Citywide Wi-Fi Turns Out To Be Impossible for Big Towns, Easy for Little Towns

They said it couldn't be done... and they were totally freaking right. EarthLink is pulling the plug on its San Francisco Wi-Fi build-out, says the AP, while developers in Chicago and Houston are having similar crises of faith. Bizarrely, MuniWireless.com reports that currently 455 cities and counties are interested in building Wi-Fi projects, up from 122 a couple of years ago.

My guess is that many of these 455 cities are going to catch on to the fact that there's no business model and, in the wake of impending citywide WiMax, no real motivation, and will similarly ditch the plans. This quote from EarthLink chief Rolla Huff about says it all:

"We will not devote any new capital to the old municipal Wi-Fi model that has us taking all the risks. In my judgment, that model is simply unworkable."
What's funny to me is that these projects are collapsing before the inevitable flood of angry customer-support calls.

UPDATE: Check out the comments — apparently, a lot of small cities have pulled this off. [AP/Yahoo]