Another WiFi Plan Bites the Dust, for Now

Another ambitious plan to cover a U.S. city with free wireless Internet access has temporarily been killed –- again. Not surprisingly, the leading issue of money was the cause behind the temporary halt to talks surrounding WiFi in Sacramento, California.

Sacramento Metro Connect, the consortium of companies wanting to construct the network, hasn’t been able to collect the scratch required to move forward. Sacramento Metro Connect, currently headed by Anne-Marie Fowler, is made up of Azulstar, Cisco Systems, Intel and SeaKay, but still has no idea when, if ever, the proper finances will be secured. According to The Sacramento Bee, Fowler has almost $1 million of the necessary money to begin the $7-to-$9 million effort.

“We have a lot of interested investors, but it’s a matter of assembling the right group. We don’t want someone coming in for a quick buck. We want someone who will stay with us for a few years,” Fowler said.

Investors appear to be a bit more pessimistic about citywide WiFi in California’s capitol, especially since there are more horror stories of other failed WiFi movements.

“There are more crash stories than success stories in the muni Wi-Fi space, so investors are really careful,” said Scott Lenet, a venture capitalist who runs DFJ Frontier in Sacramento.

Much like other failed WiFi plans, a free service would be available with a faster connection available for a subscription fee per month. Sacramento Metro Connect would offer connections up to 1 MB per second for free, but users wanting a faster connection would have had to pay anywhere from $15 to $50 per month.

I recently wrote a blog about WiFi initiatives in San Francisco and Chicago also being killed, mainly due to EarthLink’s recent demise. As pointed out in the blog, the city of Sacramento has chosen to become the “anchor point,” which is one of the crucial building blocks for a possible service to actually succeed.

I believe it will be interesting to see who Fowler brings on board to help collect additional financial resources in the future.

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