As previously noted and predicted in this space, the flood of offers by service providers to build out city-wide networks on their own dime with no service commitments is over: Clovis, Calif., is the latest case in point. The city found after performing quite a bit of analysis that they couldn't find a business model that would work, and costs were too high to hire a firm. This article doesn't note whether the costs are upfront but could be conserved through savings in telecom fees, like reducing leased lines or replacing cell data network subscriptions.
Clovis's information systems manager told the Sacramento Bee: "Nine months ago, companies were lining up at the door saying they wanted to do it for free." This comment has been echoed across the country. With EarthLink's at least temporary abeyance of new bids, with MetroFi having a new model (and its hands full), and Kite not appearing to participate in new bidding that I'm aware of outside the Southwest, the most prominent early firms in the space have checked out for smaller towns, at the very least.
The manager, Jesse Velez, also noted that a system installed today could be obsolete in a couple of years. I might normally ridicule that statement, because that's universally true, except that metro-scale systems are at a unique juncture. In two years, all equipment vendors will have multiple-antenna (MIMO) systems, with 802.11n as an option for improving range and bandwidth. Mobile WiMax will either be succeeding or crashing in the marketplace.
It's very reasonable for a city or town to say today, "Let's wait." There's going to be a shakeout in the provider market in the next three to six months. I also suspect many of the awarded bids and bids-in-progress for smaller towns fall apart--we've seen the leading edge in the last few weeks of that. And 802.11n is barreling down the road with interim certification for the draft and a final version due next spring. It's time to keep experimenting with parks, downtowns, and business districts, but the time doesn't seem ripe to launch major new efforts.