Caught this on Jeremy Allaire's weblog:
An SVP from Verizon commented in a Q&A in the Boston Globe (...) that he didn't believe there was a standalone market for Wi-Fi access:Q. Any chance you would offer WiFi as a stand-alone service unconnected to Verizon Online DSL or dial-up Net service?
A. We don't view WiFi as a service per se. It is an access technology. It is something our customers want [in order] to be untethered from the network. We have yet to see a business model where WiFi could operate as a stand-alone business.
(...) this notable comment underscores the fact that Wi-Fi will be like the air we breath, and thus part of our commodity communications/utility bills. Incidentally, this is exactly the model that more advanced markets (Japan) are using, where broadband+VOIP+WiFi are now common and affordable.
But with the possibility to setup a free access point for a few hundred bucks, providing WiFi access is not really an operator's privilege. Cafés and public places, which have to pay for an ISP account already for their business operations but are not using it during their opening hours since they are serving their customers, can and will provide that kind of facility either to differentiate themselves or simply because they are lagging behind competitors. I think I have seen that reasoning on Tantek Çelik's weblog, but just by observing how the AirPort-addict Tantek picks his favorite places, you bet that some customers are already asking for free WiFi along with the peanuts.
Let's take the opportunity to update you on how la ville lumière is going regarding WiFi. Taking the good side of yet another forthcoming strike here, I shall test next week the WiFi test access that is currently running at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris. Nothing has been announced yet other than the "free" phase will end next month. I am dubious that a pay-for WiFi service like this one (along buses and subway) can survive. Years after promises to cover the airports with WiFi, Air France is still incapable of giving you more than one (1!) ridiculously slow PC with some dummy webmail client to check your email in the business class lounge. You cannot even connect your own computer to an ethernet plug. I guess that AirPort means something only to Apple! Rumors say that the Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, would like to cover the whole city with WiFi access. L'Assemblée Nationale (our parliament) is organizing a meeting on "the new frontiers of the Internet: what regulations, what territories, what content ?" on June 23. I hope to be there as well. May be, peut-être, will we see some inspiring things coming out from all these tests and thinking. Meanwhile, I am afraid that you fellow always-on tourists and busy travellers, will be paying good money for a few airborne packets sold by the minute at a few crowded lounges.
[Update] I don't know what's going on with wireless networks right now, but at this time, there are no less than 7 articles on today's stories on The Register, including one on Paris that will give you more insights on what's going on in the subway. The clever idea of the subway operator RATP (currently dubbed "Rentre Avec Tes Pieds", go back home with your feet, because of the frequent strikes that let parisians transport-less), is to use their gigantic underground network to deploy a pan-city Internet network without drilling a hole. They had plans to roll-out a phone network a decade ago when the phone monopoly was suppressed, but it never launched. Now they're back with a much better idea.