Education may be the key to launching new Wi-Fi networks: St. Cloud, Florida, is suffering from what appears to be a backlash against its citywide free Wi-Fi network given that it's only been in operation a month. The service obviously--to those of us that follow this industry--can't reach every resident or point in town, especially not in the first roll-out, and yet those who are uncovered in this 28,000-resident suburb of Orlando are apparently hopping mad out of the gate.
As I'm quoted saying in this Associated Press article, there's an important element of education that new networks need to spread to potential customers, even when those customers aren't paying anything to use the network. We all know that the most aggravated people make the most noise, and that with Wi-Fi, it's very easy to get a marginal signal that's frustrating because you can see a network and yet not reliably connect to it.
For instance, one resident quoted throughout the article says, "I don't think it's going to work. Very few people are going to use it, and they're going to say it's underutilized and they're going to shut it down." But he's reasoning from first-hand experience. HP, which built and is operating the network, reported 50,000 users sessions in the first 45 days and just 842 help line calls. The service has seen 3,500 registered users and 176,189 hours of usage.
But it still sucks to be the person in an area of awkward coverage. The city is offering a bridge of some kind for $170 to improve weak signal areas, but that's quite high. A $50 to $80 bridge should provide the same benefits.