Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Amidst the spate of the-sky-is-falling news stories out there announcing the demise of municipal wi-fi (liberally decorated with gleeful I-told-you-so quotes from "telecom industry experts" bought and paid for by the broadband duopoly*), there have been two recent exceptions that have caught my eye. One is that Christian Science Monitor article I referenced below. Another is this piece: Citywide Wi-Fi isn't dead yet By Marguerite Reardon, ZDNet.
I particularly liked this ending quote from Craig Settles, author of Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless.

"At the end of the day, a lot of the success of these projects comes down to marketing," he said. "You really have to go out there with a clear message and articulate how the network will impact people for it to be successful. And then you have to explain how you can pay for it. And that's not easy to do."

It's clear to me that the muni wi-fi issues we've been hearing about are all about either a.) Earthlink, b.) mismanaged expectations, or c.) both. Indeed, a key ingredient to good marketing is managing people's expectations. If you say your bleach makes clothes blinding white, but they come out of the wash just kinda sorta whitish... Expectations are missed and customer dissatisfaction may follow. Well, municipal wi-fi isn't going to make your coffee for you or get your whites any whiter, but it can spur economic development, attract business-class tourism, and serve as a warm, moist environment in which new wi-fi-based products, services, and companies can grow.

*Did you know if one household in any given Zip code has access to broadband, that entire Zip code is counted as "served" by broadband access? See this Chicago Tribune article. Or this excellent C|Net post by Josh Wolf. Or this piece from last year by Mark Lloyd at the Center for American Progress.

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