On the same day, two mayors announced their municipalities soon will become part of the growing legion of cities to adopt a citywide wireless broadband network.

Houston Mayor Bill White announced on Feb. 13, 2007, the city had selected the Atlanta-based EarthLink to build a citywide wireless broadband network. The Wi-Fi mesh network will provide affordable, high-speed Internet access for the city’s residents and visitors. It also will enable municipal employees to work in the field without having to return to an office for high-speed Internet access. With a 600-square-mile service area, the Houston network is projected to be the largest Wi-Fi deployment in North America.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa launched a similar project. The mayor announced the creation of the L.A. Wi-Fi Initiative, which will plan and build what he is calling the “single largest citywide network in the country.”

The Los Angeles plan still is in its early stages. The city first will structure a proposal to attract participation from the private sector. Construction of the network is projected to begin in mid 2008 and completed the following year.

While commercial broadband providers in some cases have objected to the competition, muni Wi-Fi networks clearly have become an emerging trend, as municipal governments search for ways to provide free or reduced-cost access to all residents, businesses and travelers.

Houston and Los Angeles are joining Philadelphia, New Orleans, San Francisco and more than 250 other cities across the country that have launched or plan to launch their own muni Wi-Fi network.            EC