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According to this WSJ article (sub. req’d), cable companies and telcos have stopped trying to resist muni Wi-Fi and have jumped on the bandwagon:

AT&T Inc., the nation’s largest telecom provider, put in a bid March 7 to build a wireless Internet service for Michigan’s Washtenaw County with roughly 325,000 residents. Among cable providers, Cox Communications recently teamed up with two companies to offer wireless Internet access in some Arizona cities, and Time Warner Inc.’s Time Warner Cable has signaled interest in Texas.

The article cites Google and Earthlink’s efforts toward enabling free or low-cost municipal Wi-Fi (Earthlink’s isn’t free) as the reason for the shift (and the lobbying failures of the telcos). Arguably, telcos help undermine their traditional businesses when they enable cheap or free broadband access. But the article says this may be a juggernaut that is becoming unstoppable. More than 50 municipalities now have wireless broadband initiatives.

High-speed Internet access is the single independent variable that affects a host of user behaviors beyond others. That’s why there’s a great deal at stake in whether broadband continues to grow. We’ll be discussing those issues early on next week at Drilling Down with:

  • Chuck Haas, CEO, MetroFI
  • Brian Jurutka, Director, Marketing Solutions, comScore
  • Om Malik, Senior Writer, Business 2.0 Magazine
  • David Payne, Director, Development, EarthLink Municipal Networks

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