Policy Documents

'Not in the Public Interest -- The Myth of Municipal Wi-Fi Networks'

Braden Cox, Tom Giovanetti, David P. McClure, Steven Titch, Ron Rizzuto, and David G. Tuerck –
February 1, 2005

The New Millennium Research Council asked invited six policy experts to examine the practicality and impact of municipal governments turning Wi-Fi networks into public utilities. As cities debate whether to spend millions in taxpayer funds on Wi-Fi networks, this report provides policymakers with a much-needed critique of key issues that to date have not been part of the public discourse.

The report’s subtitle, Why Municipal Schemes to Provide Wi-Fi Broadband Service With Public Funds Are Ill-Advised, summarizes the scholars’ findings.

The experts identify several concerns regarding municipal broadband networks, including: (i) cost overruns that are unanticipated by the city and place the burden on taxpayers; (ii) the negative impact on broadband competition caused by municipal entry; and, (iii) questionable assertions regarding the ‘build it and they will come’ claim, since economic development is not perceived as a guaranteed result of municipal Wi-Fi deployment.

The authors conclude it is vital for city leaders and citizens to carefully evaluate the inputs and outcomes of municipal Wi-Fi projects, because beneath the positive media coverage and glowing press pronouncements are troubling signs that these publicly held networks can result in less than anticipated outcomes.