The March of the Muni Wireless Failures

And here they come…. Lompoc, Calif., which spent $3 million on a citywide municipal wireless network reports that has signed up a whopping 281 customers since it launched service in September. That’s an investment of $10,676 for every customer, for those scoring at home. The town’s original feasibility study said the system would need 3,000 to break even. Town leaders say the system is attracting 24 customers a month. At that rate, in 12-1/2 years, Lompoc will finally be in the money. The San Francisco Examiner reports that in Foster City, Calif., “for better or worse, a citywide free Wi-Fi Internet signal has enabled Foster City residents to take their e-mail, homework and digital assistants just about anywhere they go.” Except in places the wireless network doesn’t, which in Foster City’s case is 40 percent of the town. The city, which contracted with MetroFi, had promised residents 95 percent coverage by now. It blames the coverage problems on the layout of homes in Foster City and the geography of the city itself, as if these factors didn’t exist when the network was originally designed. Meanwhile, Willamette Week Online, in an article eloquently titled “Portland Wi-Fi Sucks Inside and Out, says Independent Evaluation,” reports the findings of Portland’s own Personal Telco Project.

Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.

Titch's work primarily focused on telecommunications, the Internet and new media. He is a former managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News (IT&T News) published by the Heartland Institute. His columns have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Total Telecom, and America's Network, among others.

Prior to joining Reason in 2004, Titch covered the telecommunications industry as a journalist for more than two decades. Titch was director of editorial projects for Data Communications magazine where he directed content development for supplemental publications and special projects. He has also held the positions of editorial director of Telephony, editor of Global Telephony magazine, Midwest bureau chief of CommunicationsWeek, and associate editor-communications at Electronic News.

Outside of the telecom industry, Titch conducted rich media and content development for publishers and corporate marketing groups. He has also developed and launched his own web-based media, including, an on-line resource for the security industry.

Titch graduated cum laude from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and English.