The University of Georgia's New Media Consortium recently conducted a study examining large Wi-Fi deployments in the United States: The study differentiates between what it calls Wi-Fi clouds, which have continuous coverage and Wi-Fi zones, which offer interrupted coverage. The researchers found 38 clouds and 16 zones. The study examines who owns the networks and what the owners hope to gain from building the networks. It's a thorough report on the intentions of hotspot builders today.
The next step will be trying to figure out if the intentions of hotspot network developers are being met. For example, 43 percent of cloud developers cited stimulating economic development as a motivating factor for building the network. But it's not clear if large Wi-Fi networks in small towns actually succeed in stimulating economic development [link via Rushton].