The New York Times takes guided Wi-Fi tour: An interesting article by Seth Kugel avoids the usual, "here's where you find Wi-Fi approach." Rather, he tours the city, pairing Wi-Fi with historical and political details you can find around you. Kugel, like our faithful correspondent Klaus Ernst, has found that CBS MobileZone is a no-show. The advertising group told him that they were improving the signal. I love the idea of super-local information, too. With Google Maps, Google Earth, Flickr, Dopplr, and other services, you can pair your current location with what's happening right around you in the past or right now.
Oakland County, Mich., project officially "on hold": For "on hold," read, "never going to be built." The pilot area in seven communities has been turned off, and MichTel has been unable to obtain the $70-odd million they project needed to build out the county-wide service. The state's ongoing reliance on the automotive industry makes it a hard sell to commit public dollars in advance of a return on those dollars, too.
Virgin Mobile buys Helio: The last vestiges of EarthLink's three-pronged approach to fighting the wireline monopoly appears to be at an end. EarthLink pushed its 50-50 partnership with SK Telecom in mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Helio as one prong; its municipal Wi-Fi division as another; and its DSL business as a third. The muni division is nearly out of operation, and DSL lines continue to fall in quantity quarter over quarter. Dial-up is still their cash cow. Helio lost hundreds of millions to obtain just 170,000 subscribers (that number down from 200,000 at the start of 2008). EarthLink will receive a pittance for its investment, part of the $39 million in stock that Virgin will pay for Helio; SK Telecom will invest in Virgin Mobile to obtain a total 17 percent state. Virgin itself makes just a very tiny sliver of profit. MVNOs buy minutes and data from carriers, and Virgin Mobile involves Sprint as a partner, making it the only tolerably successful MVNO.