Minneapolis city, citizens leaned on Wi-Fi network for information, telecom after tragedy: This interesting story from Computerworld demonstrates the best aspects of currently deployed city-spanning Wi-Fi networks: outdoor access in emergencies. The operator, US Internet, couldn't reach the city, so opened the network for free for 24 hours. Nice move. Usage climbed from 1,000 users to 6,000 users. The city used the network to relay information from the field, including detailed maps and large files. US Internet was able to add nodes near the bridge the day after its collapse.
While US Internet's CEO thought people with Wi-Fi phones could switch from the overloaded cell network to his Wi-Fi network, it's unclear how many people have such phones. US carriers don't directly support any such models, except T-Mobile, which can't authenticate to any network that requires a Web page interaction.