Orlando pulls plug on free WiFi

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 06/22/2005 - 08:09

The City of Orlando has pulled the plug on its ambitious free WiFi program. It was costing the city almost $2000/month, and only an average of 27 people a day were using the system. There are several things we can learn from this.

So what should communities be doing about WiFi? I think that muni WiFi makes sense only when you understand what the bigger community goals are. Are you trying to get tourists to pull off the interstate and visit your community? Then a free WiFi hotspot at the tourist center makes a lot of sense, and is easily justified.

Are you trying to help with Digital Divide issues in your community? Then offering WiFi at the library, where people can bring a laptop and work quietly may make sense. Are you trying to attract more youth and foot traffic downtown? Then a few public hotspots with convenient outdoor access (e.g. a downtown park) may make sense.

There may be neighborhoods and communities where a WiFi blanket over a larger area is justified, but you need to know what you want to accomplish first, and be able to place the technology investment in a larger context, like a Technology Master Plan.

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