community wireless vaporware

Update: Apparently Houston is going for it, planning on deploying 10 wifi ‘bubbles’ in low-income areas.  Link to Houston Chronicle article about the plan.

From the NYTimes (via the Community Informatics Researchers mailing list):

PHILADELPHIA — It was hailed as Internet for the masses when Philadelphia officials announced plans in 2005 to erect the largest municipal Wi-Fi grid in the country, stretching wireless access over 135 square miles with the hope of bringing free or low-cost service to all residents, especially the poor.

Municipal officials in Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and 10 other major cities, as well as dozens of smaller towns, quickly said they would match Philadelphia’s plans.

But the excited momentum has sputtered to a standstill, tripped up by unrealistic ambitions and technological glitches. The conclusion that such ventures would not be profitable led to sudden withdrawals by service providers like EarthLink, the Internet company that had effectively cornered the market on the efforts by the larger cities.

Now, community organizations worry about their prospects for helping poor neighborhoods get online.

Link to NYT article Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet Providers Pull Out