Only a few months ago, news reports were declaring the death of city-wide Wi-Fi, as cities nationwide abandoned or cut back plans to provide wireless coverage to their constituents.
No one wanted to pay for it. It cost too much. The problems went on and on.
In May, I mentioned on this blog that there might soon be a more promising option for achieving city-wide wireless connectivity: WiMax. At the time, critics were giving dire warnings about the technology being premature and so on.
Despite their warnings, WiMax businesses quietly popped up across the nation, successfully selling wireless internet to city-dwellers, according to this Physorg article.
Why are they succeeding where others did not? First, WiMax technology is more powerful than Wi-Fi, delivering higher speeds at a greater range. But another big -- and to my mind, surprising-- difference is this: Where citywide Wi-Fi efforts tried to sell to everybody, these new companies are targeting businesses clients, not consumers.
In general, these companies are open in larger cities, offering the service to every building they can see from their rooftop.
And so far, it seems to be working. One key reason: In many cities, businesses actually have fewer options than consumers when it comes to Internet access. One company mentioned in the article replaced a T1 line with WiMax from Towerstream, a wireless provider in New York City. They received more reliable connectivity, three times the speed, and pay half the price of the T-1.
With numbers like those, this may well be the real way citywide wireless happens: One rooftop at a time.