Latest Article in the Economist: Reality Bites for Municipal Wi-Fi

I file occasional pieces for the Economist, somewhere between 2 and 4 a year, and my latest is online and soon in print. I wrote about the poor state of municipal-scale Wi-Fi networks, and how the early business model by private providers like EarthLink turned out to be a huge wash. The market has changed, and future Wi-Fi networks built for cities will be on a very different financial footing with different promises made.

Twenty Percent Solution (Questions Must Be Asked)

A small mystery.

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Letter received with handwritten addresses.
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Sent from New York.
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Looked up the address. Non-descript building near former home of the New York Times. Many offices, including a few delivery boxes.

The faces in the flyer attached are unfamiliar.
Flyer

Faces Tipper

Their Web site elucidates the issue no further.

Is this the world's strangest, slowest, most-expensive word-of-mouth campaign?

MonoFail

1011582648 3A3Ad62B26[Letter sent to head of the Seattle Monorail and director of operations]

My wife and I live in Seattle, and we had put off taking our 3-year-old on the monorail until there had been a good unbroken period of good service. Today, with my brother-in-law in town, we took our older son, my brother-in-law, and our 3-month-old on a trip from Seattle Center to Westlake Center.

On the return trip, we waited for 30 minutes for a train without any explanation. My wife finally went to the payment booth and asked what was up. The attendant explained that one of the trains had broken down and it would be 25 minutes before the next arrived.

My wife explained to the attendant that she might make an announcement. There was apparently no one else in authority present. The attendant, a non-native speaker, made two very quiet, inaudible announcements. We walked around and spread the news since the Monorail was incapable of doing such.

With our kids overtired and having already waited 30 minutes, and my suspicion being that in another 30 minutes, we would be lucky to make it onboard the train -- and my desire to not be trapped in case it was a track problem rather than a train problem -- we walked about six blocks and caught a bus.

I didn't wait in the 100-person line for refunds. Nor did the attendant or anyone present have any information about an alternative, such as the nearest bus routes.

I would like my $6.00 back for our return trip and $3.75 for having to pay for a bus to get us back to Seattle Center.

$9.75 is sort of a ridiculous sum to ask for, but I trusted the Monorail and you all let me down. I'd be happy to send you receipts for the round-trip tickets we used half of.

There needs to be someone in charge at Westlake Center when something goes wrong--within 30 minutes, someone could have gotten from Seattle Center, if that's where operations are based, to at least explain to the crowds, numbering about 200 by the time we left.

The attendant was *still selling tickets* even as she gave refunds when we left.