The Economist revisits municipal Wi-Fi and finds it wanting: I wrote a rather massive feature for The Economist that appeared March 2006 expressing a host of technical and political reservations about the ability to build a Wi-Fi network citywide that conformed to the expectations back then. The magazine (not I this time; no bylines, so hard to tell) revisits the issue, and I find myself in accord with most of its statements.
EarthLink has pulled back and revised down its minimum captured user base for profitability. The density of Wi-Fi nodes required has doubled per square mile in many cases above early projections. Anchor tenants in the form of cities committing to minimum annual purchases are now required by many network builders. And so on.
My two quibbles. First, most homes in the U.S. aren't constructed with chicken wire in the walls; only some plaster construction--I think mostly in California--involve chicken wire. In Washington State, most homes have lathe and plaster or drywall, which have no wire in the walls.
Second, the closing statement seems a bit severe: "No, the future of municipal wireless broadband rests on making cities safer, saner and simpler to manage. Trivial pursuits like downloading songs or posting video clips can be safely left to phone and cable companies." I would suggest that mobile applications involving primarily outdoor use still have a lot of legs, as long as the finances support it. I continue to be concerned about the viability of building metro-scale networks that rely on in-home Wi-Fi as the foundation of their success.