Are Directory Publishers the Solution to Successful Muni Wi-Fi Deployments?

According to this Business Week article, it seems like the excitement level around municipal wi-fi deployments is going down.

(…) While 415 U.S. cities and counties are now building or planning to build municipal Wi-Fi networks, “deployments are slowing down slightly,” says Esme Vos, founder of consultancy MuniWireless.com. Vos’s tally still marks a nearly 70% jump from mid-2006, when there were 247 muni Wi-Fi projects on tap, but that’s down from the torrid pace of a year earlier, when deployment plans doubled. Perhaps the clearest hint of trouble ahead is that some of the companies partnering with cities on these projects, including EarthLink and AT&T, are having second thoughts about remaining in the municipal Wi-Fi business. (…)

Though EarthLink doesn’t disclose specific operating results for that business, there’s little hope it will turn profitable soon. “The Wi-Fi business as currently constructed will not provide a return,” Huff said during the conference call. (…) AT&T, which made a splash as the only major telecom player to embrace the muni Wi-Fi market, is also showing some doubt. The company is “evaluating” whether to pursue any new deployments or even whether to continue working on its four existing projects, says Ebrahim “Eb” Keshavarz, vice-president for business development at AT&T.

When EarthLink and MetroFi first bid for Wi-Fi contracts several years ago, they often agreed to foot the bill for network build-out, operations, maintenance, and upgrades. They also frequently agreed to pay cities to lease public facilities, such as light poles, to hold Wi-Fi transmitters. If that wasn’t enough, the companies also promised some cities a chunk of their subscription and advertising revenues, as well as free usage of the Wi-Fi networks by city workers. (…)

One major flaw in these arrangements has been that initial forecasts for Wi-Fi subscriptions used to justify the investment in these networks have proven to be overly optimistic by a wide margin. In many cases, 15% to 30% of an area’s population was expected to sign up for muni Wi-Fi. But only 1% to 2% have signed up so far figures Glenn Fleishman, editor of an industry blog called Wifinetnews.com. While rising demand for advertising on municipal Wi-Fi networks is helping offset the shortfall in subscription revenue, there’s a catch-22 at play here: Higher user numbers might generate more ad revenue, but network operators might need to cut fees to attract more users.

What it means: according to the article, it looks like advertising in muni wi-fi networks is helping offset the shortfall in subscription revenues but that traffic numbers don’t warrant high ad revenues. Why don’t wi-fi providers move to a completely ad-supported model? Wi-fi networks are great for very targetted, hyperlocal ads. Who would be a better partner than directory publishers to sell these ads given their large local sales force? Newspapers could also be good partners for that purpose. I think it’s time for Telcos (most of whom have sold their directory operations in the last few years) to reconnect with their old friends and discuss business.

33 thoughts on “Are Directory Publishers the Solution to Successful Muni Wi-Fi Deployments?

  1. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  2. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  3. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  4. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  5. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  6. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  7. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  8. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  9. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  10. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  11. You asked why Wi-Fi providers don’t move to an ad model. First, most Wi-Fi providers come from the world of wired ISPs. They know nothing about the ad market, don’t have friends or colleagues in advertising and probably never go to ad conferences. They prefer to fall back on the tried and true subscription model. So laziness blended with inertia, lack of imagination and fear of taking risks.

    Second, the location-based, context-targeted ad model is in its infancy but there are companies like Microsoft, JiWire and Nebuad that are busy with this so it won’t be a secret for long. I know several ISPs (the ones with some imagination) are testing it.

    What a difference a year makes: the successful launch of the iPhone changes everything, in my opinion. All these journalists who pour cold water on muni Wi-Fi are like stock market advisors who tell you to buy this and that stock by looking at past performance only.

  12. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  13. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  14. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  15. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  16. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  17. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  18. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  19. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  20. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  21. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  22. I actually think these wide scale wifi networks are nearly useless. In Toronto we have the Toronto Hydro Wifi network, which is often down and very unreliable, and a variety of other paid services from Bell etc.. which are also very unreliable.

    In contrast most coffee shops and many bars/restaurants are setting up free access points. In most cases they manage and run these themselves and use the service to attract customers for their main business. My experience has been that these small business operated access points have been much more reliable. Most days I consider wifi availability when selecting a venue for business meetings etc… There might be a directory service to help business promote their wifi availability.

  23. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  24. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  25. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  26. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  27. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  28. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  29. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  30. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  31. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  32. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

  33. My first-hand experience is free WiFi for laptops using an ad-based model is a great idea but revenue that can be generated is limited by too few users to off-set costs. Supplimenting the revenue with display digital signage to passers-by helps make the model viable…

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