Free city hotzones still have a future?

Does the future belong to free city hotspots or will the commercial hotspot network operators take over? There seem to be different opinions.

An article published in January 2003 says that commercial wISPs face stiff competition from cities and community activists setting up free wireless hotspots in city centers and other common areas. It cites Long Beach, California as a shining example of a free-of-charge city-sponsored hotzone.

Recently, however, an article in the same publication suggested that the municipal free ride was over and that cities setting up free hotzones could no longer depend upon getting free hardware and services from providers. Add budgetary problems to that and it seems that the cities may have to start charging (horrors!) for wireless access to cover the costs of installing and maintaining the network.

So does this mean that commercial operators can finally party all the way to the bank? Not according to Forrester. They are already comparing the public access Wi-Fi business to the bust.