Wired has a story about wireless Internet access, calling the questions as to why we have so little of it. It's timely, especially in light of the nations (and likely the worlds) looming data network access crush wirelessly until fatter pipe access becomes more ubiquitous.
Let's start with some history.
The mobile operators didn't really embrace WiFi at all as they wanted to sell mobile data services. Now they are scrambling to catch up with WiFi as a means to offload the need for their users to stay connected. The telcos who did attempt to offer WiFi either made access so expensive that no one embraced it offered up the pricing model theory of offer it so only a few can use it. Muni-Wireless failed because the technology model was so flawed that even if your city had it, it wouldn't work because the systems were designed to work "outside" and no higher than two stories up and could hardly penetrate the windows. The cable guys, who had the most capacity, biggest opportunity are only waking up to the potential of what it means, with Cablevision leading the charge in metro New York by creating a cloud that is just for their customers.
Some time back Muniwireless maven Esme Vos suggested the solution to local wireless access was dining establishments and coffee shops. She felt that local governments simply had to mandate that these retailers offer WiFi like they're required to have public restrooms for patrons.
Even earlier I felt the MSOs (multiple system operators) were the answer in consort with local municipalities where they were franchised and wanted to see new franchise agreements put the pressure on the cable operators to "light up" more fiber and more bandwidth in public places like schools, libraries and public assembly locations like parks and plazas, while offering low cost access to merchants who would allow them to have access.
But there was one other reason why we less wireless Internet access than we need. Lack of competition. The near extinction of the CLEC in telephony and the limitation as to the number of mobile operators in each country has pretty much chased away anyone from wanting to be a player in the game due to the sheer fear that they won't be able to survive. Once we get a more competitive mindset again, then maybe we'll see more wireless access.