Ok, from my reading so far, there are two ways to look at municipal wireless systems: “good for Emmett” and “good for Olympia.”
Good for Emmett would include being able to go downtown and not worry about being able to find an access point, it would just be there. That example is just on the surfaces, so sit and think for awhile about the various personal use applications that you would have if you could carry around an internet device and always have access. Buy tickets on the way to the movies, carry on a real time conversation on Olyblog.
Good for Olympia would be the sort of applications that a city government would get out of a wireless network. This would include applications that would aid the day-to-day operation of government, such as checking parking meters, emergency response, etc…
Or, as the Dayton, OH IT director puts it:
You go back, I give you the work ticket, you go out and do it. Well, if I can do that while you were rolling and while you’re fixing that pothole, I can send you via the system — via the Web — “Oh, by the way, your next job is right around the corner.”
From the city standpoint, … we could do things like automated meter reading for all of our water meters so that eventually, we don’t have a whole fleet of people just running out reading meters every day, 20 working days a month, just to get all those 77,000 meters read every month to bill somebody. Well, if you take 30 people off the city’s payroll, think of how much money that saves in taxes.
The way these could tie together financially in a muni wi-fi system would be that while most residents would get the benefit of a free system (well, not really free the city would pay for it), big users (the city, county, the port and private companies) that would really see a benefit would pay subscriptions for broader access.