Muni Wi-Fi: Not Free For All

Posted by: Olga Kharif on August 08, 2006

Many cities are currently trying to figure out how to pay for citywide Wi-Fi operation — while offering the service to their residents for free. Many, like San Francisco, are counting on ad revenues from local businesses to raise much of the necessary funds. Alas, as a new study done by Craig Settles, of Successful.com, and sponsored by Embarq, indicates, local businesses aren’t lining up to pay for Wi-Fi ads.

Of the 176 business owners surveyed, 57% say they won’t be interested in buying Wi-Fi network ads. While the rest are more open to the idea, 45% of them say they’d only be willing to pay less than $100 per month for the ads. Chances are, it will take a long time to get to even $100, as, before they pay up, advertisers will want to see these networks reach critical mass of users.

What this means: To maintain and operate their Wi-Fi networks, cities are bound to look for alternative funding sources, to supplement advertising. Chances are, they will start charging user fees. While, today, most cities dream of free Wi-Fi networks, that will likely remain just that — a dream.

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Reader Comments

JimMc

August 8, 2006 01:50 PM

This possibly strengthens the argument for community-owned wireless networks. If ad revenue is not going to support it you're either going to have to pass the full cost on to users or have the users actually take part.

See the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network as an example.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champaign-Urbana_Community_Wireless_Network

Alex

August 10, 2006 02:14 PM

One word, taxes.

SteveS

August 10, 2006 04:34 PM

Why should I expect to get free utility services? What's next free water? Free electricity? How about free housing?
Sounds like utopian thinking to me.

Free is when you dont have to do nothing or pay for nothing. We want to be free! Zappa.

SteveM

August 12, 2006 09:02 PM

In any case, if you use FREE Wifi, then also make sure you use Wifi encryption software (iPig (free!), gotrusted.com,...) to protect yourself.

Imelda B.

September 13, 2006 09:06 AM

It's a matter of time for wireless networks to become indispensable for all. At that point, advertisers will wonder why anyone wouldn't run ads over wifi.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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