Monday, September 10, 2007


The Pittsburgh Business times is reporting that the free downtown wi-fi network may have its days numbered.

To be fair, its a lot tougher to create and maintain these municipal wi-fi networks than people presume. It was impressive that the Pittsburgh version got off the ground and I have found the Downtown service to be functional. But the troubles have been clearly telegraphed. Here are a few recent articles discussing the current state of the ether:

US municipal Wi-Fi loses its shine, September 10, 2007

Free Wi-Fi is up for grabs, September 10, 2007

Municipal Wi-Fi faces financial hurdles, Associated Press, August 31, 2007

What's Behind the Epidemic of Municipal Wi-Fi Failures?, Wired News, September 4, 2007

Municipal Wi-fi - Reality Bites, The Economist, August 30, 2007

Chicago Cancels Municipal Wi-Fi plan, Slashdot, August 29, 2007

Nonetheless, its worth taking a look again at the convoluted path Pittsburgh's version has taken. Pittsburgh's vendor US Wireless Online (USWO) was amazingly awarded the Pittsburgh contract even though its president and board had resigned days before, all but predicting bankruptcy. Makes you wonder who was checking references a bit. It was not a big secret, they had to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission the details of their turmoil.

Actually if you read their resignation email, several said they were resigning at the time because they themselves wanted to participate in debtor-in-possession lending to the firm or were resigning on the advice of counsel. There is a real vote of confidence in the future. In a sense it is that much more surprising the system made it into operation and I am surprised it has lasted as long as it has.

If the system does power down, it will remain to be seen if the finances of the service are mostly sunk costs that could be picked up on the cheap by some other provider or if it just does not work as an operating model even with subsidies.


Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

This blows. I (and through me, all of Pittsburgh) have come to rely on this service.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 4:16:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home