Aurora, Naperville, networks won’t be built out

Two more free public Wi-Fi networks are on the shelf. MetroFi will not be building out free muni networks in Aurora and Naperville, Ill., after the communities decided not to also contract with the company to build public safety networks. It raises the question: What new business models are emerging?

This is just the latest development in a trend that exposed the fundamental flaw in the public-private model so many cities and their potential partners tried to embrace–the idea that ad and subscriber upgrade revenue would offset the cost of network build-outs and provide profits for the partner while, at the same time, providing free service to city residents.

MetroFi, which had partnered with Aurora and Naperville, has been insisting on financial commitments from their city partners in the form of anchor tenant commitments since last year. (Glenn Fleishman at Wi-Fi Net News and the Naperville Sun both have excellent reports with details on the particulars of the Aurora and Naperville deals.)EarthLink, the private provider with the highest profile in the private-public “free Wi-Fi” model is now out of that business.

It raises the question: What business model can reasonably follow? One might be emerging in Longmont, Colo., where a network built by Kite Networks has been put on the block by its new owner, Gobility. The Longmont Times-Call reports that city officials are investigating purchase by the city if the network can be had at a reasonable price.

So this vaccuum in the market may re-open the door to notions of city-owned networks but I suspect we’ve not heard the last on private-public models.


  1. To many pushing the free, public supported network. Our model in Franklin, Indiana is working. Small “Hot Zones” put in areas that can give the consumer a third option for broadband that is inexpensive! We have subs and are doing it with our own money. If the city wants on board, the door is open, but we aren’t waiting around. First to the market!

  2. Unfortunately, in the case of Aurora, there is much more to the story.

    Free WiFi started as an idea during the mayoral campaign of 2005 and the eventual winner stole the idea from the opponent.

    First, Mayor Tom Weisner proposed a massive tax increase to pay for it and then jumped into the MetroFi deal for “free.”

    His campaign manager and mayoral aide GERRY GALLOWAY ended up landing a job with MetroFi.

    Mr. Galloway and Mr. Weisner are linked to hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions that involve city contractors, cronies and buddies of the mayor.

    After Galloway joined MetroFi, they asked the city to spend millions on their “new” business model.

    Even aside from the shenanigans involving cronyism, MetroFi’s technology is considered obsolete.

    Learn more at our blog if interested.