I'm a fan of the idea of public WiFi. That's WiFi that is outdoors and lets the locals and visitors take their Internet and use it away from home or work, but I have to say that the Muni Players and the advisors really blew it this time, especially the Earthlink folks.
First you have to look at the types of Internet users there are:
Heavy Users-The always online, need big pipe crowd. These folks already have a business grade Cable Modem, ADSL2+ or business grade DSL or a T1.
Medium Users-Need to connect daily, don't live online but need to be online at least twice to five times a day and require more that just email and web browsers. For this crowd DSL, Cable Modem or a wireless EVDO or 3G card works fine.
Light Users-they need to check email, book a flight, check a box score, or do some light surfing. For them dial up or even 256k DSL is fine.
Then there are two others:
Wish We Could, For We Would--these are folks who are geographically disenfranchised. They live in C&D Counties across the USA and for many, they have a digital divide they wish they didn't. This is a prime group for Public WiFi. I call it going where the market is, not where it isn't.
Even If You Gave It To Us, We Don't Need It-this is the SF crowd to a T. Those who need access can find it. Those who can't afford DSL or Cable likely couldn't afford Wireless. Who were they thinking would be the users? The homeless. WiFi that goes no higher than the second floor, that requires some kind of Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) to go farther than the window..PLEASE. What were the folks who wrote the spec thinking of when they developed the plans? I mean, just sit across the street from most Starbucks and you get decent coverage, yet when I went on a test ride with some Earthlink Muni and Voice folks back in the Spring even sitting just at the window inside a Starbucks meant I couldn't get on Feather, but sitting outside nothing.
This past week I logged on to Feather in Philadelphia. Sort of. I was about to connect, but then received an error message saying either my browser, or my account was not able to access the network from my location. HUH? I would have called support but the last time I did it was an exercise in futility. I just jumped on the restaurants own and had all that I needed.
No wonder the new team is looking to kill off the Earthlink WiFi effort. It's worth killing.