Long-time tech report Rafe Needleman editorializes in favor of sensibly free Wi-Fi: He's not asking for a gift, but rather describes a set of strategies in which more free Wi-Fi could be made available to travelers and the public, and how to convince hospitality operators like hotels to include Wi-Fi in their amenities budget so that it's just plain free.
I'm not so convinced that Wi-Fi needs to be free everywhere: rather, I would argue that roaming needs to be universal with a single login and that pricing needs to drop to the natural bottom, which is about $20 per month. When you can get consistent, reliable, supported service everywhere you go as a business traveler for $20 per month it's worth the price. When you have to traverse several networks and a melange of free and fee networks all of which offer a differ set of costs and promises for availability, it's not worth the price. Free can cost you money if you can't use it and there's no promise you can.
In fact, I still believe that some locations may offer both free and fee usage: for free, you get bandwidth limits, limits by service, time limits, and no support. For fee, you get full bandwidth, no service limits, and full tech support, plus secure login over 802.1X. Having two separate network names would aid this, of course: "Use Us Free" and "Use Us Fee."
Rafe notes that municipalities may provide Wi-Fi soon, but I'd caution him to believe that it'll be free. Most of the plans--and all of the sensible ones--that would roll out metropolitan Wi-Fi involve charging end users in homes and businesses but offering some or extensive free hotspot service in parks, city buildings, libraries, downtown areas, and other public places.