The Seattle Times reports that a pilot program for neighborhood Wi-Fi access is erratic: A service launched five months ago to bring Internet access via Wi-Fi to two communities isn't working as expected. Demand is remarkably high for this kind of service, although quite low by other standards.
Fifty people a day on average use the network at four parks, and 231 per day in the busy University District. Columbia City saw just 27 users a day on average, but their network has performed the worst, the article says. The Columbia City network has been shut down, and the city has brought in a consultant.
I haven't heard stories of erratic performance of networks, but perhaps other cities aren't being as upfront about these problems. There's some expectation that these small area systems should work better than citywide wireless networks, and thus any reports of "interference" causing erratic problems are being looked at sharply.
However, Columbia City is considered historically disadvantaged and certainly has less Wi-Fi in the air than the bustling U District, not far from my home. The equipment comes from D-Link which has a relatively new outdoor business. Most of the citywide networks are using equipment from Tropos, which has offered ruggedized outdoor devices from the start.
Updated update: Columbia City's management software has been reverted to an earlier version which the city's engineers expect will fix the problem.