Many cities run up against Wi-Fi obstacles, but a small Oklahoma city may have the secret to success
A decade ago, cities jumped on the free municipal wireless bandwagon, but free was not a very good business plan, and most projects went dark when cities or vendors pulled the plug. Today free wireless is most commonly offered by public libraries and businesses wanting to attract customers, and only a few localities still offer citywide coverage. But as mobile devices proliferate and the thirst for connectivity grows, free municipal wireless may be poised for a comeback.
One of the United States’ most successful muni Wi-Fi examples is located in a small city in northern Oklahoma — not necessarily what many picture as a cutting-edge, highly connected tech hub. But Ponca City is.
Home to 25,000 residents, Ponca City is 90 miles equidistant from Wichita, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. It has a world-class wireless network providing free Wi-Fi across its 25 square miles, an unusual attraction these days for a city “90 miles from anywhere.” The free wireless mesh service — which is so fast and forward-looking that Kansas City, Apple and Google came calling to check it out — has been so successful that Ponca City again is hosting delegations from Oklahoma, throughout the U.S. and places as far away as Australia and Italy.
(Next page: What makes Ponca City’s Wi-Fi a success?)