When did MuniWiFi "Jump the Shark"?
With Philly and MetroFi opening and closing the second phase of expanding the edge of the internet beyond the Telco CO and Cable Head End, (the first was the rise of hotspots) there's lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth. I think the point where it went over the edge was Ocean City's Muni project, where it was posited that the garbage cans would be wi-fi enabled. When I read that last summer, I knew it was the beginning of the end, because the consultants were grasping at straws to justify the capital investment. It doesn't make sense to replace a bunch of summer jobs for teenagers with electronic garbage cans.
Karl Edwards has a good guest post up at MuniWireless describing some of the better ways to move forward, and points out that Cablevision's wi-fi is not free. Cablevision is fighting a holding action against Verizon's quadruple play, and positioning itself as delivering more for the dollar than Verizon's home triple-play offering. When it is built out, they will be working to deny VZ the extra $60/month/line that VZ currently gets by offering EV-DO. If wi-fi provides "good enough" coverage and a better broadband experience, then they will have achieved their primary goal. Of course, you can do much more than that with a big wi-fi asset, but we'll have to wait and see how they execute on it.
As I have always said, wi-fi blankets don't work, and you have to start with an infill strategy and build from there. I've managed to do reasonably well with that strategy, and have seen Cometa, Earthlink, and now MetroFi, come and go, while we are still standing with Fire Island Wireless, Wi-RAN, and UrbanHotspots.
Esme Vos and Andy Abramson I think were sharing a bit too much of the fruit of the vine when they posited the concept of forcing venue owners to provide wi-fi through legislation. In most pundits' posts, nobody ever talks to the venue owners themselves, or are dismissive of them as not being customer sensitive. Creating wifi spots is a real estate game, and the real estate owners need to look on wi-fi as a positive, not a magnet for table moochers, even in the city by the bay. As long as you have signs like this one, in San Francisco's Caffe Roma, you will face an uphill battle to get free wi-fi embraced.
I think we should focus much more as Esme rightly says, on Structural Separation, where the physical plant connecting businesses and residences is viewed as a common carrier itself, and service providers can compete to provide the IP or other protocol transports over it.