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What can people expect in the future?

Where are the citywide WiFi connections that all of us have heard so much about?

I wonder what it would be like to have citywide WiFi throughout San Francisco almost every time I head into the City.  After reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, I learned I am not the only person who is still actively thinking about WiFi initiatives.

Remember how the past two years featured lots of talk surrounding municipal WiFi deployments in big cities throughout the country?  Have you noticed how much of that talk has died down over the past six or so months?  The minimal chatter has rightfully left many of you wondering what the future holds for WiFi, so here is a brief insight into the future.

During the MunWireless 2007 conference in the San Francisco Bay Area, wireless big wigs and municipal officials came together to discuss the future of municipal WiFi.

A major setback took place when EarthLink cut half its staff, effectively killing WiFi initiatives in San Francisco and Houston.  Plans for WiFi in Chicago, St. Louis and Silicon Valley also are on indefinite hold for the immediate future.

What can be done?

Even though ad-supported free Internet sounds like a promising business model to offer Internet to every user, companies are now realizing they need cities and townships to act as anchors to help keep a constant revenue stream open.  Some cities want outright control of the project, while other cities are requesting federal grants to help kick start the WiFi infrastructure.

Another interesting tidbit is that the WiFi networks are no longer being promoted as a service to allow every citizen to have an affordable access point to the Internet.  Instead, the connections are being promoted as a service to city workers and for the public good - i.e. public safety, surveillance cameras and meter reading.  For example, a city in San Joaquin County installed 71 WiFi enabled cameras to give police another resource to watch intersections and traffic hotspots for accidents without physically being on-site.

With more devices like the WiFi-enabled Apple iPhone on the horizon, it is plausible we can expect a fairly bright future for public WiFi systems at some point in the future.

"It's a game changer," Metro-FI CEO Chuck Haas said of the iPhone.  "When you go outside, who wants to use a laptop? But every owner of an iPhone will want to use a Wi-Fi network a lot."




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