The city hired an outside firm to calculate whether its investment in applications running over municipal Wi-Fi makes sense in dollars and cents: The firm found that an investment of $26.7m in wirelessly enabled gas and water meters for automated reading would take 14 years to break even and yield $1.6m in savings over 20 years. The city's assistant city manager says the number could turn out to be as high as $8m, and that's before looking at other efficiencies.
The pilot project to test this service found an increase in water and gas usage increased, possibly because of better measurement, but it increased revenue to the city. I might also note that automated meter readings allow businesses to mitigate use at peak times. If gas prices spike or if water availability is low, utilities could subsidize businesses or residents in reducing usage at specific times of day.
The city would like EarthLink to operate their Wi-Fi network. This would save Corpus Christi additional costs in building out the network, and allow the city to receive a revenue share as well. Correction (see comments, too): EarthLink is only talking about a pilot program to provide retail service to residential and business customers.