U.S. municipal Wi-Fi failing to pick up steam


— 3:50 PM on June 25, 2007

The days of ubiquitous Wi-Fi access don't seem anywhere in sight just yet. Despite the number of cities running municipal Wi-Fi programs (nearly 200 now), the New Scientist reports that most efforts are falling drastically short of expectations. The science periodical says only 88 of the municipal Wi-Fi networks built serve their entire communities, while 63 operate in limited hot spots only, and 39 are used exclusively by local government agencies. To blame for the slow uptake are alternatively political or technical problems, or in some cases a combination of the two.

In Philadelphia, for example, plans for Wi-Fi coverage have slipped behind schedule because of multiple redesigns as well as "extensive negotiations with the local power company over the use of their poles to site antennas." Technical problems aren't exclusive to Philly, either. Ash Dyer, who is a wireless network program manager in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says developers found they needed roughly twice as many antennas as previously thought to attain proper coverage. Philadelphia's Wi-Fi network was originally scheduled to be fully deployed early this year, but so far only a 15-square-mile pilot zone (about 11% of the planned 135-square-mile hot spot) is operational.

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