Tuesday, April 15, 2008

SMALLER TOWNS GETTING MUNICIPAL WI-FI BEFORE BIG CITIES

WIRED - To read the headlines, you'd think the dream of free, citywide wireless was dead coast to coast. One after another, big municipal Wi-Fi projects - San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta - have hit the skids. But check out the rest of the map: Dozens of lower-profile locales are launching government-sponsored networks. Most are smaller cities and counties, where bureaucracies are less onerous and costs are lower. (Philadelphia, the sixth-largest US city, is the biggest urban area to get a network running, with about 100 square miles of coverage.)

Santa Monica, California: The 0.21-square-mile network in this seaside LA town serves mainly downtown locations and the area's parks, including the oft-filmed and picturesque Palisades Park, high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

St. Cloud, Florida: Touted as having one of the best free municipal wireless systems in the country, this community of 54,000 claims that nearly 80 percent of its citizens use the service.

Chaska, Minnesota: In 2004, this Twin Cities suburb rolled out one of the earliest municipal Wi-Fi networks in the US. The city charges $17 per month for downstream speeds of 250 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps. Alas, the network still doesn't cover every square inch of town.

Rio Rancho, New Mexico: This city north of Albuquerque pulled the plug on its Wi-Fi network late last year after a dispute with its wireless ISP, Azulstar.

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