Still no MuniFi: Silicon Valley, San Francisco

Some city-wide Wi-Fi networks are being launched and few residents are using them. And then there are the planned muniFi networks that are stuck in the purgatory of logistics and bureacracy — perpetually ‘in the works’ but with missed deadlines and unsure futures.

The Palo Alto Daily News says the plan to build a Wi-Fi network for Silicon Valley is “mired in delays.” Construction of the network hasn’t started yet, cities have yet to sign certain important agreements, and the test network which was expected to be ready as early as February, won’t be ready until sometime in the summer. Optimistic? After all June is knocking on the door.

We’ve all heard the San Francisco story by now, where the mayor’s plan for a muniFi network via EarthLink and Google, has been sucked into a bureacratic wormhole. SF Mayor Gavin Newsom gave one of his usual dramatic quotes on the network’s progress recently in a MarketWatch video:

“If this doesn’t pass, inevitably we will be one of the last cities in the United States to have Wi-Fi. . . I hope I’m wrong. It’s remarkable that EarthLink and Google have held out as long as they have.”

Remember he also said over a year ago that San Francisco’s fight for MuniFi will be a bigger battle than gay marriage. I’m pretty sure he meant a battle with the phone and cable companies, not to get his own plan approved.

A major lesson for cities and service providers trying to build MuniFi networks, don’t be overly ambitious and don’t overestimate the complexity of these networks. The testing and approval hurdles are high, as they should be for any widely used large area network.

Craig Settles, who writes about all things muniFi, says the Silicon Valley’s wireless plan is trying to meet “a witches brew of needs, wants, desires and political maneuverings. Sounds like a lot of incredible heartburn in the making.” Strive for simplicity he says.