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Blogger: Let's Get Realistic About Municipal Wi-Fi

Following the (generally) positive reactions of San Francisco and Philadelphia, it's not surprising that most major cities are planning, or at least pondering, a municipal Wi-Fi network, but as Business Week blogger Olga Kharif points out, expectations need to be brought back to Earth. Why? A couple of myths that are being floated around need to be squashed: first, these Wi-Fi networks will not be free to use, and second, they won't provide ubiquitous access across entire cities. Unless Google is powering your lower-speed network, don't expect free access, and note that not even Google can afford to offer high-speed Wi-Fi for free, so if Earthlink won the bid to wire your city, expect to pay something--they need to make money, you know, and don't forget that the cost of maintaining, operating and expanding these networks is considerable. And here's another thing to consider: it may take more than 10 years for the network providers to address all the dead spots within a city, as each network signal only covers a few square blocks. Kharif's bottom line: "We shouldn't expect miracles."

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