interested in the financing approach to this kind of project. Google has advanced an ad-based system, though as the SF Chron wrote earlier this week, local governments are the most likely to pay the tab.
Having free and widespread access to Wireless Internet has a bevy of potential benefits -- for educators, economic development and such. Is it worth the cost to cities? Let us know what you think.