The San Francisco Board of Supervisors could vote down contract: The supervisors are a notoriously independent bunch, and have been critical for months of the way in which the mayor has proceeded down the metro-scale Wi-Fi path with EarthLink (directly) and Google (only slightly less directly). EarthLink's muni head Don Berryman is reported to have handicapped the supervisors vote as four to five in favor, three against, and three to four undecided. Six votes are needed to approve the contract that was finalized several days ago. A vote may happen as early as February.
Berryman made his comments in a public meeting as EarthLink lobbies for support from the community. The Red Herring reports that Berryman said that the company had no votes against it in the six cities in which it has started deployment, which is a remarkable record. The company has 17 municipal deals settled or in negotiations, and has built 250 square miles of network to date. That number could 5 to 10 times higher by the end of 2008.
I'm pleased to see that Berryman acknowledge that two of the most widely predicted factors outside of the industry building Wi-Fi networks turned out to be stumbling blocks: real-estate rights and access point density. The former is an argument that folks promoting other network technologies have made repeatedly: It's not cheap or easy to obtain the rights to thousands of poles and rooftops, even if a city owns the utility and is backing you in your efforts.
On the latter topic, recall that the number was down in the low 20 APs per square mile estimated to build municipal service in 2005; EarthLink most recently put the number at 35. The more APs, however, the lower power each AP operates at (to avoid significant overlap), which in turn reduces the noise floor for "competing" devices.
Dianah Neff, a consultant with Civitium and former CIO of Philadelphia--Civitium put together San Francisco's bid proposals--said that 3,000 300 municipalities are now examining building networks in the U.S. Update: Neff says she was misquoted as stating 3,000; she said 300; see comments.