Very interesting story out of New York City: Cablevision and Time Warner Cable agreed to spend $10m to build out Wi-Fi in 32 city parks as part of the requirements for renewing cable franchises in the city. The country is divided into thousands of cable franchise zones, in which local bodies negotiate with cable firms to allow monopoly or limited competitive access to rights of way and other resources in exchange for typically a gross-revenue fee, public-access and government channels with budgets and facilities, and other add-ons.
While franchise boards are prohibited by law, regulation, and court decision from considering broadband and VoIP service as a condition of renewal--only the FCC can regulate broadband, and voice is a separate state regulatory domain--this is a neat twist. The NY negotiators figured out that they can require broadband to be offered.
The New York Daily News (a competitor to Cablevision-owned Newsday) reports that the service will be available for 30 minutes free each day to users, and then charged at a rate of 99 cents per day. Correction: My brain apparently couldn't cope with the fact that it's 30 minutes per month! In three 10-minute sessions, no less. That's fairly ridiculous.
Many New York parks have free Wi-Fi through various business districts and other sponsorship, such as Bryant Park.
WiFi Salon at one point had the contract to provide service in several parks, and had planned to use sponsorship as the driver. That deal with city parks ended in late 2008.