TNT business columnist Dan Voelpel has chronicled the birth and demise of a plan to blanket Pierce County with a free wi-fi network for Internet access. Last summer, the private firm that tried a pilot project in Steilacoom pulled the plug, saying it couldn’t make enough profit.
The idea was doomed from the start, if you buy the argument made by Slate contributor Tim Wu in this article. He makes a powerful case that the only municipal wi-fi networks that work are the ones created as public utilities. In other words, so-called “public-private partnerships” are guaranteed failures when the competition is the big telephone and cable companies. Wu cites plenty of big-city muni wi-fi flops to make his case. Pierce County is not alone.
Worth a read.