What do New York City, NY, San Jose, CA, and Lincoln, NE have in common? Other than being cities located in the U.S., they are also working to improve their respective municipal WiFi networks, either through laying their own fiber or partnering with a service provider. FierceWireless notes that Lincoln deployed its own fiber network throughout its downtown, and avoided competing with local service providers by letting residents use its WiFi for free. Meanwhile, San Jose has done much the same thing, albeit on a larger scale, installing one of the fastest public WiFi networks and implementing HotSpot 2.0. Finally, New York City is starting in on the construction of the largest municipal WiFi network in the world by 2015, with some of the hotspots housed in old phone booths.
Another skirmish in this war between ISPs and municipalities is the formation of Next Century Cities. The Washington Post reports that this coalition, 50 members strong and growing, is dedicated to improving the way broadband is implemented and operated in affiliated cities. Among the group’s priorities: framing broadband as a nonpartisan issue, emphasizing choice on Internet providers, and, perhaps most importantly, convincing citizens that broadband is part of the public infrastructure, much like roads and water supply and other utilities. The notion that local governments can take broadband service into their own hands without being in thrall to a few powerful ISPs is a central tenet of Next Century Cities, and an emerging trend in the continuing conflict over how best to bring Internet connections to the public.