Does this mean 1 Mbps downstream for free is unsustainable? News.com reports that MetroFi, one of the three leading U.S. metro-scale Wi-Fi operators, has partnered with AT&T for a bid on the 65-square-mile Riverside, Calif., network. In what might be a footnote or might be a significant development, this bid offers only 512 Kbps downstream at no cost, unlike all of MetroFi's other bids and operations, which offer 1 Mbps downstream. That rate is available from AT&T at $20 per month, News.com reports. (Upstream rates are a mere 256 Kbps in both cases, unlike most of the paid services in which 1 Mbps symmetrical is offered.)
News.com quotes MetroFi's head as noting that they need the "brand recognition and the financial resources of a larger company like AT&T, which we could use to market the service." This makes little sense to me--if you win a contract as what is essentially the exclusive Wi-Fi operator for an entire city, along with which comes in some cases various advertising rights, a citywide network signal that anyone with a laptop or handheld can see, and the local press coverage that these networks are garnering--why is marketing an issue? Further, Haas told me months ago that eliminating marketing expense was one of the reasons to go free, as it reduced costs.